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The Social Media Trial Of Deepika Padukone Has Begun. If It Affects Her Mental Health Again, Who Is Responsible?

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You don’t need a documentary like The Social Dilemma to tell you that one of the biggest side effects of social media are the media trials that are frequent today as drawing breath. From politicians, #MeToo accused, and celebrities to cheating husbands and gold-digger girlfriends (here’s looking at you, TikTok), nobody is spared. The biggest scandal amongst them all is the death of Sushant Singh Rajput. How the death of a Bollywood actor has morphed into a consequent web of fake news, political agenda, and salacious gossip masquerading as ‘breaking news’ and ‘exposé’ is beyond our intellect. But after starting with Kangana Ranaut’s nepotism crusade and resting for quite some time on Rhea Chakraborty, the case has finally turned into a quest to bust Bollywood’s alleged drug nexus, now apparently involving A-list names like Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor.

Meanwhile, the international news media remains flabbergasted why Indian news channels won’t talk about the rising Coronavirus infections, the Farm Bill, the tensions with China, the arrests of those who question the government, the PM Cares Fund, the disturbing lack of data on migrant and COVID doctor deaths, and well, a bunch of other things.

Also Read: MP Mahua Moitra’s Scathing Speech Questioning The PM Cares Fund Is An Eye-Opener. Indian News Anchors, Take Notes!

Ugh, who cares? Let’s go through Deepika Padukone’s WhatsApp chats from 2017 and troll her mercilessly for them. It won’t really help anyone, but let’s.

The media channel that ‘exposed’ those chats almost signed a death sentence for all basic courtesy and dignity, simply because they discovered a Bollywood actress smoked up. It didn’t matter that the use of cannabis is widespread all through India, or that its usage is an open secret in the entertainment industry, or that there are more pressing matters that need attention right now. Thanks to two news channels, the social media trial of Deepika Padukone has begun. And the first blow, as expected, has been dealt by Kangana Ranaut. She mocked Deepika’s ‘depression’, blamed it on drug use, and managed to make even this one about ‘star-kids’. Although, technically, DP isn’t one since her father was a sportsperson which makes her a Bollywood outsider, but we’ll let that slide. Because unlike news channels, we know our priorities.

Merciless and cruel are very safe words that I’d be using for the way Deepika Padukone is being attacked on social media. It’s hard to differentiate between the hate she is getting for ‘asking for maal’ (something you’re very likely to hear outside colleges, at house parties, events, your local paanwalla, your random Manali trip, or even during Holi, except, it is bhaang) and the hate she’s getting for being an Indian woman who dared to do this. Trolls have painstakingly gone as far back as Deepika Padukone’s Instagram posts from the start of the year and written obscene, hate-ridden comments on them. In some of these photos, she is posing with her father. In another, she is having some fun with husband Ranveer Singh. In another, she is merely a school kid, proudly showing off her awards.

And yet, the trolls have spewed revolting, reckless, unnecessary hate at her. And while I’d normally think ignoring online hate is always the best policy, I want you, dear reader, to see the unspeakable things we’re capable of wishing upon another human being.

 

I’m going to follow this up with a gentle reminder: Deepika Padukone battled depression once. If this incessant trolling affects her mental health again….

Irrespective of what narrative you believe, depression, mental health struggles, it’s all real. And no, do not believe anyone who says that it is caused by drug abuse. A drug like cannabis is often consumed to alleviate pain. It’s one of the reasons cannabis consumption and sale is legalised in many countries around the world for medicinal use. Therefore, to say that suffering from depression or mental health issues could drive a person towards substance abuse of not just drugs but even alcohol or nicotine, seems like a more apt chronology.

Of the few facts that have come up during the investigation into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, there a few things that remain convincing. One, that there was drug abuse. Two, he did suffer from mental health issues, and was seeing a psychotherapist too. And three, according to public opinion and of those who worked with him, SSR was disturbed by the gossip, scandals and blind items that allegedly tried to malign his reputation.

Also Read: Are We Dismissing The #MeToo Allegations Against Anurag Kashyap Too Quickly? Not Every Woman’s Experience Is The Same.

Now apply the above three facts to the case of Deepika Padukone, and you’ll realise the damage that a social media trial can do to the psyche of a person. Not just Deepika, there are other women being named here too—Sara Ali Khan, Rakul Preet Singh, Shraddha Kapoor, not to mention talent management professionals and personal managers, some of whom are also women. In fact, that’s another thing that worries me, and a lot of other skeptics, why it is only the women of Bollywood that have been targeted in this media circus since Day 1. Do the men of Bollywood not indulge? Or is it because putting up a picture of Deepika Padukone from Cocktail or other actresses in modern, revealing clothes in ‘Breaking News’ makes for a better story? Do Indians get some perverted joy when they denigrate their women?

Something similar happened with Karan Johar, Alia Bhatt, Janhvi Kapoor, Ananya Panday, Arjun Kapoor and other star-kids’ social media when Kangana Ranaut’s warfare on nepotism in Bollywood was on. The men and women commenting these horrible abuses on their posts were not bots, but real, living, breathing people. They had zero regard that when their comments would be read by the targeted celebrity, what it would do to his or her mental health is exactly what those gossip columns and blind items allegedly did to Sushant Singh Rajput’s mental health!

If, god forbid, a celebrity or star-kid thus trolled or dragged into controversies, were to be affected mentally by this, or slide into depression or, worse, take a drastic step, who would be responsible for it? What if after this, they were pronounced not guilty, and the rumours about them dismissed as fake speculation? How would we go back from all the damage that has been done?

The narrative thus spun by Indian news channels, and repeatedly loudly across social media, serves only one purpose. It eggs on trolls and abusers, and those with an utter lack of empathy to do what they do best—spread hate and degrade women. What’s more, it belittles the cause of mental health awareness, and destroys all the good that a celebrity like Deepika Padukone might have done for it. It’s shameful that we defend our male politicians and heroes for 100 wrongs as long as the’ve done one thing right or done some charity. But when it comes to our women, we trash the 100 good things that they might’ve done just so we can feel vindicated for punishing them for doing one thing wrong. For those asking, this is also why we need feminism, and why Rhea Chakraborty’s t-shirt slogan was ‘Smash The Patriarchy’.

Look here, drugs are bad. Nobody’s denying that. You should ask the state of Punjab how bad they are, but we aren’t. What is wrong with our prosecution is not that we are prosecuting, but that we are prosecuting only a select few, in the wrong manner and for the wrong reasons. You want to rehab Bollywood’s drug problem? Great, do it. But there has to be a better way to do it. What happened to covert operations? What happened to secret surgical strikes, eh? That tactic worked for us before? How about we keep it off social media, and only talk about it after we’ve nabbed the real culprits? And how about we let the law enforcement do their jobs and wait for them to pronounce someone as guilty, instead of deciding and punishing the person ourselves?

Also Read: ‘The Social Dilemma’ Shows How Social Media Nurtures And Manipulates Our Addiction. Could It Be Affecting Women More Deeply Than Men?

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