These cases prove that the life of glitz and glamour isn’t as bright as it looks. Under tremendous pressure and scrutiny, many spirits break down and decide to put an end to their lives.
Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone, or rather Guru Dutt, was a giant in the Indian film scene in the 50s and 60s. He is generally considered one of the finest directors and actors that India has ever produced. In October 1964, Dutt was found dead in his rented apartment at Pedder Road, Mumbai. His death was the result of a mixture of alcohol and sleeping pills. Though his family kept claiming that the death was accidental, most people believed that Dutt had committed suicide. The reasons given for this were that his wife, Geeta Dutt, had distanced herself from him, he had become an alcoholic and he suffered from a sleep disorder. The reasons behind his death remain hotly debated to this day.
Jayalakshmi Reddy, who was popularly called Fatafat Jayalakshmi, was an actress who worked in Malayalam, Tamil and Telegu films. She starred in the movie ‘Aval Oru Thodar Kathai’ opposite Kamal Hassan, where she said the word ‘fatafat’ (quick) many times; it was from this dialogue that she got her nickname. She gained fame and acted with the top-billed actors of her time such as Chiranjivi, Rajini, Krishna and NTR. In 1978, Jayalakshmi was found hanging from her ceiling fan. The reason given was a failed marriage with then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran’s nephew.
In 1980, at just 17 (or 19) years of age, Shobha Mahendra was a celebrated south Indian film star who had worked in over 30 big films and had recently received the National Award for best actress for the movie ‘Pasi’. She was the wife of 45-year-old director Balu Mahendra. Her mother, Prema Menon, blamed Balu Mahendra for the suicide. After marriage, Shobha and Balu had fights over why he spent more nights at his ex-wife’s house. Further details that slipped out did not help the director’s case either – Shobha had hanged herself with a chiffon sari and someone had loosened the noose, her eyes were not swollen and the tongue had remained in her mouth. However, her death was ruled as a suicide.
Manmohan Desai was the son of film producer and owner of Paramount Studios (Filmalaya) Kikubhai Desai. His wife passed away in 1979, and in 1992 he became engaged to actress Nanda, an engagement which continued till his death in 1994. He had tasted the pinnacle of success with his movies being acclaimed hits with the Indian masses. He made masala movies and is credited with helping Amitabh Bachchan rise to fame with movies like ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’, ‘Coolie’ and ‘Mard’. Towards the end of his career though, his movies were flopping and audiences had turned away from him. Desai was also suffering from acute and chronic back pain. In March 1994, he jumped from the balcony of his flat in Girgaon.
Named Vijayalakshmi, Silk Smitha had been an orphan in Andhra Pradesh who had been adopted by a woman. At 16, the girl had moved to Madras with her adoptive mother. She entered the film world as a make-up artist and then progressed to being an extra on the sets. She later moved on to her niche – seductive and vampish roles that utilized her eyes and figure. Those who knew her, state that her adoptive mother forced Smitha to accept all sorts of roles including soft porn ones. In September 1996, Smitha was found dead in her apartment in Chennai. The suicide was blamed on her failure to become a movie producer, a disillusionment in love and prolonged depression.
Viji was popularly known as ‘Kozhi Koovuthu Viji’. She was well-known in the Tamil film industry. She had undergone a spinal cord operation at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai in 1996. Later, doctors discovered an acute infection that had been caused by this surgery, and Viji was left temporarily paralyzed. In 2000, after corrective surgery, Viji returned to films. However, in November of that year, she hanged herself from a ceiling fan. She left behind an audiotape blaming (already married) director AR Ramesh for her death. Ramesh had promised to marry Viji and then jilted her. Three days before her death, when Viji and Ramesh had crossed paths at a function, the latter had abused her. Ramesh, his wife and a friend were accused of abetting Viji’s suicide but were acquitted by the Mahila Court.
