DEEPIKA Padukone is one of Bollywood’s most popular superstar actors. She’s starred in Happy New Year and Chennai Express, two of the highest-grossing Bollywood films ever made.
In interviews, the former model talks about the glaring pay disparities between male and female stars, and last year, she made headlines when she called out The Times of India after the newspaper published a video clip, clearly trained on Padukone’s decolletage, for blatantly objectifying her.
In Happy New Year, Padukone’s most recent blockbuster, she turned in a trademark confident, magnetic dance performance, so it was surprising on Thursday when Hindustan Times published an account by Padukone detailing her struggles with depression and anxiety. In fact, she revealed that she was dealing with it during the same period when she was filming the Diwali heist comedy.
“Every morning it was a struggle to wake up and shoot for Happy New Year’s climax,” she said. “Finally, I had a word with Anna aunty. She flew to Mumbai from Bengaluru, and I talked my heart out to her. She concluded that I was suffering from anxiety and depression.”
It wasn’t the first time Padukone, 29, addressed mental illness. “When you look at a person, any person, everyone has a story,” Padukone said in a series of tweets on Dec 31. “Everyone has gone through something that has changed their life. Anxiety, Depression and Panic Attacks are not signs of weakness. They are signs of trying to remain strong for way too long. I dedicate this year to supporting Mental Health Awareness. #youarenotalone.”
But this was the first time Padukone has discussed her own trials in such detail.
Padukone said that she saw a psychologist who treated her depression with therapy and anti-depressants, though initially she resisted pharmacological treatment. After Happy New Year wrapped, she took a two-month break before starting work on her next film, only to learn that a friend suffering from anxiety and depression committed suicide.
Padukone said that’s what spurred her to speak publicly.
India, in addition to being the world’s most populous country, has the highest number of suicides. A recent New York Times editorial painted a picture of a mental health crisis, especially among Indian youth, who have the highest suicide rate in the world.
According to a 2014 report by Human Rights Watch, the stigma surrounding mental illness is especially punishing for Indian women: “Instances of violence against women and girls with mental or intellectual disabilities including involuntary confinement, physical and sexual abuse, inhumane or degrading treatment, and excessive electroshock therapy remained particularly high in state-run and private residential care facilities, which lack adequate oversight. Within the family and community, women and girls with disabilities also experience violence, including involuntary sterilisation.”
“The most common reaction is, ‘How can you be depressed? You have everything going for you. You are the supposed No. 1 heroine and have a plush home, car, movies ... What else do you want?’ It’s not about what you have or don’t have,” Padukone said. “People talk about physical fitness, but mental health is equally important. I see people suffering, and their families feel a sense of shame about it, which doesn’t help. One needs support and understanding.”
Padukone’s revelation was greeted on Twitter with a swell of support from fans and colleagues alike.
—By arrangement with The Washington Post
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2015