Not every star child wants to be in the family business. Ira Khan, daughter of Aamir Khan, has spent the last few years evolving a model whereby she can reach out to those with mental health issues before it gets too late. All of 26, she has created a community centre called the Agatsu Foundation in Mumbai where she has so far reached out to 400 unique visitors and found like-minded people with similar issues. The word Agatsu means victory over oneself in Japanese. The Agatsu Foundation is a place without judgement and which offers help and support, something Khan says she was fortunate to have in her family. Put into therapy when she was 12, she continued it for three years because she was too polite to say no, she laughs. But by the time she was graduating from school, she started to feel she was falling into depression. By the time Khan went to college at the Utrecht University in Amsterdam, she knew she was in trouble. She would cry for eight hours a day, sleep for a long time or not sleep at all, not eat, not bathe. All these were signs of clinical depression. She wrote a letter to her mother, returned home, tried to get to college again, but dropped out again. She has now realised that was not for her. Instead, Khan finds solace in helping people like her who may be groping in the dark. She has done a course in mental health leadership at Sangath, the well-known NGO in Goa. Started by the next chair of the Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Dr Vikram Patel, Sangath trains community mental health workers. It is not easy to run a centre as Khan does, especially given the gap in practice and policy in the area of mental health in India, but she is trying innovative ways. “The human connection keeps you going. You can recover if you have hope,” she says. Khan believes everyone is on the mental health spectrum, and that her lived experience can benefit others. This is one area where the country could use more such courageous star kids.
Patience Meets Talent
Since he appeared in Gurvinder Singh’s Chauthi Koot in 2015, Suvinder Vicky has been a known name in the indie film circles. The Punjabi film was the first of its kind to premiere in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. “I didn’t even know what the red carpet was,” says Vicky, who did his postgraduate in theatre from Panjab University in Patiala. A devoted theatre actor, he had been in a few Punjabi films before Chauthi Koot but Ivan Ayr’s sombre Meel Pathhar, or Milestone in 2020 put Vicky firmly on the path of indie stardom. He played a laconic truck driver who has to undertake one last trip for his boss. A few small roles in Bollywood films would have seen his talent being wasted until OTT discovered him. CAT and now Kohrra, both on Netflix, will make it impossible for audiences to ignore him. In the forthcoming Kohrra, he plays a troubled police officer assigned to a high-profile murder of a young NRI man who has come home to get married. Vicky plays a sub-inspector doing his best to catch the killer and young man’s missing English friend, even as a family unravels and his own ghosts come to haunt him. Vicky is grateful for the world that comes to him in Chandigarh where he has been living most of his adult life, with his teacher-wife Gursharan and two daughters. “It’s too late now to move to Mumbai,” he says, though he does visit the city for meetings. On the anvil is some work with Vishal Bhardwaj, a filmmaker he has long admired. Some dreams do come true if patience meets true talent.
Scene and Heard
Shubham Saraf is a well-known name in the British TV industry, often cast on South Asian roles requiring police officers, doctors or PR advisers. He had a major role in Apple TV+’s unfortunate Shantaram but his real star-making turn was on stage last year when he played Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse in The Father and the Assassin at the National Theatre. So, it was good to see him in JioCinema’s Blind, shot in the UK, starring Sonam Kapoor Ahuja. Saraf, last seen as a young aristocrat on Indian screens in Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy on Netflix, plays Sonam’s character’s unlikely ally, and gives a good account of himself and his Hindi. Time for him to be cast in more work out of India too?