Who’s mad? Mental Hai Kya, Dear Zindagi, Karthik Calling Karthik are taking the taboo out of mental illness


You may or may not be a fan of Ekta Kapoor’s brand of television content but she invariably keeps pushing the envelope with the films she produces under her banner -- Balaji Motion Pictures. Mental Hai Kya, another movie that Ekta has backed, is expected to bring mental illness firmly out of the closet. And also to give it the airing that it so badly needs.

The World Health Organisation has projected depression to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020. India’s depression levels are apparently as high as 36 per cent, the highest in the world. But, no, we would rather die than open up about it – after all, anything to do with mental stuff means you’re ‘pagal’, right?

Recommended Read: Not Kangana but Amyra plays Rajkummar’s simple, chirpy love interest in ‘Mental Hai Kya’

Here’s looking at some films that bring mental illness under the spotlight, with varying degrees of success and sensitivity:

Mental Hai Kya

The makers have deemed that this Rajkummar Rao-Kangana Ranaut starrer will not show people suffering from mental illness as pitiable, sympathy-seeking characters. In fact, Kangana has once asserted, “We will portray the issue with sensitivity. The film takes a stand against equating individuality with madness.”

The posters of the film depict the lead characters’ suicidal tendencies and have been triggering considerable interest already. Revealing the reason behind selecting this script, the actress has mentioned that Mental Hai Kya resonates with the way her own life unfolded in the past few years. “I realised there was so much stigma attached to being different. 'Mental' or 'psycho' were the terms used to shame me, but these can't be used casually as swear words. When this script came along, I knew I had to do it to break the stigma around it. High time we made individuality aspirational,” she declared.

Fact is, mental health shown in a positive manner in cinema has the potential to make a big difference.

Dear Zindagi

This Gauri Shinde-directed film also helped sensitised mental illness on-screen. The movie took a stance on treating it as just like any other physical ailment, suggesting that one must seek help without the fear of being judged. It featured Kiara, played by Alia Bhatt, who sought help from a psychiatrist, played by Shah Rukh Khan, when she realised her breakup has resulted in making her insomniac. Dear Zindagi was also a breather from other dramatic movies Bollywood keeps on making back-to-back. It also elaborated the concept of 'loving yourself' in more than one way.


A rather harsh depiction of the reality, this Madhur Bhandarkar directorial, showed 'heroine' Kareena Kapoor suffering from bipolar disorder/ anterograde amnesia. While the film did not majorly focus on the illness, its efforts to show the repercussions if not treated timely, were impressive. The downfall of the character's career brought about by her manic-depressive disorder, her inability to see her own mistakes, and her refusal to accept the reality -- Bhandarkar's Heroine helped in shifting the focus to a form of mental illness which is characterized by disruptive mood swings

Tere Naam

It was a big Salman Khan blockbuster and showed a state of a schizophrenic. Salman's Radhe was admitted to a mental asylum after he developed violent tendencies following the death of her lady love. The film did manage to show the disturbed mental state of its hero, an ex-college rowdy. His tragic love story also struck a chord with audiences.

Bhool Bhulaiya

Directed by Priyadarshan, this psychological thriller combined comedy with horror. The movie showed Avni, played by Vidya Balan, suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The Akshay Kumar starrer also helped in creating awareness about the delicate treatment such disorders demand. Acting upon her assumed identity, Avni was shown to think of herself as dancer Manjulika. Akshay's character, who's a psychiatrist in the movie, used hypnoses to cure Avni, and therefore, the message got a little misunderstood by the audience.

Anjaana Anjaani

This romantic drama had both its lead characters suffering from mental disorders. While banker Akash, played by Ranbir Kapoor, suffered from Acute Stress Disorder, Kiara, played by Priyanka Chopra, was dealing from an Adjustment Disorder. After many failed suicide attempts individually, the two met by chance and gradually found happiness in each other. Anjaana Anjaani helped audience to understand why it's important to have somebody to fall back upon in life. The realisation that you have somebody who cares for you unconditionally is an inevitable part of the treatment in any kind of mental disorder.


It might not have been diagnosed back in the time in which the movie is set, but clinical depression is the mental disorder that ailed the lovelorn alcoholic Devdas. Also called Major Depressive Disorder, this condition leads the person to feel that life is not worth living. Devdas’s constant sense of doom is a classic sign of this condition, which is usually diagnosed via the patient’s personal experiences and mental ability tests.

Karthik calling Karthik

Again, a case of Dissociative Identity Disorder and schizophrenia -- Farhan Akhtar’s character, Karthik was shown receiving advice from an unidentified caller. The caller was apparently a confidante who coached the introvert Karthik to achieve both professional and personal success. The caller advising Karthik, as revealed in the climax, happened to be Karthik himself.

Saat Khoon Maaf

This dark comedy touched upon the themes of adultery and hyper-sexuality, via Susanna, played by Priyanka Chopra. Her endless yearning for love characterized a slightly mentally-deranged woman whose tragic episode with her mother lead to her disturbed mental state. The result: a murderess who calmly eliminated her seven abusive husbands, one by one. Again, a mental disorder triggered from something one has experienced in his/ her childhood.


Deranged and dangerous, Kajol played the obsessive Isha in this film, who went to extreme lengths to assure she's not separated from her love, Sahil, played by Bobby Deol. Isha finally went to the extent of attempting to murder Sahil’s fiancée, till she is shot dead by the police. The film focused on showing what a mental disorder is capable of doing to one.


This Ram Gopal Varma directorial was an impressive story of an innocent and helpless young woman (Urmila Matondkar), who was later revealed to be the serial killer on the loose. As she cleaned up the bodies, rearranged the furniture and proceeded to talk to her mother using the disconnected telephone, it was clear that she was mentally deranged. RGV tried to outline the most scary extent of any mental disorder -- taking sadist pleasure out of killing human beings.


The line between persuasion and obsession is a thin one as we saw in Shah Rukh Khan’s disposition which took love to insane limits in the film. Obsessive love shares similarities with attachment disorder, borderline personality disorder and erotomania, as embodied in the anti-hero and his fixation with “kkkk... Kiran”.


The film was about Tarang Bharadwaj (Ajay Devgn) who was caught red-handed at a crime scene. But, was defended by a successful lawyer Raj (Akshaye Khanna) who believed he had suffered from a split personality disorder. However, Raj sought to reopen the case when he discovered that the mental illness was an act put on by Tarang, who was actually a cold-blooded murderer.

Which one's your favourite among these?

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