Sridevi Kapoor death: Tragedy shines light on Bollywood pressures
The death of Bollywood superstar Sridevi has led to a wave of speculation – some of it unsavoury.
But the sad news has also encouraged some industry insiders to speak out about the disturbing pressures that women and outsiders face in India’s so-called dream factory as Sudha G Tilak reports.
Bollywood stars often refer to the Hindi movie industry rooted in Mumbai as “one big family”, but the cracks in this large creative community are increasingly becoming too large to ignore.
The tragic death of Sridevi has prompted an outpouring on Indian social media over the pressures on the industry’s leading women and the murkiness behind their success.
It has also exposed the plight of many hopefuls who pursue a path to Mumbai with dreams of making it big in Bollywood.
The burden to defy age and look youthful and the haste to hide ugly scandals that embody campaigns such as #MeToo are not the issues of Hollywood alone.
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“Bollywood is probably worse with its history of its patriarchal mindset and the exploitative nature of young women more than men,” says a young Bollywood actor on condition of anonymity.
Over the last two decades gossip websites have been leaking information about romances, break-ups, problems with drink and substance abuse and criminal acts involving the industry’s stars.
After it emerged that Sridevi’s death was due to “accidental drowning”, veteran Bollywood actress Simi Garewal tweeted about the “uncanny similarities in the death of #Sridevi and Whitney Houston”.
Houston died in her hotel room on 11 February 2012 when she accidentally drowned due to the effects of cocaine use and heart disease, an autopsy concluded.
A disturbing tally of at least 16 actresses and nine actors have taken their own lives in India, often reportedly due to being unable to bear the demands of the film industry, deal with heartbreaks or because of depression.
Bollywood’s demands for big ticket box office success, the pressure on its stars to appear visibly attractive and exposure to social media scrutiny have tested those at the top of the profession, too.
Successful Indian actress Deepika Padukone has publicly admitted to suffering depression in this environment.
Filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, who directed Sridevi in Telugu language blockbusters, also spoke out on social media in an effort to convey how unhappy the Bollywood legend was in real life.
“[Sridevi] went through so much in her life,” he said, adding: “Due to her early career entry as a child artiste, life never gave her time to grow up at a normal pace.
“More than the external peace, her internal mental state was of a high degree of concern and this forced her to look at her own self.
“The uncertainty of the future, the ugly turns and twists in her private life left deep scars in the superstar’s sensitive mind and thereafter she was never at peace,” Varma wrote on Facebook.