‘Mind Mera Mind’ is a short film directed by Harsh Agrawal that externalises the mental health problems that Prateek (Raghav Sharma), a queer man in his twenties, faces. The film was released on YouTube on World Mental Health Day this year, aiming to raise awareness about mental health issues. Agrawal wanted the message to reach as many people as possible, so YouTube was the most ideal platform to release the film.
Prateek’s psychological problems like anxiety, self-doubt, toxic masculinity, insomnia, loneliness and depression manifest themselves as annoying friends and family members. They hover over him and make it impossible for him to make any decision. In a comical conversation between Self-doubt and Anxiety Aunty, the viewers get a peek into the labyrinth of Prateek’s fears – his coming out anxiety, the guilt of never making his parents happy like his straight older brother, doubts about his looks and fear over not having a well-established career.
The film also weaves in the anxieties and insecurities that arise as a result of being ghosted. Agrawal, who is pursuing a Masters in Public Health right now, told Gaysi that public health professionals are making efforts to talk to young people in a language that they are comfortable with, through platforms that are more relevant to them. “You have to speak to them in their own language.”
Agarwal shared with Gaysi that “One very important message that I wanted to give in this film is the fear of not finding a partner. This is one of the biggest worries of people.” We see these worries causing Prateek turmoil when he doubts himself, when he decides not to come out to his friends, when he doubts his sexuality because he does not feel comfortable to go out with a guy. Although this worry is common to many young people, it gets even more layered when it comes to queer people – who are coming to terms with their own sexulaity, facing coming-out anxiety, and feel the need to be accepted by family.
Agrawal didn’t want people to get triggered in any way by the sensitive issues that the film addresses. He was careful while approaching the film and consulted a mental health professional before finalising the script. “You have to be very sure of what you’re putting out and what it means and how it will be projected on people. That’s where we were very certain that we needed a professional to look at it.”
The film is produced by ‘Lotus Visual Productions’ which is dedicated to promoting LGBTQ+ stories from India. They have played a key role in getting films like ‘U Ushacha’, ‘Sheer Qorma’ and ‘Evening Shadows’ recognized internationally. However, with ‘Mind Mera Mind’, their focus was to build a community of allies through YouTube, while starting conversations around the mental health of queer people.
Having watched Agrawal’s short film ‘Vaidya’, I dived into the film expecting something dark; to my surprise, the tone of the film was comical. Agrawal told Gaysi “I was very certain that I wanted to experiment with my writing and not be boxed [in].” While this comical tone of the film may suit viewers that are at an earlier stage of understanding mental health issues, to a seasoned viewer, it may seem like the seriousness of the topic is brushed off.
Self-doubt, Anxiety Aunty, and Depression Bhaiya are all well fleshed out characters who have a distinct personality of their own. Self-doubt is his inner critical voice that is constantly questioning, Anxiety Aunty is an intruding next-door neighbour who shows up when least expected and Depression Bhaiya acts like a powerful politician. Other characters like Insomnia, Toxic Masculinity and Loneliness only get a few lines, which makes it harder to understand their hold on Prateek.
Vijay, Prateek’s friend, is another essential character in the film as he reaches out to Prateek and gives him an outside perspective. Vijay’s own experience dealing with anxiety and toxic masculinity makes him empathise with Prateek. When Vijay insists that mental health should be as important as physical health, he puts forth the central message of the film.
When Prateek finally seeks therapy, we don’t get to hear the conversation between him and the therapist – which makes it harder for the viewers to see therapy as a viable solution to his problems. ‘Mind Mera Mind’ could afford to be a little more nuanced, but it is a film that is entertaining and instrumental in starting conversations around the mental health of the LGBTQ+ community.