Movies And Mental Health

Portrayal of Mental Illness in World Cinema

 
Movies And Mental Health
Cinema has always been one of the key structures in understanding the Indian culture and to reflect the political and economic factors prevalent in our society since a long time through history. The portrayal of mental illness used in films connects entertainment to reality and in a country where film stars are idolized;the awareness on mental disorders is appreciated and responsibly provided to the society.

It is true that for a very long time, the Indian Hindi film industry has portrayed mental illness as an amusing part of entertainment for comical purposes but this view is changing with great strides being made with regard to thoughtful and serious portrayals of characters. There is a slightly successive trend in putting an end to mental health discrimination and public perception of a positive attitude towards mental health is being put into practice.

Many movies use this formula to churn out movies each month, but one out of the many would truly be appreciated as a product of a sensitive director. Movies such as ‘Tere Naam’ (2003) and ‘Kyon Ki’ (2005) portrayed mental illness occurring due to a traumatic event but yet it did not project the illness in the right perspective and was exaggerated for purposes of entertainment. The lead actor playing a schizophrenic yet ill-treated in a mental asylum by being chained is not an exact projection of reality.

For some time now, Aparna Sen, a director of Hindi and Bengali cinema has given visibility to the disabled in her films. Her films have dwelled on schizophrenia, physical disability and relationships, dementia, paraplegia and trauma. Apart from this, some other movies portrayed mental illness for the role of the protagonist. Movies like ‘Koshish’ (1972) portrayed the relationship and the struggles of a deaf and a mute couple; ‘Kunwara Baap’ (1974) portrayed the seriousness of the issue of polio vaccination; ‘Sparsh’ (1980) portrayed the concernon visual impairment and ‘Black’ (2005) showed life without light whereas ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ (2003) shed slight light on dyslexia. Some movies touched upon sensitiveness by appealing to the audience by portrayal of movies such as ‘Taare Zameen Par’ (2007) which touched upon SLD (specific learning disorders) and dyslexia.

The passive acceptance of irrational ideas doesn’t affect society but when it comes to sensitive issues such as mental illness the reality is way different. Films related to mental illness are successful yet the distortions of reality contribute to the stigma associated with mental health.

The power of entertainment media and films cannot be overestimated and it is a medium which should be used to take advantage of the fact that the stigma of mental illness can be dismissed easily. Yet it is important to make sure that scientific messages are conveyed and not distorted for entertainment purposes. Issues presented should be sensitive and well informed as giving out flawed information will only aggravate the long standing problem of the stigma of mental health. Movies can indeed be a medium of awareness of mental health across all layers of society.

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