The suicide of Bengali television actress Disha Ganguly, 23, in April 2015 had caught many by surprise, including her fiancé, Vivaan Ghosh, and family and friends. Ghosh and Ganguly had been friends for nearly five years and had co-acted in several soaps including Bou Katha Kao, Adwitiya and Mouchak but Ghosh could never realise how she was being torn apart by her dilemma of choosing between Ghosh’s proposal for marriage – which also got her family’s support – and allegedly the same-sex relationship she entered a few months back. Following the news of her death, her same-sex lover, also an actor, made unsuccessful attempts at killing self.
Next year, Puja Aich, 32, another aspiring television actor, set herself on fire and died of the burn injuries, allegedly after failing to cope with pressure from her in-laws.
Soon, popular hairdresser Dipa Mallick, 32, who was single and reportedly suffering from depression, killed herself.
Earlier this month, Bitasta Saha, 28, another budding television actor, killed herself in the middle of a relationship with a married man. Her recent posts on the social media indicates she was suffering from depression, police said.
The increasing trend of suicides among Bengali film and television actors, mostly the aspiring ones, has left the industry worried and wondering whether a myriad range of issues contributing to increasing level of stress are forcing them in taking the harshest decision.
“Several issues keep people in the industry under stress, especially the aspiring ones. There is no stability in income and there are expenses for maintaining the public image. Many find it difficult to cope with their ambitions, while battling tough competition, and also do not get people around to share their feelings,” said veteran actress Locket Chatterjee.
According to actor-turned-Lok Sabha MP Shatabdi Roy, who has acted in a few hundred films, the difficulties in maintaining quickly-achieved stardom is a major reason for growing stress and frustration, while loneliness is a major factor that leads aspiring actors deeper into crisis.
“Thanks to television, many newcomers are becoming celebrities overnight but many of them are forgotten barely in a year. The difficulties in staying relevant in the glamour world often increase stress and leads to depression. The struggle with the inner self is intense in this industry,” Roy said.
She added that a large number of aspiring actors live alone and lack the support from parents, while true friends in real life are not too many.
Senior psychiatrist Dr. Rima Mukherjee added that the celebrity status itself prevents many from taking medical help when depression sets in.
“Budding and aspiring actors suffer from relatively more stress in people in many other profession due to lack of income celebrity and high expenses in maintaining lifestyle. What makes them more vulnerable in taking rash decisions is that most of them avoid taking help from psychologists or psychiatrists, as they fear the news will get public and tarnish their public image,” Mukherjee said.
“Deepika Padukone is a rare example of a celebrity to make public her struggle with depression. But most of the people in the industry avoid making their illness public. Those who approach for counseling mostly discontinue with the treatment,” she added.
Actor Kaushik Chakraborty, who is presently cutting down on small screen offers to focus on the big screen projects, feels that the inability to balance between the stress of professional life and personal life plays a key role behind such measures.
“We work under demanding situations but most of us also love the work. It is very important to maintain a balance between professional and personal lives. However, it becomes difficult when stress arising from complexities in personal relations add to work-related stress,” Chakraborty added.
Depression among actors is not uncommon, but what is clearly a matter of concern is the rush to end ones own life when things go out of control.
In end May 2014, the city was shocked to learn that actor Swastika Mukherjee attempted suicide. She was admitted to a hospital with wrist injury, but fortunately, she survived.
There are a few individuals like actor Aruna Ghosh who suffered major depression after a relationship failure but managed to emerge out of it. However, her grit now seems to be an exception.