Four Instances That Prove Bollywood Doesn't Understand Mental Health

Let’s be honest. Bollywood isn’t where you should be looking if you’re keen on learning about social issues. This is even more prevalent when it comes to topics such as mental health, disabilities and developmental disorders. Yes, those three are very different things. 


More often than not, characters suffering from a mental or a learning disability are often caricatures. In the light of the recently released Laal Singh Chadha trailer, which has seen some backlash regarding the same, today we look at five instances when Bollywood got it all wrong. 


1) Parineeti Chopra in Hasee Toh Phasee



Perhaps the perfect example of a caricatures we mentioned earlier, Parineeti Chopra’s portrayal of a person suffering from an unspecified mental illness was offensive on many levels. For starters, the 2014 movie referred to Parineeti’s character as ‘Mental Meeta’ in the promotional material. 


Even if the audience ignored that red flag and still went for the movie, they were greeted by a rather bizarre performance from Chopra. She thought it would be best to showcase her character with a number of twitches like excessive blinking, constant nose twitching and a number of weird expressions. 


2) Salman Khan in Tere Naam 



Back in 2003, Satish Kaushik’s Tere Naam launched Salman Khan’s popularity into stardom, or as I’d like to call it ‘Bhaidom.’ Apart from making bad haircuts popular, the movie also touched on the sensitive topic of schizophrenia.


This serious mental disorder sees those suffering experience hallucinations, paranoia and delusions. To the movie’s credit, the movie did portray some of the symptoms accurately, but failed or mislead on other big ones. For instance, people suffering from schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence rather than the other way around. So no, you don’t need to chain them up.



3) Hrithik Roshan in Koi Mil Gaya



The performance which propelled Hrithik Roshan into the big league and gave us our version of animatronic ET did more harm than good when it came to addressing mental disability. In the movie, Roshan’s character suffers from mental retardation, a condition that usually occurs at the onset of adulthood. While someone suffering from this may have impaired cognitive functioning, the symptoms are mostly internalised. In most cases, you won’t see a 25-year old adult sitting in the same class with 12-year olds. 


4) Priyanka Chopra in Barfi



Easily one of the most visually appealing movies on the list, Anurag Basu’s Barfi tells us the love story between the movie’s namesake played by Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra’s Jhilmil. Despite the very obvious Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton references, the movie was lauded for the performances of its leads, with Priyanka Chopra mostly stealing the limelight. 


However, many experts have pointed out multiple inaccuracies in Chopra’s portrayal of the character who suffers from autism, a developmental disability which leads to significant social, communication and behavioural challenges. While not being outright offensive like some of the other entries on the list, we just wish Basu did some more research on the subject. 


(Featured Image credits: Aamir Khan Productions, Viacom18 Studios and Paramount Pictures)

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