Exploring the ‘Queerness’ of mental health through cinema

‘Mind Mera Mind’, a short film, addresses mental health issues that queer people tend to face. The film will be accompanied by a curated list of friendly counsellors, in case people need to reach out

Exploring the ‘Queerness’ of mental health through cinema

Garima Sadhwani

From his personal experience, writer-director Harsh Agarwal knew that there wasn’t enough representation of the mental health of the queer community, offline or on the internet. Through his latest short film, Mind Mera Mind, Agarwal has taken a step towards changing that.

The short film, through caricatures of mental health issues (inspired by All India Bakchod), addresses the struggles that people might go through, most of the times, silently. Agarwal says that he just wanted to bring mental health conversations to the forefront, because he recognises how little awareness there is, surrounding the issue. “This needed to be talked about and people needed to be told that there is a way out, and you can get treated and get better, you can see a therapist, and take time apart for yourself,” says he.

“I identify as a gay man, and having gone through my own journey, a lot of the dialogues about anxiety in the film come from my own experience with it. I wanted to let people know that when you’re struggling with coming out, accepting yourself, body image issues and the fear of rejection, you’re not alone. I hope young people watch this and realise that this happens to all of us, and we make it through,” says Agarwal.

Agarwal wanted to take cinematic liberty and “portray people carrying the cages of anxiety and self-doubt”. But since mental health happens to be a sensitive multi-layered topic, Agarwal knew he had to traverse it carefully. So, he got a mental health professional on board, who made some technical changes in the script, bringing it closer to life.

“She told us how anxiety manifests itself, or how it occurs, which was helpful since we were personifying these issues,” says Agarwal.

Agarwal goes on to add that the personification of these issues is also different for different characters in the film. “For the lead character, anxiety was a mohalle ki aunty, but for his friend, she was someone else,” explains Agarwal. He says that he just wanted to show that when people imagine their issues, the image that comes to mind is often the source of that issue.

When the film was all set and done, Agarwal realised that the first edit looked very serious. And while he wanted to make an advocacy film, he knew a dull film wasn’t the same thing. So, he says, music came to his rescue, elevating those serious moments and making them fun in little subtle ways.

Throughout the film, the director tries to equate the importance of mental health to that of physical health. And just like you go to a doctor when you’re sick, therapy is the answer here.

Although, Agarwal clarifies, “The film does show therapy as what makes Prateek [the main character] better, but it’s just a representational method. That’s why we added a disclaimer that this may or may not work for everyone. For some, maybe peer support is the answer. The only thing we’re trying to say is that you need to take a step and seek help.”

Agarwal’s target audience for the film is the younger generation, people between the ages of 15-35. And he says he hadn’t thought about how the older generation might react to it, but now he’s curious to know.

He says that the film will be accompanied by a curated list of friendly counsellors, just in case people need to reach out or seek help from someone.

For casting too, Agarwal chose young actors. The main character Prateek is played by social media influencer and content creator, Raghav Sharma. When asked about his thought process during casting, Agarwal hesitates, clears his throat, and says, “Casting is a controversial topic for me. In my previous film too, I was questioned as to why I didn’t cast a queer actor to play a queer character. In Mind Mera Mind too, the main character is queer but the actor playing him is not. I think actors need to be just actors, whoever does a good job, gets the role.”

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