Remove scenes that stigmatize bipolar disorder from Nerkonda Paarvai, immediately!
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Nerkonda Paarvai, a Tamil film released on August 10, 2019, is a remake of the popular Hindi film, Pink. We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the movie’s callous and insensitive portrayal of Bipolar Disorder. It reinforces the stereotype that people with psycho-social disabilities are extremely violent. This is nothing short of an insensitive, if not aggressive, assault on mental health service users, creating more hurdles in their crusade against stigma and discrimination.
1. The original film Pink makes only a passing remark on the mental health condition of the protagonist (Deepak Sehgal), whereas Nerkonda Paarvai out-rightly claims that he (Bharath Subramaniam) has bipolar disorder.
2. It claims that the bipolar disorder was caused due to his wife’s sudden demise, which is clinically wrong as one cannot develop bipolar disorder in that manner.
3. Scenes where the protagonist empties the tablets out of a bottle and takes them are extremely dangerous because such acts can influence the general public. Not only for mental health medications, but for any chronic illness, one cannot and should not take tablets beyond the prescribed dosage level as it can lead to grievous consequences.
4. The portrayal of the psychiatrist who treats the protagonist is outrageous. He advises the protagonist not to miss the tablets saying, "it’s not only good for him but also for others around him," meaning that he could become dangerous to the people around. When the long fight scene (nothing of that sort in the original) is about to ensue, the psychiatrist advises the henchmen to run away for their safety as the protagonist has “years of pent-up anger”.
5. The only plausible reason for mentioning bipolar disorder in the Tamil remake, which is otherwise a replica of the Hindi film, is only to justify the long (20-30 min), gory fight sequence. People with bipolar disorder cannot be made the scapegoat for the logic, or its lack, of commercial films.
We unequivocally condemn this act of irresponsible stereotyping and spreading false information about mental health service users. We urge the director of the film, H.Vinoth, Producer Boney Kapoor, and Actor Ajith Kumar to remove the above-mentioned scenes and all scenes that have references to the mental health condition of the protagonist immediately.
We urge Mr. Ajith Kumar in particular who is popularly known for his integrity and social responsibility, to consider our angst with due concern, considering the mass appeal he enjoys. The sustained negative impact that such portrayal of mental health might create among the people can only be addressed by removing the scenes.
We are very well aware that this is not the first Tamil film that portrays mental health service users in such a manner. In fact, there have been worse portrayals. But, in a movie that otherwise speaks the right things against patriarchy and for women liberation, it’s a shame that such an incorrect understanding of mental health prevails. And, we consider it our duty as conscientious civil society to highlight and correct this incongruity.
Dr Sree Prathap, Psychiatrist, Founder Chairman, Shadithya hospital, Chennai
Dr Mohan Raj, Consultant Psychiatrist, Tharu Clinic, Chennai
Dr Anandhan Pannnerselvam, Psychiatrist. Mind Care, Chennai
Dr Aishwarya Rao, Health and human rights activist, Chennai
Vaishnavi Jayakumar, Disability rights activist, Chennai
Dr V Janaki, Social scientist and disability rights activist, Chennai
Bapu Trust for Research on Mind & Discourse, Pune
Seher Community mental health and Inclusion program, Pune
RR Srinivasan, Documentary Film maker, Environmental activist, Chennai
Saravana Raja, Writer, Mental health activist, Chennai
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