Suicide in Indian Films

Has anyone noticed that suicide is a very common theme in Indian cinema? Especially in the past years, there seem to be a large number of films where one or more of the characters commit suicide or attempt to. Considering the frequency in which this concept is used, I’m not sure if Indian films discourage suicide or actually encourage it.

So why do characters commit suicide in Indian films?

3 Idiots

Due to Parental Pressure or Failure in School

The first film that comes to mind in this category is 3 Idiots. In the film, a student hangs himself for not completing a project on time and one of the main characters jumps out of the window of the building due to being rusticated from school. Another film, Chal Chalein shows a middle schooler jumping off of the roof of the school because his father doesn’t allow him to choose the section he wants.

Prema Katha Chitram

For Love

In Raanjhanaa, several characters slit their wrists to either prove their love or because they couldn’t attain their love. The Telugu film Prema Katha Chitram appears to criticize youngsters’ reasons for committing suicide but the heroine ends up slitting her wrist at the end of the film because she couldn’t attain her love. In the Malayalam film Geethanjali, the actress tries to kill herself and the boy she loves because he no longer wants her.


Due to Mental Illness

In Karthik Calling Kartik, Karthik, who suffers from schizophrenia, plans to take pills and commit suicide because of depression and disappointment with his life. In 404: Error Not Found, a previous student has hanged himself due to ragging and the main actor hangs himself because of mental illness and disappointment. In the Tamil film 3, instead of seeking help for his schizophrenia, the main actor slits his throat to end his suffering and protect his wife.

Anjaana Anjaani

Due to Failure and Disappointment

Based on the real life story of Silk Smitha, the main character of The Dirty Picture commits suicide at the end of the film. The characters of Anjaana Anjaani attempt to commit suicide numerous times for various reasons. In the Bengali film Hemlock Society, the main character decides to commit suicide to “escape from pain and suffering” and goes to Hemlock Society to learn how to commit suicide properly.

I’m sure that there are many more examples I have not thought of at the moment. The messages given in these films about suicide can be argued but the reality is that several students acually committed suicide after seeing 3 Idiots. It is still not certain whether 3 Idiots played a role in their decision.

Some of these films aim to emphasize high suicide rates in India or try to show that suicide is not the solution. But does it really work? Do these films actually end up instilling suicide as an option in the minds of viewers facing the same problems in real life? What do you think?


6 thoughts on “Suicide in Indian Films

  1. A Very Interesting Topic. I agree that in Indian Films Suicide is often glorified. This is turn makes me feel that suicide is often glorified in Indian Culture itself. I am not entirely sure if this is not the case with the rest of the world.

    I am glad that a person who has watched Indian movies pretty extensively for the past 10 years has missed listing what used to be the Numero Uno reason for Suicide. Rape. I much of 80s and 90s Tamil Movies, a woman who is raped immediately dies even if not actually murdered by the Rapist himself. She just takes it upon herself to throw herself out of a cliff or something. Often the Hero whether he is the Son or Brother or Husband or whatever he is unable to stop the rape or the subsequest suicide and later avenges. This gives an impression that if you are decent enough and happen to be raped, then do the right thing and kill yourself. This casts a huge horrible shadow on real Rape Victims. Later movies changed and the woman herself started doing the avenging business. But let us not lose track of the Suicide Topic.

    The next one is Honor. Somebody accused you of theft? Kill yourself. Your Daughter eloped? You have no reason to live anymore. It is usually put down that decent and honourable people do not live with themselves after certain dishounorable things happen to them. This is jokingly mentioned in Micheal Madana Kamarajan where Urvashi remarks “I’m honourable, I won’t live after this” after a petty theft for which Kamal retorts “I’m gonna Kill anyway”

    The other thing is often Love. You love someone and are expected to marry somebody else? Better dead then let that happen to you. Phew.

    • Thank you Rahini for this different perspective. Not having seen all of the films from the 90s and only a few from the 80s, I’m not aware how suicide was treated in Indian cinema before. I’m not sure if Indian cinema is better off in this regard today however. The reasons for why characters commit suicide may have changed. I’m certainly happy that women and their honor are not the center of attention anymore. We still see it in some films like Raavan but we now also have films like Gulaab Gang and Queen where women are told that there are other options. In a country like India, where films have immense effect on how people see the world and their lives, I think that filmmakers need to be more careful when dealing with this topic.

      But you are right that suicide or even murder is glorified in our countries. Violence against women is very common in Turkey as well, just as in India. I believe some 3 women are killed in Turkey every day. All by jealous boyfriends or husbands. Men murdering their entire family is also very common here. I actually believe that suicide and murder rates are directly related to people’s socio-economic situation and how they view their future. I think that social structures form the basis of frustrations that may cause people to take it out on themselves or their loved ones. It all goes back to the same things — poverty, education, opportunities.

      The fact that a woman’s honor doesn’t lie in her body but rather mind and soul is something that our cultures still have not digested and accepted. But education and women empowerment are bound to change it eventually.

  2. And double standards are so embedded in our way of thinking. Do only women have honor? Don’t men have it too? Yet we’ll never see a film where a man will commit suicide for being raped by a woman. I’d like to see an Indian satire on this topic. It would be a great way to point out these double standards through humor.

    • There is a movie called “Tamil Padam” which literally means “Tamil Movie”. It is a satire on all the major tropes. It was mind boggling how many tropes they played around with in 2 1/2 hours time. It would be a better watch for people who have actually watched the movies that are parodied. Many 80’s and 90’s movies are played around with. But I am sure you will like it too. It would be great to know your views on that movie. 🙂

      One scene has a Female Don who is gifted a male virgin on her birthday. He is duly saved before something untoward happens. But do write a seperate post on this. That would be fascinating.

      • Thank you for the recommendation. I will surely watch it if I find a copy with eng subs which can be a challenge with Tamil films.

  3. Pingback: How Films Influence Our Notions of Death and the After-world | BollyReview

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s