Bollywood madness and shock therapy: A qualitative and comparative analysis of depiction of electroconvulsive therapy in Indian cinema and Hollywood

Bikash Sharma, Mansoor Malik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Indian cinema, affectionately known as Bollywood, is hugely influential in shaping social attitudes in Indian subcontinent and many other parts of the world. However, the extent to which Bollywood movies have played a responsible role in reinforcing societal attitudes towards mental illness and treatment modalities such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is unknown. The objective of this study was to identify how ECT is portrayed in Bollywood movies and how these movies are perceived by the public and film critics. Also to understand socio-cultural influences on how movies are made and to find if there are cross-cultural influences of Hollywood movies on Indian movies by comparing movies that depict ECT. After identifying Bollywood and Hollywood movies with mental health themes, we qualitatively reviewed movie plots for the portrayal of ECT. Main outcome measures identified were: type of attitude towards the ECT (sympathetic, comical, hostile, condescending etc.), accuracy of the portrayal of ECT and attribution of justification of ECT (e.g. punishment, social control, beneficial medical). The key findings of the study were that attitudes towards mental illness and ECT in Indian cinema paralleled broader political and socio-economic trends in Indian society. Like Hollywood, portrayal of ECT in Indian movies is often fictional, exaggerated and scientifically inaccurate. We conclude that outdated and inaccurate depictions of ECT in movies are still a source of misinformation about ECT for the general public as well as among medical professionals. Therefore, collaboration between mental health sector, film and television industries and film censorship boards is essential in exploring the potential for educating and informing clinical realities about mental illnesses and ECT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-140
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Culture and Mental Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • ECT
  • bollywood
  • depections
  • hollywood
  • mental illness
  • movies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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