is the first book to investigate how mental illness is portrayed
in Hindi cinema. It examines attitudes towards mental illness in
Indian culture, how they are reflected in Hindi films, and how culture
has influenced the portrayal of the psychoses. Dinesh Bhugra guides
the reader through the history of Indian cinema, covering developments
from the idealism of the 1950s to the stalking, jealousy and psychopathy
that characterises the films of the 1990s.
of individual films demonstrate the culture's approach towards mental
illness and reflect the impact of culture on films and vice versa.
Subjects covered include: cinema and emotion; attitudes towards
mental illness; socio-economic factors and cinema in India; Indian
personality, villany and history; and psychoanalysis in the films
of the 60s. "Mad Tales from Bollywood" will be of interest
to psychiatrists, mental health professionals, students of media
and cultural studies and those with an interest in Indian culture.
makes more films than Hollywood," points out Dinesh Bhugra.
"Its a very operatic film style with a lot of singing
and dancing." Bollywood films generally feature
strong messages, often reinforcing traditional principles such as
family values and acceptance by society. All of the 12 films chosen
by Dr Bhugra have at least one key character with some degree of
are talking about mental illness in a Western context - the psychiatrists
definition of schizophrenia and manic depression," he explains,
"but I hope to look at the portrayal of possession states,
trance and reincarnation too." In most of the films, psychosis
is poorly defined, with people shown hearing and responding to voices.
This depiction of mental illness is not solely the filmmakers
interpretation as these films were adapted from popular novels,
which sold millions of copies at railway stations around India.
"It will be interesting to see how those authors got their
ideas about mental illness."
terms of their portrayal of mental illness, Hindi films tend to
represent the mentally ill as comedic supporting characters that
add an amusing sideshow to, for example, the central love
story. "There may occasionally be slapstick and jokes
between two characters," he says, "so it will be interesting
to perceive what subtext is conveyed to the audience." Part
of his research will be to disentangle operatic licence
- a characteristic of Hindi cinema - from any portrayal of mental
study also focuses on the treatment of the mentally ill. Dr Bhugras
previous research, at the Maudsley Hospital in London, of ancient
Ayurvedic texts has provided him with an insight into the traditional
Hindu system of medicine. "Mental illness is seen as an interaction
between personality, seasons and food etc., rather than taking a
biological or social approach." In India, he says, "People
take a pluralistic approach to treating the mentally ill, incorporating
Western treatment with visits to an Ayurvedic physician, and prayers
at specific temples." The extent to which this is represented
in films is a matter for investigation.
films Dr Bhugra is studying all had considerable mass-market appeal,
and were seen by a significant slice of the Indian population. Undoubtedly,
political factors coloured the portrayal of mental illness. "In
the 80s and 90s, whilst India was amid much political restlessness,
successful films made at that time included a psychopathic hero
who always gets punished for his bad deeds." Cinema audiences
would cheer on their wayward hero, despite knowing that retribution
for his behaviour was inevitable. Evidence of social factors influencing
film scripting does exist and Dr Bhugra is keen to investigate the
extent of such influence given Indias past political climate.
with Hollywoods portrayal of mental illness, Indian cinema
is perhaps less enlightened. As Dr Bhugra points out: "There
are fewer Bollywood films that look at mental illness in a serious
sympathetic way. Only one film discusses psychoanalysis at length
and depictions generally refer to asylums or the traditional model
of psychiatric hospitals." This, he argues, gives an impression
that: "Indian cinema may be 30 to 40 years behind Hollywoods
image of psychiatry." This may again reflect differing social
attitudes to mental illness: "There are cultural differences
where family contact, religion and pilgrimage may be the nonprofessional
ways of dealing with it."
addressing these issues, a broader aim of the project is to influence
public attitudes and foster a more sympathetic understanding of
mental illness. "In India families that care for the mentally
ill need to realise that this is a genuine illness and not an act
or an hysterical phenomenon," he explains. Moreover, he hopes
that his study may encourage film directors to modify their portrayal
of the mentally ill and thus reduce the stigma attached to mental
illness. "Hindi cinema is a cultural and ideological force
that creates and reinforces perceptions and attitudes in its viewers."
As such, it could have a profound influence on the Indian populations
attitudes to a mental health.
from the Wellcome