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What Bollywood could learn from Cory Monteith's drug overdose

Like the annoying 8-year-old in 1998’s seminal science-fiction classic Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, I love singing and dancing. This is despite being as good at the former as Champu, the beggar child from the 7:45 Titwala local (I’d have given him a shoutout but I’m not sure he can read. Or has the Internet. Or hasn’t been whisked off to star in Slumdog Millionaire 2.) My love for Bollywood can thus be explained simply: what others find jarring in the introduction of a dream sequence or an item number, I find delightful.

In May 2009, when Fox aired the pilot of Glee much in advance of its September schedule, I was riveted. Five kids in a dead-end Midwestern school in America, looking for a way to sing and dance without being ridiculed? Sounds like my kinda jam, I thought, and thus began a love story far superior to anything Erich Segal could’ve hallucinated on an acid trip. I stayed with Glee during its highs (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), its lows (a mashup of “Moves Like Jagger” and “Jumping Jack Flash”), its inconsistent scripting and its flights of illogical fancy, because I dug the show’s philosophy – when life gives you lemons, sing about them! (JAZZ HANDS!)

Cory Monteith. Reuters.

Cory Monteith. Reuters.

On July 13th, one of the show’s lead actors, Cory Monteith who played Finn Hudson, was found dead from a heroine and alcohol overdose in a Vancouver hotel room. He was 31. A huge outpouring of grief followed, from fans, colleagues, media, Champu, everyone who had ever been touched by the lovable jock Finn and his sincere singing. Being a Glee and Monteith fan, the news wasn’t easy for me to swallow either, even though Monteith had been very public about his struggles. My roommate and I spent hours speculating over what it must be like for those who knew him to be faced with such news. We were having such a hard time coming to terms with the news, and we were thousands of miles away, familiar only with the persona he played, not the person he was.

The most tragic part of Monteith’s death was that it was the result of an unchecked addiction, and predictably the crowd response was that if it stopped even one other person from turning to drugs and alcohol, it would be a legacy worth having.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen in a similar situation involving a local celebrity. In India, drug addiction in celebs is kept under such wraps it’s practically a mummy, waiting to be awoken by curious explorers (*cough* Mumbai Mirror *cough*) riding to their deaths. Alcoholism, though rampant, is still an elaborate game of Chinese whispers, told by unnamed sources passed on in blind items by journalists, so that audiences can coddle their hip-flask-swigging celebs. In our movies, alcoholism equals a broken heart, or a grand gesture of martyrdom. Girl left you? Drink to your death because nothing is nobler. It’s never a disease that can be cured, no film tells us that getting help is okay; that heartbreak is no excuse to spiral completely out of control; that therapy will fix you, you moron. What was tackled publicly by Cory and his loved ones despite his eventual defeat, Bollywood regularly sweeps under the carpet, in its fiction as well as its non-fiction.

RIP, Cory, you were a talented, spirited young man with a bright future. I look forward to the Glee tribute episode and hope it does you justice, much as I hope that Bollywood realises that it’s time to unwrap the mummy. You know what they say – if it stops even one other person from turning to drugs and alcohol, it would be a legacy worth having.

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