Glitz, glamour and the attention of multitudes is synonymous with film stars. But the top can sometimes be a lonely place. Oscar-winning Hollywood actor Robin Williams death on Monday — preliminary investigation shows cause of death as suicide due to asphyxia — gives us a glimpse into the darker, traumatic side of stardom. The 63-year-old had been battling severe depression, his press representative Mara Buxbaum had said earlier.
Other celebrities — closer home in India — have also taken the drastic step. The list includes filmmaker-actor Guru Dutt, south siren Silk Smitha, models Viveka Babaji, Kuljeet Randhawa, Nafisa Joseph, and actor Kunal Singh.
In a previous interview, Shah Rukh Khan had told HT: “Nothing is worth ending your life. I strongly believe that, at the end of the day, a supporting family is what one needs.” Filmmaker Karan Johar says, “Such incidents make us question the loneliness that fame brings with it. It highlights the importance of friends and family to help tide over a difficult point in life.”
Actor Kangana Ranaut played a model who commits suicide in Fashion (2008). Ask her about celeb suicides and she says, “You have to take care of yourself, and draw a line between what’s reel and what’s real.” Parineeti Chopra adds that one should learn to deal with failure. “Success in the industry is determined by the audience. It’s not in your hands… I work hard and want to do well, but if things aren’t going well, I’ll do something else,” says the actor, who will become an investment banker if her acting career fails.
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So what pushes a celebrity to take such a drastic step? Psychologist Shweta Parekh says, “If the feeling of loneliness and low mood persist for a long time, anything around six months, it can be depression. It happens to glamorous people when most of their relationships become superficial. It can lead to further negative feelings, even leading to thoughts of doing away with oneself. Another reason is that these personalities have achieved everything, probably too soon in their lives.”
Shekhar Kapur, filmmaker
Robin Williams’ death is a huge loss. I had met him twice during the Golden Globes and during the Academy Awards ceremony. We were not friends, but he was one of the most affable and wonderful people I have ever met.
Karan Johar, filmmaker
I am a big fan. It’s hard to fathom how a man who has spread so much joy could take his own life. It’s a very saddening and distressing piece of news. Films like Dead Poets Society (1989), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and Good Will Hunting (1997) left a deep impact on me.
Farah Khan, filmmaker
It’s inconceivable how someone who has lit our lives with such positive roles could himself be a victim of depression. I can’t believe Patch Adams (his role in the 1998 film, Patch Adams) can die like this. His joviality and inspirational movies will always stay with us. In the last six months, with my kids who are huge fans too, I’ve watched many of his films including Jumanji (1995) and Mrs. Doubtfire, again.