Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho kya gum hai jisko chhipa rahe ho, the song from the movie Arth is apt to describe the pain and darkness hidden behind the painted and glamorous faces of Bollywood
It is said that the cost of the stardom is quite heavy to pay. While some succeed at it, a lot others have paid it with their lives. The recent victim of this stardom was a 25-year-old bubbly and vivacious Jiah Khan aka Nafisa Khan. A concoction of failed relationship, rejection during auditions and a dwindling career forced the struggling actress to commit suicide within the safe environs of her home. Jiah Khan’s suicide has once again brought to the forefront a fact that behind the glitter of Bollywood’s marquee is a world full of depression which has often led many stars and particularly the actresses, to a point that they find the solace in death.
Despite the fans, lovers and of course a glamorous career, Bollywood can be a scary, and sometimes, a lonely place. The suicide of actress Jiah Khan has given an insight into the loneliness and trauma which stars suffer often. The glitz and glamour is just a facade; what lies beneath the air of lavish lifestyles is far from beautiful. The beautiful Jiah Khan, who had come all the way from London to Bollywood to pursue her dream of acting committed suicide by hanging herself at her Mumbai residence on June 3 late in the night. Jiah’s body was discovered in the morning by her mother Rabiya Khan.
As the events unfolded raising speculations about murder, a suicide note written by the deceased actress solved the mystery. Though it was not addressed to anyone, based on the events of the past few months, it was speculated that it was a case of love gone sour between Jiah and Suraj Pancholi, son of Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab, that led to suicide.
In the six-page letter, recovered from her bag a few days after suicide, Jiah mentioned about abuse, torture, rape, and even an abortion during the one-year relationship with Suraj. The police has arrested Suraj, two years younger to the starlet, for abetting suicide. The letter that described the emotional torture which Jiah underwent leading to suicide ended with lines, “All I want now is to go to sleep and never wake up again. I am nothing. I had everything.”
However Jiah is not the first, and most likely not even the last, case of a celebrity from the world of Bollywood committing suicide. Guru Dutt, the ace director and actor, was the first one to commit suicide in Bollywood.
Guru Dutt was the first among Bollywood stars who committed suicide by consuming a combination of excessive alcohol and sleeping pills on October 10, 1964. The ace director is often credited with ushering in the golden era of Hindi cinema who made the cult classics including Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam and Chaudhvin Ka Chand. His Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool are part of the greatest films of all time, both by Time magazine’s “All-TIME” 100 best movies and by the Sight & Sound critics’ and directors’ poll, where Dutt himself is included among the greatest film directors of all time. Also, in 2010, he was included among CNN’s “top 25 Asian actors of all time.
He was found dead in his bed in his rented apartment at Pedder Road in Mumbai. It was the director’s third suicide attempt. Most people, especially Abrar Alvi, figured it was a suicide. Abrar and Dutt had many-a-time discussed way of committing suicide and both had tried at least once but had failed. Abrar and Guru Dutt sat late that night discussing a movie, and according to Alvi, during their conversation, Guru Dutt was very morbid in his thinking and conversation. He had been drinking since 5:00 pm that evening. According to a documentary aired on Doordarshan, Asha Bhosle said that Guru Dutt had called her at midnight before his death to ask whether his wife Geeta was with her to which she replied in the negative. She was the last person who spoke with Guru Dutt.
In 1953, Dutt had got married to Geeta Dutt, a well-known playback singer. They had been engaged for three years and had to overcome a great deal of family opposition to marry. They had three children, Tarun, Arun, and Nina. Dutt had an unhappy marital life. According to his brother Atmaram, while Guru Dutt was a strict disciplinarian as far as work was concerned, he was totally undisciplined in his personal life. He smoked heavily, drank heavily, and kept odd hours.
Actress Parveen Babi, 55, committed suicide on January 20, 2005. She however died in her sleep in Mumbai, and had complications from diabetes. Police ruled out any foul play. At a time when all actresses insisted on covering up, Parveen Babi was the only one who dared to bare all. Unarguably one of the most successful actresses of the 70s, who ushered in an era of sensation, Babi was also the first Indian actress to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. In most of her successful films, she was paired opposite Amitabh Bachchan. They pair went on to give hits like Deewar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Shaan, Kaalia and Khuddar. It was in 90’s that her once booming career started a decline. Babi, who was in a relationship with Kabir Bedi and Mahesh Bhatt, was said to have developed some kind of psychological problem. Following her death as a tribute to
the actress, Mahesh Bhatt made a movie
Woh Lamhe allegedly based on their
Among the most controversial deaths that have taken place in Bollywood, the death of 19-year-old Divya Bharti has remained the most talked about till date. Mystery shrouds the death of the actress, who was considered ‘the most interesting young actress of her generation’, after she fell to her death from her husband’s apartment building in Mumbai on April 5, 1993. The police investigated the case and closed it after five years, as it could not reach a conclusion whether it was an accidental death, suicide or murder.
Starring in a number of commercially successful Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films in the early 1990s, Bharti played a variety of character types; her film roles, along with her screen persona, contributed to a change in the concept of a Hindi film heroine. Around midnight of April 5, 1993, Bharti fell to her death from a five-storey Tulsi apartment building in Versova Mumbai. There was much speculation by the media regarding Bharti’s sudden demise, including the possibility of suicide, accidental death, conspiracy or even murder.
Ekta kapoor’s The Dirty Picture based on the life of seductress Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati, popularly known as Silk Smitha brought forth the ugly picture of the glamour world where the failures are hard to deal with. Silk Smitha, 35, the girl from the South with the “thundering thighs” committed suicide in Chennai on September 23, 1996. Failure in love, alcoholism and depression and financial losses were said to be the reasons behind her suicide. Silk Smitha was renowned for her bold roles and had apparently lost all hope and was in deep financial crisis.
Nafisa Joseph, 25, a model-turned-TV actor, and niece of Sharmila Tagore hanged herself to death in Mumbai on July 29, 2004. She took this extreme step as her forthcoming marriage was called off. She had won the Miss India Universe 1997 pageant and was a semi-finalist in the Miss Universe 1997 pageant in Miami. Director Manmohan Desai, 57, committed suicide on March 1, 1994, by jumping from his building in Khetwadi near Grant Road, Mumbai. Though he was suffering from chronic back pain, very little is known of his death and the reasons behind it.
In the intensely competitive and increasingly high-earning world of Bollywood, suicides are not unusual. It’s a cutthroat business and there is so much competition. There are always a hundred other girls and boys waiting in the wings to take a flight. A lot of these people live their lives on the edge. Among all the suicides that have taken place one thing was found to be common and that was the depression either due to a failed career or relationship. Prior to taking the extreme steps, instead of confiding to a closed one or seeking professional help, these stars found solace in drinking, which should have been avoided.
The glitz and glamour of Bollywood is often accompanied by anxiety, depression and constant pressure to stay on top. One hit and people are running after you for autographs; four flops and no one notice you. Hopelessness, worthlessness and helplessness therefore get augmented for celebrities. Their mistakes are glorified and personalities routinely degraded because they are always in the limelight. But is finding solace in death the only answer to end the worries? Definitely not.
By Parwinder Sandhu
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