Kartik Shetty: Actors face a lot of instability; some don't get paid. It's a do or die situation
Writer-director Kartik Shetty's first movie deals with an actor whose grandest performance will be his suicide
It was student Arjun Bhardwaj's suicide from a suite at Taj Lands End in 2017, captured on Facebook Live, that first made Kartik Shetty ponder over depression. After Bhardwaj hit national headlines, a friend's sister committed suicide, and Shetty was revisited by thoughts of giving up. "In the entertainment industry, self doubt is a problem. You constantly question yourself. You ask yourself if you are talented, if you are doing the right thing," says Shetty, who worked as part of the creative marketing team at AltBalaji.
Shetty's first film, called Debut, is the story of a wannabe actor who contemplates suicide, and decides to film it as his last letter to the world.
Shetty, a Borivli boy, has been a movie buff since childhood. He remembers watching Anil Kapoor-starrer Mr India on VCR and the film becoming the defining moments of his life. His parents were bankers, so making them understand his love for cinema was hard. "But they wanted me to do what I loved," says Shetty, 32. After working on the creative side for production houses, he says he didn't feel the need to attend film school, because he learnt everything he needed on field.
His writing dreams came to fruition when after the suicide, his friend told him: "What if she had just told me that she was depressed? Maybe I would have been able to help her."
Debut is the story of Amitaj Sharma, played by Reyansh Sharma, who decides that he will get his friend, a wannabe director to film him jumping off a building. "Like Arjun, he went live on Facebook before he jumped off a building, much like Bharadwaj who had gone live before he jumped from the window of a suite of the Bandra five-star." The film, available for viewing on YouTube, hopes to start a discussion on an emotion several grapple with, but few wish to discuss. "Even if we are connected through social media, we are so alone. A huge star like Deepika Padukone has spoken about depression. Actors face a lot of instability—some don't get paid. It's a do or die situation, even though it may not seem so to an outsider. What they need to know is that suicide is not an option. And we all need to look around us, be kinder to people, and make our loved ones know that we are there for them."
Shetty is encouraged by the response, glad that the audience "gets" what he was trying to say. Ask him as an industry insider if things seem to be changing, and he seems hopeful of the future, despite the entertainment industry suffereing a severe blow due to the pandemic. "Five years ago, people went and sat at coffee shops and attended random parties since they thought that it would get them roles. Some even succumbed to the casting couch. Now, thanks to the OTT platforms and social media, there is so much more to work to do and opportunities available. Now, it's no longer a pipe dream. It's possible."
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