Bollywood is packed with tragic stories of celebrities who have lost their way either because they couldn’t come to grips with their fame, weren’t able to be as successful as they would have liked or simply for no tangible reason at all. Deepika Padukone’s admission was a brave one that could even impact her career. By revealing her inner struggle, the actress has brought light to something that is rarely discussed in Bollywood or in the South Asian community at large. She is not the first star to suffer from depression. There have been several tales, whether told or untold, that have haunted the tabloids for as long as celebrity journalism has existed. We revisit some of these stories.
Shah Rukh Khan
He is possible the most adulated star in India today save for Amitabh Bachchan but Shah Rukh Khan has experienced pain and loss that has affected every nuance of his personality, something he freely confesses. In a candid interview to a leading magazine, Shah Rukh Khan admitted he had trouble sleeping and used to cry for hours because of IPL-related stress. He further revealed that he was depressed for three months after Ra.One’s release. His infamous fight with Shirish Kunder and the subsequent scenes he created were all born out a time when Shah Rukh was experiencing some of the most intense pressure he ever has in his lifetime. However, the badshah has not let failure and stress affect him for too long. After each low, he has bounced back to achieve greater heights of success.
His mother Nargis’ death haunts Sanjay Dutt to this day, as he has admitted to numerous publications. A spate with substance abuse, jail and court hearings, along with the death of his first wife to cancer and the failure of his second marriage to Rhea Pillai, led Sanjay down a dark path from which he has only recently emerged. Now happily married to Manyata with whom he has three children, Sanjay is still suffering the repercussions of his troubled past. He is serving time in Yerwada Jail for harbouring weapons for the 1993 Bombay Blasts and is said to have been too depressed to even eat properly.
The Big B may seem infallible at the moment but there was a time when his career and health were at all-time lows. His company ABCL was lossmaking (he owed INR 90 crores to the public), he had to mortgage his home Prateeksha and he had numerous health woes to contend with, including cirrhosis of the liver and a serious illness called myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder). Indeed, the Big B’s rise back to fame and wealth is nothing if not inspirational.
India’s first superstar has often been described as a megalomaniac who couldn’t come to terms with his flailing career. In his biography, Rajesh Khanna: The Untold Story of India's First Superstar by Yasser Usman, there is a scene that details his spiral into depression as he tasted failure for the first time. Seven of his films had flopped back-to-back. He had, by his own admission, even contemplated suicide but stopped himself as he didn’t want the world to perceive him as a coward. What is most tragic about the star’s life is that he had a family who cared for him. However, loneliness and failure are said to have contributed to the superstar’s demise.
A dream debut opposite none other than Amitabh Bachchan in Nishabd and meaty roles in Ghajini and Houseful should have made beautiful Jiah the toast of Bollywood; sadly, it didn’t. She hung her herself on Monday, June 3 2013 and cited her unhappy relationship with her boyfriend Suraj Pancholi as the reason she chose to end her life. Her mother, Rabiya Khan has refuted allegations that her daughter’s career woes played a part in her tragic decision.
Vijaylakshmi (Silk Smitha)
At one time such was the power of Silk Smitha that films that had been on the backburner for years, were sold and resurrected to great success with the addition of a single one of her songs. She was hugely popular in the 80’s and 90’s and was typecast as a vamp in the majority of the films she starred in. After being seen in over 450 Tamil, Telegu, Kannada and Malayalam and Hindi films, Silk committed suicide on 23 September 1996. She left a suicide note in which she said that she had decided to take the drastic step because she was sick of the repeated failures in her life.
The beautiful actress died of severe depression and paranoid schizophrenia. She left the country at the peak of her career to follow guru UG Krishnamurthy to the US because she felt disturbed. A few trips later the gorgeous Parveen morphed into a bloated and obese version of herself and constantly suffered from paranoia that someone was trying to kill her. Mahesh Bhatt, with whom she had her most serious relationship, has sadly recounted her first attack and her consequent degeneration. The beautiful actress died alone in her apartment on January 23, 2005. By the end of her life she refused to even open the door for anyone and, according to her former secretary’s son, only slipped money under her door for milk and eggs.
The former Miss India hung herself on July 29, 2004 when she was only 26 years old at her flat in Versova after she discovered that her fiancé, Gautam Khanduja, was already married. Nafisa had her share of heartbreak before Gautam, including long relationships with model Sameer Malhotra and actor Samir Soni. Being deceived by Gautam may have driven the beautiful and talented VJ to end her promising life.
It seems heartbreak continues to play in a big role in ending beautiful and promising ladies’ lives. The stunningly beautiful model Viveka Babajee was another such victim. After stockbroker Gautam Vora allegedly told her he wasn’t ready for commitment, Viveka hung herself with a shocking note that read “You killed me Gautam Vora”.