Bollywood as Witness: Changing Perceptions of Mental Illness in India (1913-2010)

Mansoor Malik, Imran Trimzi, Gerard Galluci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Indian cinema, affectionately known as Bollywood, makes more movies than Hollywood and is hugely influential in shaping social attitudes in the Indian subcontinent and many other parts of the world. In order to study depiction of mental illness, we searched anthology of Indian movies from 1930s up to the present. We divided this period into four arbitrary sections based on the broader political and socio-economic climate in India. Movie plots were analyzed and information about the attitudes towards mental illness, accuracy and depiction of mental illness and the treatment methods portrayed was extracted. The key findings of the study were that attitudes towards mental illness in Indian cinema paralleled the broader political and socio-economic trends in Indian society. In the age of political idealism, mental illness was portrayed as benign and amusing. With increasing political corruption and instability, mentally ill characters were depicted as cruel, deviant and psychopathic. The portrayal of mental illness is often inaccurate and exaggerated, keeping in line with the hyperbolic nature of Indian cinema. With increasing political and economic stabilization, attitudes are changing once again. Recent movies display more sympathy and understanding towards characters with mental illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-184
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cinema
  • Culture
  • Mental illness
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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