Kangana Ranaut’s Targeting of Deepika Padukone Sets Back the Mental Health Conversation by Years

Social Commentary

Kangana Ranaut’s Targeting of Deepika Padukone Sets Back the Mental Health Conversation by Years

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

The untimely demise of Sushant Singh Rajput in June was initially received as a suicide, before it morphed into the all-consuming media circus it has become today. Conspiracy theories regarding murder, political machinations casting aspersions on the Maharashtra government, and merciless trolling of anyone contradicting the dubious narrative that Rajput’s death was the result of a murky plot have come to characterise the aftermath of the actor’s death. Just like the valid examination of nepotism’s outsized role in finding success in Bollywood was side-tracked by targeted hate campaigns against specific individuals, the dialogue around mental health that Rajput’s suicide triggered has also been undone by the voices who refuse to believe in anything except unverified claims. Kangana Ranaut, one of the prominent advocates of the murder conspiracy theory, recently attacked Deepika Padukone for speaking out about depression in the wake of Rajput’s death, proving that the witch hunt takes precedence over actually addressing a widespread problem.

When Rajput’s death was first reported, reports established that mental illness may have played a role in taking his own life. His therapist came forward to say that Rajput was taking medicines for bipolar disorder, and Mumbai Police’s investigation found that one of the last Google searches the actor made was to look up the mental illness.

At the time, it was a reminder of how mental illness can be invisible on the surface, and yet so deadly as to be fatal. A number of celebrities, like Deepika Padukone, who came forward about her own fight with depression a few years ago, reiterated the important message that mental illnesses are treatable in an attempt to destigmatise them and prevent more tragic cases like Rajput’s.

However, as the case has snowballed into a soap opera-like saga, with Rajput’s ex being painted as a toxic and manipulative partner, insinuations of Rajput being defrauded as well as blackballed from the industry, and allegations of a massive cover-up of the true nature of his death, those important conversations have been pushed into the background.

Padukone’s hashtag of #RepeatAfterMe, which she hoped to use to remove negative associations with depression and other mental illnesses, has now become just another way for the troll army that masquerades as truth-seekers for Rajput to attack those that do not stand for what they believe.

In mocking Padukone, a person who has overcome depression once already, for championing the cause of treating mental illnesses, Rajput’s self-proclaimed avengers are only making life harder from those who might be suffering through the same struggle that Rajput did in his lifetime.