Darkness behind the candle

The shocking incident of suicide by TV star Pratyusha Banerjee, 24,  has led to a lot of soul-searching as to why celebrities put a full-stop to their lives despite      success in their fields. Shoma A. Chatterji probes

Pratyusha Banerjee’s sudden death (some of her friends refuse to believe that she killed herself) is the latest in a string of incidents of this nature in the glamour world. The question of ‘why’ hangs in the air particularly if one does not leave behind a suicide note as in Pratyusha’s case. Sometimes, friends and relatives of the deceased also cast aspersions on people associated with the departed, speculating whether they committed suicide or were murdered by boyfriends or husbands.
Observes psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh, “Suicide as an option would normally be considered when all doors seem closed and one feels trapped. It’s a last resort for those who think that their lives have no meaning and purpose left. The celebrity might feel totally dejected and perhaps embarrassed to face the world which might push him or her to contemplate suicide.”
Was it the case of Shikha Joshi, 40-year-old model-turned actress, who slit her throat in 2014? She had told her friend before dying that her career was not going anywhere and so she had decided to end her life.
Take the case of Jiah Khan, the beautiful girl who came from London to make a career in Bollywood. Despite starting out big with co-stars like Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, she hung herself in her residence in Mumbai in 2013. Her mother revealed a six page note where Jiah wrote about being harassed and mentally tortured. As all evidence pointed to her boyfriend, Sooraj Pancholi, he was arrested and booked on charge of abetment to suicide. Later, forensic reports confirmed that the actress was drunk when she committed suicide. Pancholi has been out of jail and his film Hero was released last year.
People still talk about Divya Bharati, 19, a hit star with short life span. Her early success sucked her into the vortex of alcohol and probably drugs, and she is said to have jumped off the parapet of a high-rise in Mumbai in 1993. It is still unclear if she fell off the fifth floor or whether she was pushed by someone, or if she was drunk and lost her balance.
People associate showbiz with glamour and stardom. Some become icons and some lose themselves haunted by failure and fade-outs. There are more failure stories than success ones in this fiercely competitive world and those who cannot cope with failure, give up on their lives. The lack of psychological counselling within filmdom is another reason as those facing problems do not have anyone to fall back on.
Kuljeet Randhawa, a model-turned-actress who appeared in serials like Special Squad, Hip Hip Hurray and CATS hanged herself at her Juhu apartment in 2006. Her close friend Nafisa Joseph, a former beauty queen and also a VJ, had earlier committed suicide in 2004. She was to marry businessman Gautam Khanduja. But the wedding was called off after she learnt that he was already married. He had told her that he had been divorced for two years.
Popular fashion model Viveka Babajee, who shot to fame with the Kamasutra condom ads in the 1990s, committed suicide in 2010. Different reasons were cited for her suicide ranging between breakdown in professional career, failed love relationship and financial losses.
Mental breakdowns also afflict many stars and it needs strength to bounce back. Susmita Sen broke down during a press conference soon after she was awarded the Miss Universe title and was flooded with film offers. She reportedly went into deep depression but came out of it subsequently. Recently, Dipika Padukone publicly confessed of going through psychiatric counselling during phases of depression and nervous breakdown.
According to world statistics, more men than women commit suicide while more women than men attempt suicide. But the celebrity suicides in Indian film and television world prove otherwise. Probably it’s because women in the industry begin to break the moral codes of how a woman should behave at work, in private life and in relationships. This leads not only to gossip but also to the social stigma that tends to attach to the families they come from. Many young women cannot cope with this social stigma, the sense of alienation from the family and the instability of their love relationships. Many of them also live alone ,come from small towns in search of stardom and are vulnerable to pressure, in career and relationships.
Edwin Shneidman, co-founder of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Centre points out four common factors: the first is inimicality, hostility against oneself. The second is perturbation, a state of extreme anxiety, with the feeling of being closed in, with no way out. The third is constriction, with the suicide’s perceptions narrowing into a tunnel vision where the mind focusses only on the one unendurable emotion. The last is cessation, death as the only way out. Each of these suicides could be fitted into either of these descriptions, thus blurring beyond recognition, all attempts to identify and focus on specific causes. More than failure in one’s vocation is the feeling of being left all alone in the big bad world of entertainment where relationships are as fragile as popularity, the glitz and the glamour of a star among his/her fans that drives a celebrity to suicide. Marylyn Monroe was found dead in her bed, all alone, on a morning, holding the receiver of the phone in one hand. Did she die of an overdose of sleeping pills as the media reported? Or, was she deliberately poisoned? Or was the overdose an accident? The jury is still out. (TWF)