RIP, Rituparno Ghosh and Nafisa ‘Jiah’ Khan

Dear Next Week, please feel free to keep more people alive than This Week and Last Week did.

I don’t have much to add beyond what I’ve written already about actor-director Rituparno Ghosh and actor-singer Nafisa Khan who was better known as Jiah Khan. So here are the two pieces I wrote about these two, both of whom passed away too soon. May they rest in peace.

“But, my city, I know, can neither handle me nor ignore me,” filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh had said in a recent interview. There’s no doubt Ghosh was something of an agent provocateur in both Kolkata and Indian cinema. From the subjects he chose to explore in his films to the way he dressed, Ghosh was always urging us to reconsider the stereotypes that we take for granted as normal.

But from the grief and shock that’s evident in the reactions to his passing this morning, it’s obvious that for all the thorn that Ghosh may have been in convention’s side, the filmmaker was also much admired and beloved.

You can read the rest of the obituary here.

jiahkhan
Jiah Khan, photographed by Aparna Jayakumar* on one of her last photoshoots.

Does this make Bollywood responsible for Khan’s decision to commit suicide? Not directly, no. In any profession in the world, there are more heartbreaks than there are successes. Different people deal with the knocks in different ways. Most aspiring actors who come to Mumbai don’t make it, even though many of them are fair, good-looking, slim and talented. Few get the exposure that Khan did. But you can tell from the Twitter responses from Bollywood that there is a sense of guilt. Everyone seems to trying to be make up for having forgotten about the young girl who just five years ago was hailed as the starlet to watch.

It’s easier for most people to understand a young woman would kill herself because she was disappointed in love. But to commit suicide because your career was following a disappointing trail? That too when you’re 25 and youth — the most important qualification in the world of acting — is on your side? That doesn’t make sense to most and it emphasises how none of her colleagues had realised how seriously depressed Khan was. Worse, the only way to stand by her now seems to be with something as fleeting as a tweet.

The first wave of industry reactions came from those grappling with the truth that Khan was so deeply unhappy. The second wave will claim they knew she was depressed — Varma has already said on Twitter that she had confided to him that “everyone around her makes her feel like a failure” — but no one will acknowledge how depression isn’t regarded as a serious issue in India. People who are ‘strong’ will ‘get over it’ on their own, we think. Depression needs to be ignored, rather than discussed. Will Khan’s untimely death make her a little less forgettable? Perhaps. Will it make anyone in show business look at the next newcomer or depressed person with a little more empathy? Probably not.

You can read the full piece on Nafisa Khan’s suicide here.

*I love this photo that Aparna took of the actress. You can see more from that shoot on Aparna’s blog, which has many fabulous non-Jiah photos too. 

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