Kolkata: On 29 May, 18-year-old aspiring model Saraswati Das was found hanging from a ceiling fan at her maternal uncle’s home in Kolkata’s Kasba locality. This was the fourth such death within a span of 15 days involving women associated with the Bengali entertainment industry.
The series of deaths has led to a conversation around the mental health of those working in the film and entertainment industry, a debate that had also raged for months after the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput in June 2020.
The first of these four deaths was reported on 15 May, when television actor Pallavi Dey, 25, was found hanging in her Kolkata apartment. On 25 May, 21-year-old model Bidisha De Majumdar was found hanging from a ceiling fan at her house in Nagerbazar. Two days later, the body of her close friend and make-up artist Manjusha Neogi was recovered from her home in Patuli.
While the cases remain under investigation, Trinamool Congress MP and actor Nusrat Jahan has expressed concern over the alleged suicides and raised the issue of mental health problems among those in the entertainment industry.
“I hope no one takes such drastic steps. These are painful incidents. Young artistes have high ambition, but if they are not able to reach the top, it causes them mental agony. Sometimes they take such drastic steps to avoid that pain,” she said, speaking to the media on 28 May during a visit to Basirhat, her constituency.
Another actor from the Bengali film industry ruled out “foul play” on the part of industry insiders as a factor in the deaths. Speaking to ThePrint on condition of anonymity, the actor said, “Ours is a very small industry. Everyone knows everyone here. One make-up artist manages around five to six celebrities. If there was foul play, everyone would have known, or at least come out and spoken about it.”
While Pallavi Dey’s death remains under investigation, based on an official complaint made by her family, the Kolkata Police detained the actor’s live-in partner Sagnik Chakraborty on 17 May and later arrested him. Dey’s family claims that Chakraborty had borrowed money from the actor to buy a house in the city.
In the case of Majumdar, police have seized her mobile phone and are waiting for the forensic report of the handwritten suicide note recovered from the scene. A case of unnatural death has been registered.
Neogi, found dead six months after marriage, lived with her husband and mother-in-law. Speaking to the media, her mother Basanti said the 26-year-old had been very upset over the news of Majumdar’s death. Neogi was at her parents’ home the night she was found dead. The police have filed a case of unnatural death.
A similar case has been filed as police investigate the death of Saraswati Das, Kasba Police Station Sub-Inspector S.K. Murmu said, adding that her family hasn’t filed a complaint so far.
“No foul play was suspected during the inquiry,” said the police in a statement to the media. According to the family, Das used to teach tuition classes and had done a few modelling assignments after clearing her Class 10 exams.
“She was in a relationship and due to some strain there she had been in depression,” the statement added. The police are now waiting for the autopsy report to take the investigation further.
Government of India’s mental health initiative KIRAN’s 24/7 toll free helpline can be reached at 1800-599-0019. Anjali, a mental health rights organisation based out of Kolkata, can be contacted on (033) 4001 3385.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)
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