Reem Kapadia was actress Dimple Kapadia’s youngest sister. She had made an appearance in a few Hindi movies, including ‘Haveli’, where she had appeared opposite Rakesh Roshan and Marc Zuber. In 2000, Reem Kapadia apparently committed suicide by overdosing on some kind of drugs while she was staying in London. There was talk about her knowing about or being involved in the international flesh trade involving the Hindujas. Her death was apparently considered suspicious by the police but there were no further developments in the case.
Monal Dhaval was the sister of leading Tamil film actress Simran. Before becoming an actress, she had worked as a model and won some beauty contests. Her debut film, ‘Paarvai Ondre Podhume’, was released in 2001 but Monal was almost immediately more famous in the news for throwing tantrums on the sets. She then went on to make an appearance in a few more films with moderate success. On April 30, 2002, she attended the launch of her movie ‘Paiye Janmam’ (Ghost Life) and then committed suicide by hanging herself from the ceiling fan in her room. Her sister accused choreographer Prasanna Sujit of having driven Monal to suicide by breaking off his relationship with her a few days prior to her suicide.
Pratyusha had entered the film industry at the age of 17 because her father had passed away during her childhood and someone needed to support the family. The 21-year-old actress had been the star of Tamil films like ‘Snehamante Idera’ opposite Nagarjuna and ‘Kadal Pookal’. Her suicide in February 2002 was a suicide pact with her boyfriend, Siddhartha Reddy, after both their families refused to give their blessings to their marriage. In a twist of fate, while Pratyusha died, her boyfriend was taken to the hospital and survived the suicide attempt. He was then sentenced to a five-year jail term and fined Rs 6,000 for abetting Pratyusha’s suicide. There was later some talk of the suicide having been a murder by her boyfriend, but there was no substantiated evidence.
Nafisa Joseph was a popular VJ on MTV, an actress and a model. She had also won the crown of Femina Miss India Universe in 1997 and had been one of the finalists in the Miss Universe beauty pageant. In July of 2004, Joseph hanged herself with a pink dupatta from a ceiling fan in her living room in her Versova flat. She had been depressed after her fiancé Gautam Khanduja had broken off their engagement. He had told Joesph that he had been divorced for two years but he was still married to his wife. Apparently, Khanduja had blackmailed Joseph to not create any problems for him. The trial against Khanduja was stayed when he pointed out that Sameer Malhotra and Samir Soni had also broken engagements with her.
Kuljeet Randhawa had been a close friend of Nafisa Joseph, who had been her costar in the serial C.A.T.S, and had taken the VJ’s death hard. However, the actress had reportedly been doing well in February 2006. She had just finished shooting for the movie ‘By Chance’ and had a leading role in the Star One serial ‘Special Squad’. Yet she was found hanging from her ceiling fan in the living room of her posh Juhu flat by her domestic help. In her suicide note to her costar from ‘Special Squad’ Bhanu Uday, she had apologized to her parents for taking the final step and had said that she was unable to cope with life’s pressures. Friends described her as been very sensitive to criticism and highly emotional.
Kunal Singh was a Tamil film actor; the only Hindi movie he starred in was ‘Dil Hi Dil Main’, which was a remake of his Tamil film ‘Kadhalar Dhinam’. He then went on to star in a string of flops but found some success as a supporting role actor. He had moved on to production and even worked as an assistant editor. In February of 2008, he was found hanging from a ceiling fan by actress Lavina Bhatia. Kunal’s father Rajendra Singh claimed that his son was murdered and pointed to some bruising on his son’s body as proof. Bhatia was detained by the police but there was no motive established; furthermore, Singh had a black belt in karate. He had also attempted suicide several months earlier by slashing his wrists.
Viveka Babajee was born in Mauritius to a Maharashtrian mother. She won the title of Miss Mauritius World in 1993 and Miss Mauritius Universe in 1994. She then came to India in her early twenties and received attention after starring in the Kamasutra condom ads. She made appearances in music videos for Daler Mehndi and Harbhajan Mann. She then started her own event company called VIBGYOR ENT. She anchored for FTV India and made an appreance in the film ‘Yeh Kaisi Mohabbat Hai’. In June 2010, she was found hanging from her ceiling fan at her Bandra residence. The last entry in her dairy read: ‘You killed me, Gautam Vohra’. Vohra was her ex-boyfriend who had recently parted ways with her.
