Yesterday, I went to watch the Nepali movie ‘Parva’ starred by Namrata Shrestha and Koshish Chhetri. Initially I thought it was a horror movie and anticipated to have some goose bumps and heartbeats racing over the scenes. And frankly there were some episodes of that anticipation of the horror but my expectation of it being a horror movie completely took a downturn. The movie touched my mind not because it has excellent storyline or because of the acting of the actors. It touched my mind because the issue it happened to showcase is the matter that is close to my heart or that I am more familiar with. I am not here to review the movie. I am writing this piece because I am troubled thinking the message that audience might be getting after watching the movie.
For those who haven’t watched the movie, it might be a spoiler alert. But I have to write this in the context of the movie and the roles of the actors to make my point. So if you are planning to watch the movie, you might want to read this after watching the movie.
So coming back to the movie, the movie has circled around the issue of parent child relationship and its causal relationship to the mental health of a child. Up to this point I have not much to say about. But after this, the movie progresses into the sensational case building up. And this is where I have my serious concerns raised.
Without adding much suspense to the so called suspense thriller story, the movie revolves around the character of a severe depressive patient with psychopathic traits. In a nutshell the character likes to lure the girls who remind him of his mother and hacks them to death. The psychiatrist in the movie diagnoses the character to be suffering from childhood depression that progresses into full blown severe depression but is allusive of the diagnosis of psychopathy ( he gives the hint that the character might develop antisocial traits).
The movie orients the audience about depression and the importance of parent child relationship in achieving mental wellbeing of children. But the tendency of the movie to associate depression with violence is the issue that I would like to object. I don’t know how much of study has been done to include such sensitive issue in the movie but from my movie experience ‘depression’ is sensationalised for pure entertainment gain in the movie.
Mental health issue itself is hugely stigmatized topic in Nepal. And people have this myth that people with mental illness are potentially violent and aggressive. And this movie has gone beyond to depict the gory violence of a ‘severe depressive patient’ which has reinforced the aforementioned myth about people with mental illness. The question here is what picture will the innocent audience will have of depressive patient after watching the movie?
It is already established fact that mental illness is neither a necessary cause nor a sufficient cause for violence. In Nepal we do not have official data to ascertain the exact percentage of people with mental illness involving in criminal activities. The comprehensive study done in the USA which was published in 1998 and famously known as MacArthur Community Violence Risk Study is a landmark study which studied the prevalence of violence among the discharged mental health patients from the hospitals. The study found that mentally ill people in general are no more violent than the normal population. And the subsequent studies have also supported this claim. There is a certain subcases in psychopathologies like substance abuse, antisocial personality disorder and in some cases of psychoses like in schizophrenia where violence can be observed in behaviours of the people. But in such cases also, the instances are very rare to establish violence as the effects of such conditions. It is exceptions rather than rule. In fact there is a compelling evidence that most people suffering from mental illnesses are themselves the victim of violence. And tragically many people deprived of adequate treatment and support end of committing suicides, a self perpetuated violence.
Parva has insensitively made ‘mental health’ as bait to violence to make the movie a thriller genre. The takeaway from the movie is damaging to the psyche of audience who might correlate mental health problems with violence. The movie has only served to make the issue of mental health more stigmatized in the perception of the educated mass as this movie has been intended for the urban movie goers. This movie has done great injustice to the throngs of people who are suffering from mental health problems such as depression. It has needlessly and callously glamorised the ‘depression’ in such a way that there is a danger that people might tread the condition with caution and repulsion than empathy and emotional support which they actually need.