Krazzy 4 kicks up a controversy

Kunal Diwan

NEW DELHI: Long abused for creating slapstick and often distasteful humour in films, the portrayal of schizophrenics in an upcoming Rakesh Roshan film “Krazzy 4” has offended the sensibilities of several afflicted families who have demanded a change of the title and suitable censorship of its contents.

Historically eyed with dread and suspicion, schizophrenia (and other mental illnesses) is one such disease that raises paradoxical impressions of violence and mirth in the minds of the general public.

According to the spokesperson of Torchbearers (an Advocacy for Disabling Brain Illness) Rukmini Pillai, maligning and stigmatising people with mental afflictions by caricaturing them in movies was highly violative of their dignity and proved a deterrent to their inclinations of seeking timely medical advice.

“The promos of ‘Krazzy 4” that is being released on April 11 tend to encourage blind beliefs in misrepresenting people with schizophrenia by creating barriers in seeking psychiatric treatment and living with dignity,” she says.

Fortifying her case with illustrations from the movie, Rukmini says branding characters as “Schizophrenic Gangadhar”, and “Krazzy 1, 2, 3 and 4” was tantamount to calling a cancer patient “canceric” or an AIDS patient an “AIDSO”.

“Calling the patients as ‘krazzy’ would only encourage blind beliefs in India where there is no public health education about disabling mental illnesses. Such branding or slotting would act as a powerful barrier to patients seeking treatment. Though early medical intervention is vital in these cases, several patients go years without seeing a doctor due to the stigma associated with the disease,” she adds.

In a country of over a billion that is grappling to come to terms with its new found status as an “emerging” global entity, it is but expected that health awareness programmes suffer from certain blind spots. One such blind spot is the realm of mental illnesses that are by and large bypassed in public awareness campaigns, often losing out to AIDS and malignancies that are generally perceived to be more physiologically traumatic. Ms. Pillai informs that there are over 65 million patients of psychiatric disorders in the country and movies such as “Krazzy 4” were lampooning and trivialising something that was a matter of grave concern for who had to live with the disease.

Diagnosed mostly in the 20-30 age bracket on the basis of behavioural symptoms, schizophrenia is characterised by an impairment of perception of reality that is manifested as auditory hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and lack of motivation. The obvious consequences are long-term unemployment, super-added substance abuse, strained personal relationships, high suicide rate and the obvious emotional, social and financial duress that the disease exacts on the entire family.

Ms. Pillai has written to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and also to the Central Board of Film Certification seeking their intervention in the matter.

“Schizophrenia may be incurable, but it is treatable. Patients and families need to be healed from the intense damage that it causes and not be burdened with more stigma as the movie is inadvertently doing,” she concludes.

According to a prominent expert in the field, the disease should be de-stigmatised by promoting partnerships among families and care-givers towards building a caring and sensitive community.

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