Pratyusha worked in an which is always looking for the next tragedy queen and her tryst with matrimony

Pratyusha Banerjee death and the Great Television Tamasha
Voices Wednesday, April 06, 2016 - 19:38

By Saraswati Datar

The irony is hard to miss. Pratyusha Banerjee tasted fame at a very young age, playing the impossibly strong and brave Anandi, topping the charts of the most ideal bahu of them all. A child bride who gathered the nation’s sympathy, Pratyusha played Anandi post the generation leap. It took a little while for the audiences to warm up to her after Avika Gor’s delightful portrayal of the character as child. However, the tide turned when her ‘husband’ left her for another woman. Banerjee brought great maturity and depth to Anandi’s grief, portraying her shocked silences and gut wrenching pain with equal sincerity. In the show Anandi gave life a second chance, marrying again and finding love and happiness.

Sadly, real life is no soap opera, and sometimes a troubled heart or a fractured mind is too hard to live with. It’s sad that Pratyusha, who, as Anandi, maintained her dignity and only grew stronger through her grief, didn’t have the same fate in real life. While one cannot judge the dead and shouldn’t, what has been even more shocking than her untimely demise is the mileage her supposed friends are getting out of it.

What is it about suicides that drives our media into a frenzy? Why do television channels start a contest of intrusive and obnoxious reports that ask profound questions like kya hain Sindoor ka sach? (What is the truth about the sindoor?)  or run an elongated segment called, Sindoor, suspense and suicide… What is this even supposed to mean? The news anchors seem to derive pleasure from how salacious their version of the story is, or from how many angles they managed to capture the footage of her body being taken for cremation.  

There is nothing like a death to bring celebrities together. They each arrive, hair and nails in place, each with their own chant of how he or she is the one who knew the dead person the best. Movie stars wear white couture and attend prayer meeting at five star hotels over Evian. TV stars team up with Hindi news channels, organizing press conferences and sharing the sounds of a heartbroken mother wailing.  

A fashion designer described the dress she was supposed to wear at her wedding that he/she had designed. What a convenient time to market yourself and your profession that no one really cares about otherwise.

While Vikas Gupta and Kamya Punjabi seem to be leading the quest for justice currently, it’s sickening to see the repulsive Dolly Bindra making statements to the press saying things like, “she looks like she is asleep… there is taaza sindoor on her forehead” Really Dolly, does it have a sell-by date on it too?  This wonderful woman also recorded images of the young girl’s dead body in the hospital and ‘accidentally’ shared an audio recording of Pratyusha’s mother crying. She addresses the press, unable to conceal the glee on her face, feeling relevant for the first time since she screamed her way into being noticed during big Boss.

Rakhi Sawant, who should really start taking a fee for appearing where she is not required, couldn’t help dressing for a death: She came complete with a shiny t shirt, and a woolen cap to beat the freezing cold in Mumbai. Really Ms. Sawant, appearing at the funeral of a woman you barely know to speak to the press? A new definition of pathetic needs to be created to address people like you, and the starlet who conveniently passed out while the news cameras were rolling.

Pratyusha Banerjee’s death has shown us that when airtime is income and eyeballs, anything can become entertainment, even the suicide of a 24-year-old.

Not surprisingly Pratyusha’s boyfriend has been booked for abetting her suicide and painted the villain of the piece by her friends who want to stand by their dead ‘friend’. Its ironical how none of these people were able to show this kind of support or interest in Pratyusha’s life when she was alive. If these characters had rallied around her the way they are gathering at press conferences and prayer meetings, perhaps the girl would have had the strength to live and fight her battles. It’s something that they should think about, when they get a break from handling all the attention they are getting from her death.

If only Pratyusha knew she was so loved, or that so many people were so interested in her well-being and happiness. In an industry that puts you on a pedestal while your show does well, and then shoves you off to make space for the next tragedy queen and her tryst with matrimony, Pratyusha had probably seen more highs and lows then most adults do in a life time.

Television celebrities by choice of profession, can be part of the most over written/badly written and blatantly false stories. It’s not surprising then to see a fresh set of theories of what must have ‘really’ happened being churned out everyday. Like the sad heroine of our soaps, they perhaps believe that ‘justice’ will be done at the end.

Sadly, or perhaps not so sadly, life is not a soap opera. Sometimes there is no convoluted tall tale explanation that needs to be stretched meaninglessly over a year.

There are no answers, no black and white responses to who or what drove a woman to give up on the hope of life being any better. Sometimes the story can be just summed up in a tragic sentence: Troubled television actress killed herself over disappointments in her personal and professional life.

Rest in peace Ms. Banerjee, you were too young to go.

(Saraswati Datar studied film making and worked as a scriptwriter and producer on television shows in India. She currently freelances as a writer and enjoys  talking about television, cinema, parenting, and gender.)

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