A model's death
Is a model’s suicide any different from other suicides? Until Page 3 became a standard feature, one recognised models only by their faces and bodies; many remained fairly unknown unless they were interviewed in women’s magazines.
There is a romanticisation of the stress levels. Today’s papers reported the suicide of model Viveka Babajee. She hanged herself from a ceiling fan; the reason was depression, partly due to a failed relationship. She came to India from Mauritius and was immediately engulfed in the world of glamour. Together with her professional skills, she, like several others, became an asset at society parties.
The film Fashion, despite its stereotypes, has depicted the life of the industry rather well. The clamour to be a part of it is huge. There was the case of Gitanjali who was found in the streets of Delhi, drugged, disheveled and in urgent need of medical and mental care. The media took to her – it was a great story. Madhur Bhandarkar used bits of her life in the film, but what is most striking is the hierarchy. It exists in every profession, but especially in one where vanity is the selling point.
They all seem to have an ‘attitude’. Attitude is arrogance teamed with a readiness to do anything. It is a generalisation, but happens to be the unfortunate truth. The stepping stones are designers, photographers, agents and business houses. The latter stay behind the scenes but are probably the most exploitative.
There is the sequence in the movie where some new girls are asked to attend a party because it helps grab eyeballs. This is what we see on Page 3, where unknown faces become names. It isn’t that they lack merit in their field. Someone has to model those products. They get instant fame and very few fall apart. Doing drugs is not considered a major problem.
Viveka was smart enough to realise she could not model forever, so she became an event manager and in fact had returned to Mauritius. Why did she come back to Mumbai? Because, in all likelihood, the country where she was from has no such culture of celebrity. It does not splash pictures only because you are dressed in certain clothes or you are invited to a party. The real high is fame on a pair of legs.
I found it curious that someone she met a week ago said she looked composed and not depressed. That is what they are paid for. Viveka must have had other problems and probably hid them from the world because the same celebrity that brings you in the forefront for baring forces you to not expose yourself.
She chose to die.