Hey Rangoli, Don’t Be so ‘Judgementall’ About Deepika’s Depression
Kangana Ranaut’s sister and manager Rangoli Chandel has called out Deepika Padukone’s The Live Love Laugh Foundation for allegedly trivialising depression and piggybacking on mental illness for publicity.
On 3 July, the foundation put out a celebratory tweet lauding the fact that a clip of the first time that Deepika Padukone spoke publicly about battling depression has crossed a million views on YouTube. The tweet was accompanied by a GIF of Deepika dancing gleefully with Anna Chandy, a counsellor and chairperson of the foundation.
Rangoli hit back saying that while The Live Love Laugh Foundation was quick to take umbrage at the use of the word ‘mental’ in Mental Hai Kya, the former title for Kangana’s upcoming film Judgementall Hai Kya, they - and presumably by association, Deepika - appeared to be making a mockery of depression. “Yeh kya ho raha hai? Yeh depression hota hai, yeh woh log hain jinko word Mental se problem thi, magar depression vidoes pe baration ki tarah nach rahe hain, kya ghatiya wahiyat tarika hai depression ke naam pe publicity lene ka,” she tweeted.
When the first poster for the then titled Mental Hai Kya came out, The Live Love Laugh Foundation put out a statement on Twitter criticising the makers’ choice to use the word ‘mental’, which they found insensitive. “It is time we put an end to the use of words, imagery and/or the portrayal of persons with mental illness in a way that reinforces stereotypes. Many millions who suffer with mental illness in India already face tremendous stigma. Therefore, it is extremely important to be responsible and sensitive towards the needs of those suffering,” they tweeted.
At the time, Rangoli argued that the foundation was judging the film prematurely. “To jump the gun an assume the worst is nothing but immature,” she tweeted.
By criticising The Live Love Laugh Foundation’s celebratory tweet, Rangoli not only misses the point of their post entirely but also dilutes her own (supposed) message that Judgementall Hai Kya normalises mental health. No matter how woke we assume ourselves to be today, mental health continues to be stigmatised and poorly understood and dealt with. A 2018 study conducted by The Live Laugh Love Foundation, across eight cities in India, concluded that while 87 percent of participants exhibited high awareness about mental illness, it was negatively perceived by 47 percent. The study also observed that 60 percent of the respondents agreed that lack of self-discipline and willpower was one of the main causes of mental illness and 46 percent said that they would prefer to maintain a safe distance from someone who is depressed.
This is precisely why Deepika’s decision to open up about depression in an interview with NDTV in 2016 was so significant. As a celebrity with the power to influence millions, her voice mattered and was a meaningful step towards normalising the discussion around mental health. And that the clip has reached a million people is all the more reason to celebrate. Especially considering Bollywood doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to healthy depictions of mental illness – Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Hasee toh Phansee, we’re looking at you.
Rangoli also appears to suggest that depression must be approached with the same solemnity one would reserve for the bedside of a terminally ill relative. There is, of course, a fine line between bringing a certain levity to a serious issue and trivialising it, but when used sensitively, humour can be a great tool to lighten the burden associated with mental illness.
All of this makes Rangoli’s choice to ‘call out’ The Live Love Laugh Foundation for an innocent tweet celebrating a small milestone feel like a publicity stunt to promote Judgementall Hai Kya rather than genuine constructive criticism. And when Kangana Ranaut herself has claimed that her character in the film “is dealing with a mental illness, she doesn’t make it a sob story or make herself pitiful. She goes about her life and even makes light of her condition,” to call out a person and organisation who are working towards the same goal – normalising the conversation around mental health – is a misstep.
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