What can industry learn from Kushal Punjabi's suicide?

MUMBAI: When Yama comes knocking, no one can hold back his embrace. But most of us hope that it is not our door he is choosing to knock.

Actor Kushal Punjabi’s decision to open his door and rush into Yama’s arms came as a shocker to many.  Including us. A relatively senior actor at 42, Kushal chose to hang himself in his Bandra west, alone, close to midnight, just a day after Christmas.

He had been a part of many of our functions, including’s The Indian Telly Awards and we had spoken and written about him on numerous occasions on Kushal was normally reticent, reserved, shy to an extent in public places, but he opened up amongst friends. And more so when he came on stage to dance, he set the stage alive with his sharp moves.

Kushal’s physical fitness was above par.  A sports fanatic, he played football, took part in athletics and swimming in school and college and even after that when he evolved into a fine, sensitive actor who did both films and TV.  His muscular, toned and sinewy physique clearly marked him out from amongst many of his peers.

A flat close to the posh Pali Hill Area in Bandra. A foreign wife and a kid all of three years, who he doted upon.  It looked like he had everything going for him?

Then what triggered him to take the step of ending his life? Co-actor Chetan Hansraj says he was low a few days before his death, as his wife and he were separated and he was not keeping well.  And he never imagined that he would take the extreme step. A suicide note clearly blamed no one.

But his is not the first case of actors who cut short their life on earth. Pratyusha Banerjee is the most famous case. Nafisa Joseph,  Viveka Babajee, Kuljeet Randhwa are some of the more famous ones who committed suicide while being a part of the Indian TV world. There are others too who went the same way: Bengali TV actor Disha Ganguly, Payel Chakraborty, Moumita Saha, and Telugu TV anchor  Nirosha are some of the names who come to mind.

Most of them were young like Punjabi, some even younger. It clearly points to the malaise in the TV and celebrity industry – that it is a lonely journey most make. Today, you are wanted, tomorrow you are not. And the pressure to perform is intense, so intense – that only the tough can see it through.

For the small towners, the glamour, the fame is exciting and hence they plunge deep into tinsel town. Getting the big break is excruciating requiring numerous visits to productions houses for auditions, and casting directors. Some audition rejections are heart wrenching. However, once they are past that and they get known, the roles trickle in for some, for others, they come in a smooth flow. For a relative few, it is stardom, beyond or  just like they imagined. But once they get known, keeping up with their peers in lifestyle, in terms of performance, brings with it added pressure. Then come the friendships, relationships and the inability to cope with their demands because of the filming schedules. This puts further pressure. Some cope; some don’t and drop out. Others stick on and suffer the highs and the lows. And a select few go the way of ending their lifes when they can’t cope.

Industry needs to understand this. Broadcasters, producers and the actor associations. The Cine & TV Artistes Association does have resources in house to help members cope with their psychological needs. But is it enough? What more can be done? Can regular workshops to help actors address their emotional traumas be organised? And these workshops should be in good venues so that even the better off actors can attend and take part in them.

Can the financial corpus they have to assist actors  in dire need be enlarged? Can donations be attracted to from production houses and the broadcasters and from corporate India?   Can peer groups addressed periodically by psychologists be set up within each TV show set to understand each actor’s pressures and help them address these?

The warning bells are ringing. Too many in TV industry have died young. Will we wait for more?

Latest Reads
News channels celebrate Independence Day with special shows

NEW DELHI: The country is marking its 74th Independence Day today and though the overall celebrations are a bit different this year because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, television news channels are trying to make sure the fervour and festivities remain intact with special programming line up...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
TV channels line up special shows for Independence Day

MUMBAI: The country is gearing up to celebrate India’s 74 Independence Day. The patriotic fervor is in the air. However this year's Independence Day, which is traditionally marked with a lot of pomp and gaiety, will be subdued and restricted due to the circumstances created by the Covid2019...

Television TV Channels GECs
Sun TV operating margin up despite revenue and bottom-line fall in Covid2019 quarter

BENGALURU: Kalanathi Maran’s regional telecaster and FM radio broadcaster Sun Tv Network (Sun TV) reported 44.3 percent y-o-y decrease in consolidated operating revenue for the quarter ended 30 June 2020 (Q1 2021, period or quarter under review) as compared to the corresponding quarter of the...

Television TV Channels Regional
MCAI gifts a new rendition of Vande Matram on Independence Day

MUMBAI: On the occasion of the 74th Independence Day, The Music Composers Association of India (MCAI) will be gifting the nation a new rendition of the eternal Indian national song Vande Mataram, which was composed by Bankim Chandra. What makes the new composition unique and different is that it...

Television TV Channels Music and Youth
BARC week 31: Gujarati market witnesses new entrant Sandesh News

NEW DELHI: In week 31 of BARC India ratings, Sandesh News replaced Colors Gujarati in the Gujarati market and Shemaroo Marathibana replaced Fakt Marathi in the Marathi market. Tamil market saw a downfall in viewership with Sun TV leading the charts with 1009795 as compared to 1035819 impressions in...

Television TV Channels Viewership
FanCode to exclusively live stream Hero Caribbean Premier League

MUMBAI:  FanCode a multi-sport aggregator platform by Dream Sports, has partnered with Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL T20) to exclusively live stream all the cricket matches from the T20 tournament starting 18 August. FanCode will provide a comprehensive digital experience to Hero CPL fans...

Television TV Channels Sports
ZEE Biskope salutes the spirit of the Indian Army through its I-Day bouquet

History has witnessed the great and gallant contributions of the Bhojpuri region since India’s freedom struggle. Bihar & Jharkhand take pride serving in the army, the police or IAS. Their undying passion in contributing to the society & the nation is admirable. It’s the valor of these...

Television TV Channels GECs
"Most private broadcasters don't give credit to live DD feed": Prasar Bharati’s Shashi Shekhar Vempati

Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati is a little miffed with private broadcasters. The reason? While 200 TV channels carried Doordarshan’s live coverage of main events, most private channels didn’t give credit.

Television TV Channels Terrestrial
Discovery channel India celebrates 25 years

MUMBAI: On 15 August 2020, Discovery channel will commemorate its 25th anniversary in India by hosting celebrations on-air, online, and in the heart of communities around the country. To mark the milestone, Discovery has launched a new campaign #KeepExploring with noted actor Rahul Bose doing the...

Television TV Channels Specialised and Niche

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required