Actor Mona Singh, through her latest venture Lutf, wants people to understand that depression is not a personal failure, rather a state of mind that demands professional care. By Team Viva
Actor Mona Singh has crafted her career simply by challenging convention, much before the dawn of the content era. The first time around she burst upon our collective imagination with Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, she went on to shatter the accepted definition of beauty on the screen, be it big and small. She wore big school marm specs, her teeth tied down with braces and in the most unflattering of salwar suits with a starched and folded dupatta. And she went on to become an overnight sensation. People, who earlier believed in unattainable standards of beauty, now adored the shine of honesty and self-belief in Jassi’s eyes. And 16 years after the serial was first aired, she is back again to what she does best, making people look beyond the obvious.
The actor is now seen in the short film Lutf, which captures the issue of mental health and creates awareness about it. It revolves around Meghna Joshi (Mona) and a fear that shadows her life. She struggles to help herself come out of it but her husband Ravi Joshi and family are not supportive. A therapist Dr Vipul Agarwal (Vinay Pathak) helps her to deal with her fear.
What appealed to her the most? “Touching a subject like mental health is appealing in itself. The most interesting part about my character was that she is not a cry baby or sad about life but she is a fighter,” says Mona. There are times when survivors of mental illness feel helpless and have negative thoughts about themselves. But Meghna wants to help herself by finding a solution. She wants to dig out the reasons that “why can’t she do a certain thing and what is she scared of,” adds Mona.
The actor admits that she has never done a film like this before, as this issue has not been discussed much. She says, “In India when someone goes to a psychiatrists to seek professional assistance, people start labelling them as mad. They say, ‘wo pagal hai kya jo pagalo ke doctor ke paas ja rahi hai.’ Their family and friends do not support them. They should instead help the affected person come out of the trough.”
It is high time we normalise mental illness like any other physical one. People need to broaden their mindset so that it becomes easy for the survivors to come out and talk about it. At some level things are improving. Many Bollywood celebrities have come out to discuss this so that the stigma attached to it can be removed.
Mona agrees with it and says, “It is an intense subject and can harm people. It can ruin relationships and entire lives. On top of all this, the survivors have to face denial from thesociety. This is the worst thing for a depressed person.” This is the reason people are ashamed of being depressed. What can be worse than this?
In this fast-paced life, which has so much stress, anxiety and unpredictability, everyone gets depressed at some point or the other. Mona feels it is important for people to understand that depression is not a personal failure, it is just a state of mind which demands professional care.
The film focusses on the simple joys of life, but we usually don’t realise them. This has been beautifully depicted in the film. This simplicity is what helps the film connect with the audience and especially the survivors closely. They would see this as a step towards normalising their condition.
The actor is hopeful that the film will have a far-reaching impact because even the people in small towns have access to the digital platforms. This topic would interest them as its fresh for them.
Director Prateesh Nair has researched in-depth and was very clear about what he wanted from each character. Mona says, “When I met him (Prateesh) for a workshop, he told me that he wants Meghna to be a very normal girl who is not crying in every situation and is rather trying to help herself.” The actor was sure about doing this role then and she found that she could relate to it in real life too. “I think like Meghna when I am going through any issue in my life. I seek help from my family and friends. I have no shame in that,” says she.
The film is streaming live on a OTT platform. With the digital wave one can clearly witness the improvement in quality as well as quantity of stories that are being told which wouldn’t have made the cut otherwise. These platforms are giving a chance to people to showcase their skillls. “Digital is a beautiful change. A subject like mental illness will not work on TV or cinema because there people like to watch drama, love and romance. And the General Entertainment Channel (GEC) channels have a lot of restrictions because they are family channels. In such a case a digital platform has the upper hand because they have no such restrictions,” says she.
The actor is glad about getting different kind of roles, which she says come to her. She never chases them. In her recent one, Mission Over Mars, she played a Bengali scientist which was a complicated and grey character.
“Not only this, my plate is full with more diverse roles now. I am in the third season of Kehne ko Humsafar hai and one more,” adds she.
Recalling her journey, Mona says, “When I started my career with Jassi, I had no idea what was in store for me. But after coming to Mumbai and giving such a hit show, there was no looking back. I started getting different kinds of roles which helped me to work on myself. I hosted shows, dancing, acting and theatre. I am always excited to do something that challenges me and helps me find a new zone for myself.”
(The film is streaming live on SonyLiv.)
Saturday, 12 October 2019 | Team Viva
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