Ruby Singh was a small-time Bhojpuri film actress who committed suicide in her rented flat in Goregaon West in February 2012. The 25-year-old had hanged herself from the ceiling fan with a dupatta when she was alone in her rented apartment at the MMRDA Colony. She left behind a suicide note in which she stated that no one should be held responsible for her suicide. Ruby Singh, who was originally from Patna, Bihar, was found hanging by her friend who had come to meet her. The actress had been depressed for a while and had attempted suicide earlier by taking some sleeping pills. She had been found by her friend who had informed her mother. After talking to her mother, Ruby had supposedly improved.
Jiah Khan had a lucky break in the film industry when she started out acting opposite established Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan. However, her career had not picked up greatly after that. In June 2013, Khan hanged herself from a ceiling fan in her bedroom at her residence in Juhu. Her death created quite a stir in Bollywood and the entire country; noted Bollywood celebrities like Aamir Khan, Prem Chopra, Siddharth Mallya, etc. attended her funeral. A few days later, her sister found her suicide note which mentioned a recent abortion and blamed Suraj Pancholi, who had been in a live-in relationship with her, for her death.
Also known as Mona Khanna, Saiyyam Khanna was an aspiring actress who killed herself by hanging herself from her ceiling fan in September 2014. She was found by her school-going sister Riya, who was staying with Saiyyam during the summer holidays. The actress had appeared in ‘The Haunted House’ and was waiting for ‘The Last Horror’ to be released. Though she blamed no one in her suicide note, her sister insisted that her boyfriend, who was the son of a well-known actor, had pushed her to take this step by his uncaring attitude about Saiyyam, which made her slip into depression. The last phone call made from Saiyyam’s phone was to the boyfriend, but no further developments have taken place.
Telegu actor Uday Kiran hanged himself in his Hyderabad home in January 2014. He had been known as the ‘hat trick hero’ as he delivered super hit movies with his debut. However, the Telegu film industry is plagued by casteism, and there were rumors that due to his caste, Kiran was not getting the offers he should have received. Additionally, his marriage to actor and Union Minister Chiranjeevi’s daughter was called off. He had then gone on to marry his long-time friend Vishita, who discovered his body. No suicide note was found though it was claimed that the actor had been suffering from depression.
In September 2014, Archana Pandey committed suicide in her Versova flat in Mumbai. She had given up modeling and acting in south Indian films in 2009 and had been working as a financial consultant. Her death was not immediately discovered; only after neighbors were bothered by the stench coming from her flat was the police called. When the police gained entry into her house, they found Archana’s decomposing body hanging from the ceiling fan. In her suicide note she blamed her boyfriend, 26-year-old Omar Asif Pathan, for her death. She stated that he had engaged in sexual relations with her after he promised to marry her but then left her for some other woman.
In May 2015, Shikha Joshi, a small-time actress, allegedly committed suicide by slitting her throat. As Joshi lay bleeding from her wounds, her flat mate and land lady wasted precious time trying to record her dying statement instead of taking her to the hospital. By the time Joshi reached the hospital, an hour had elapsed and it was too late. In her statement Joshi blamed plastic surgeon, Dr Vijay Sharma, and other married men for her death. However, Sharma claims that after getting a successful surgery years ago, Joshi wanted Sharma to do further surgeries for free. When he refused, she sued him for molestation and her brother and she were booked for pelting his office with stones.
Popular Bengali TV actress Disha Ganguly took her own life in April 2015. The reason behind her death was apparently the struggle to maintain a normal façade for others despite being in a committed homosexual relationship. Ganguly had been living in with her female partner, who was also an actress, when her mother came down from Nairobi, forced her partner to move out and forced Disha to accept a proposal from fellow actor Vivaan Ghosh. Shortly before hanging herself, Disha transferred Rs. 50,000 to a joint account she shared with her female partner. After hearing of her death, the unnamed woman tried to throw herself in front of a train but was rescued and taken to a hospital for minor injuries.