The news of TV serial actor Sai Prashanth’s sudden suicide has shocked the entire Tamil TV industry. His last shoot, for Radaan’s Thamarai, was on March 10. On the sets, he was the jovial, fun-loving person he always was. He spoke to his close friends about problems he was facing in his life, but it was just like any other day.
Just three days later, on Sunday, he reportedly mixed poison in his drink and consumed it, and died shortly. The police are investigating his death, but his friends, family and colleagues are distraught, unable to react to his sudden demise. Those who know him say that he was depressed and under pressure due to family and financial problems. But industry insiders also point out as to how chronic depression is plaguing the entire TV serial industry and young people are dying with no one to help.
The suicide note
In a purported letter to his wife Sujitha which he reportedly wrote before he died, he says that she is not to blame for his decision. He tells her that his death will not create any problem for her, and that all her jewellery will be returned to her along with Rs. 5 lakhs.
He tells her to “leave her anger” at least after his death and that he was a good father to his daughter Rakshitha.
He also writes that no one should fight over his death and that only he was a problem.He also mentions Radikaa Sarathkumar as his “mother”, and thanks her and her company Radaan for their support.
Sai Prashant: Fun outside, depressed within
Sai Prashant was a talented actor and mimic popular among Tamil TV audiences. He was known for his role in the popular TV serial Thamarai. He was divorced from his first wife and married Sujitha recently after falling in love with her. He had one daughter, Rakshita.
“He was talented and full of life. He was such a fun person, and a great mimic. He was a very good artiste. He has drawn a very good picture of Sarathkumar and gifted it to us. I just saw him last week, I cannot believe this has happened,” says Radikaa Sarathkumar, “I am very upset at the whole thing.”
Radikaa remembers how much fun he was, the last time they met. “He was saying I want to do this, and I want to do that. I encouraged him. But I told him to lose weight or it was going to get difficult for him, and he said he will try,” says Radikaa.
“I shot scenes with him on March 10, and I was to shoot with him now. I am so upset,” says Neelima, a TV serial actress he was working with, on Thamarai. “I knew he had problems and I was asking him to get out of this phase. But this is a shock,” she says.
Sai Prashant is believed to have been severely depressed.
“I don’t understand how depression can lead people to take such a step,” says Radikaa, in a dejected tone, failing to find words to express her feelings, “I can’t understand what drove him to this.”
“It must have been an instant decision,” says Neelima, who worked closely with him, “and there was nobody with him, so he died. He was lonely.”
“I told him to get out of his depression, I encouraged him. But he did nothing about it. Perhaps medication or counselling would have helped him. But he didn’t take any help,” says Neelima.
His friends say that he was under pressure from family over personal issues and was dealing with financial pressure too. He is believed to have had suicidal tendencies and even slit his hand a few days ago, according to a person close to him.
“At one point, I think we just stopped listening to him,” says Neelima, “We should have been there for him.”
Depression plagues TV industry
“Depression can be so deceiving,” says Radikaa, adding that that this is becoming an industry wide problem.
The Nadigar Sangam has announced that they will set up a counselling centre to help actors with mental illnesses.
Syamantha Kiran, a TV serial actress, says that Sai Prashanth was not alone, there are many who are facing such problems.
“It is not a steady career, there are lot of fluctuations. People start comparing themselves with others. Obviously not everyone can do well - some do now, some do later, some never do well. So this gets to a lot of artises and they cannot handle it,” says Syamantha.
“I don’t want to talk too much about his death, he is gone. But there are so many others," says Neelima, “We are all under a lot of pressure as artists, personal and financial.”
Neelima says that several other TV artistes – like Charukesh, Vaishnavi and Shraddha – have succumbed to the pressure and taken to suicide.
“Why can’t youngsters in this generation take ‘no’ for an answer? I say this everywhere I go, that it’s ok, they should just move on. The disappointment gets to them so badly, it’s scary,” says Radikaa.
Syamantha adds that family support is very important for artistes to stay sane and happy, “As it is there is so much stigma attached to media. If you are not performing well, then your family is always mocking you or discouraging you. That must stop, most people have no idea how difficult it is for us.”
The suicide notes earlier posted have been removed.