Why does someone choose a particular profession? Is it because they have the aptitude and passion for it or do they just want to make a living? The answer is probably a combination of both, with one of the reasons being more dominant. Once the profession is decided, one pursues it. Again, does every one have a goal in mind? And if they do, is that goal common to all? When someone decides to become a doctor, is the goal to be a Naresh Trehan or a Christian Bernard? But just because she or he doesn’t garner the eminence of stalwarts, does it mean the latter is not successful?
The death — possibly suicide — of young actor Jiah Khan should make us revisit the notion of success, especially in our filmdom. Suppose the police are right and Jiah was indeed depressed about her career, her death then seems symptomatic of how youngsters view success. How do we, as a society, define success? Is earning a living success enough? Or does that only arrive when you have risen to the top of your field? If it’s the latter, then there are a lot of failures around.
Success at best is relative. A doctor or lawyer with a small practice is not less successful than the country’s top heart surgeon or lawyer. Or is she? Societal understanding of success today is harsh and is often in conflict with the individual understanding of success. Luck, circumstances and hard work play a very important role in any profession, more so in show business. It is a difficult profession to say the least. The rate of success, sustaining that success and the perception of your success all play havoc even with the most balanced of minds.
Everyone comes to Mumbai to become a Shah Rukh Khan or a Katrina Kaif. There’s nothing wrong with it. One should of course aspire to reach the top. All aspirants want to ‘make it’. But what exactly constitutes ‘making it’? Earning an honest living or becoming a superstar? In a film there are many actors besides the lead pair without whom the film can’t be made. So does that make everyone who is not a lead unsuccessful? If one goes by media portrayals, by the way the individual is forced to see herself, or by the way members of the industry perceive each other, the answer, sadly, is yes.
This idea of success that is thrust upon the worlds of film and television is a bit strange. Just surviving in Mumbai as an outsider ought to be considered success enough. Sadly, that’s not how friends, family, peers and the media view success. One is constantly reminded of not having ‘realised one’s potential ‘. The question that one needs to ask is that is this at all fair?
One lives in an environment one can’t control. When aspirations clash, stress mounts and adds to self-induced pressure. The environment is largely dictated by societal trends and in an increasingly materialistic society the ideas of success get warped. The film industry is all consuming. Once sucked into the whirlpool, it leaves little bandwidth for anything else and leads to not having interests outside the industry. This proves disastrous if one has too much time at hand. Having a support system is important in this roller-coaster journey, but because of the mind’s natural fragility, one easily latches on to anchors.
The impact of a relationship going sour in a low phase of one’s life is far greater here than it would be for an individual in another profession. It can often lead one to her breaking point. In the end, it all perhaps boils down to your sense of self-worth. It’s important to spot the signs of mental wear and tear, self-induced or otherwise, and seek help. We often shy from discussing our deepest fears with friends and family and the stigma of seeking professional help prevents counseling. No one should be allowed to deny themselves help and support. Lastly, as peers, friends, and family, we must take a step forward and help.
Gul Panag is an actor, activist and avid microblogger The views expressed by the author are personal