Nail Polish: A Movie Review
“The mind commits the crime,
The body takes the blame”.
The movie Nail Polish is a two hour long courtroom drama which opens with the quote mentioned above. The big reason why people are intrigued and fascinated by this film is because it is based on some true incidents as it mentions at the beginning, a crime story which has its twists and turns. Written and directed by Bugs Bhargava Krishna and starred by Arjun Rampal, Manav Kaul, Anand Triwari and Rajit Kapur, Nail Polish is a legal thriller which delves or investigates the incertitude of the human mind.
This film is about a popular social activist, Veer Singh, who has been accused of kidnapping, raping and killing two poor migrant children. He also becomes a prime suspect in the killings of 38 migrant children, which took place over the span of years. This case is being prosecuted by Amit Kumar, while a rich defence lawyer named Sidharth Jaisigh, who is offered a seat for Rajya Sabha, is asked to defend Veer Singh. This film highlights the issues of sexual violence and mental health, which are rarely discussed in Hindi cinema or Indian society in general. However, just like every marginalized group, in this film individuals with Dissociative Identity Disorder are also misrepresented, as will be discussed later in the article.
The film systematically and matter-of-factly chronicles the trail, while showing Veer Singh’s backstory in detail. He is shown to be a model citizen, an ex-serviceman who is quite popular in his circle and is now a sports coach. Through the first part of the movie the prosecutors are seen trying to find solid evidence which could connect Veer Singh to this case, but they are unable to find any until the DNA found inside one of the children’s mouths matches his DNA. However, the issue with this piece of evidence is that only 50 percent of it matches Veer Singh’s DNA, and it is around here that it starts to sink in that probably there is more to this protagonist that meets the eye. Even though Veer shows a few hints of guilt and/or innocence, it is hard to see or believe what the truth is. This keeps the audience invested and at the edge of their seats. The movie, however, veers into a whole new level when another personality of Veer Singh takes the center stage. It is the effect of when he gets into a fight in prison and is hospitalized for severe injuries. His other personality is of a woman named Charu Raina, who he met in Kashmir on one of his missions. Even though she was married and was a mother, they both fell in love with each other (or it seemed like it). It is here that we find out Veer Singh was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) at a young age when his mother passed away. Through the rest of the film we see how Arjun Rampal is fighting for the trial to be dismissed and announced as a mistrial due to his client’s mental condition. The character with DID may have been built to soften the hearts of people towards the villian but instead it reinforces the public’s worst fears and the stigma around not only Dissociative Identity Disorder but around mental health itself. Is it justifiable to create “entertainment” that discriminates against an already marginalized and misunderstood community? Most movies portray individuals with DID as either comic relief or as sociopaths (another good example is Split). Close to none portray or convey the degree of suffering the person goes through. And the treatment process shown is not consistent with the treatment guidelines developed by the DID experts around the world.
What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Dissociative Disorders are mental illnesses which include problems with disruptions or breakdown of memory, identity, emotions, perception, behaviour, consciousness and sense of self. DID is one of the Dissociative Disorders where individuals develop one or more alternate personalities that function with or without their realization or knowledge. Symptoms of Dissociative Disorders include feeling of detachment or having an out of body experience and memory loss or amnesia. When these symptoms occur, which can be mild or severe, they interfere with an individual’s general functioning, both in personal and work life. They are usually the result of or are associated with experiences of trauma. The trauma involves extreme emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse, or accidents, natural disasters or loss of a loved one at an early age. Dissociation is usually seen as a coping mechanism which is developed by a person in a stressful or traumatic situation, where they disconnect from the outside world and create distance from an awareness of what is occurring.
Dissociative Identity Disorder was previously known as multiple personality disorder where the attitude and personality of a person may suddenly shift from one persona to another. This shift in identities happens involuntarily and which can cause distress as the person suddenly becomes an observer of their own speech and actions or may feel different in their body, e.g., like a small child or like the opposite gender. In this movie, after Veer’s brawl in the prison, he started to identify as Charu Raina. This is where his “core” personality was taken over by his “alter” personality. The individual may or may not be aware of the other personality’s memories when the “alter” is dominant. This state can be triggered by stress or even a small reminder of a traumatic incident or memory. In this article an individual with DID says how the voices in the head help them calm down when they are feeling anxious in a social setting but also sometimes just exhausts them by distracting them with other tasks while they try to concentrate on one. According to healthline, dissociation is a ‘protective response’ to trauma. It is a way for the brain to take a break from something that is perceived as dangerous or threatening. So, at one point dissociation helped one get through the tough times in their life but now it might not be that helpful anymore.
It is a rare mental condition which is characterized by more than one distinct dissociated personality states or alters. According to DSM-5 two or more definite/clear personality alters should be present in order to be diagnosed with DID. Additionally, each personality must have their own way of living, of being. This article states that about 75% of the general population has experienced a depersonalized episode at least once in their lifetime, however only about 2% meets the full criteria to be diagnosed with DID. WebMD states that about 7% of the population might be suffering from undiagnosed dissociative disorders. It also states that individuals have spent about seven years before actually being diagnosed.
There are many psychological symptoms found in the individual with DID, some of them are:
Losing connection with one’s own body, thoughts or feelings
Depression or rapid changes in mood
Change in the levels of functioning
Alcohol or drug abuse
Exhibiting self injurious behaviour or showing signs of self-harm
If an individual exhibits some of these symptoms then a full evaluation with complete medical history needs to be done. However, there are not many laboratory tests which can determine whether a person has DID or not. These individuals may be referred to a mental health professional who can diagnose and treat mental illnesses. The main aim of treatment for DID is to relieve symptoms and ensure safety of the person and the people around them. Treatment also helps them safely express their painful memories, expand existing or develop new coping skills, reinstate effective or optimal functioning and ameliorate relationships. Just like every other treatment process, this treatment approach,too, depends on the individual, the identifiable triggers and the intensity or severity of the symptoms. Some of the treatment methods, which are mostly used in a combination, are:
Creative therapies like art therapy or music therapy
Meditation or mindful techniques
Although there are not any medications which directly treat DID, there are medications that may be helpful in treating related conditions or symptoms like antidepressants. The treatment may be a long and meticulous process, it is required to improve a person’s outlook, to help identify and empower all the personalities and integrate them into a full-functioning whole.
As stated earlier many people have had at least one dissociative experience in their life. However, the film industry loves to exaggerate and use extensive depictions of mental illnesses which are almost never accurate. The symptoms are often aggrandized, overemphasized, fabricated or just simply incorrect. Negative portrayals of mental illnesses are ubiquitous and it tends to do more harm than good. It perpetuates the stigma associated with mental health, cementing a context which preserves or sustains violence, patriarchy and lack of emotional education. Inaccurate information spreads about mental illness when movies and TV shows misrepresent them. This stigmatizes the people living with mental health issues, which discourages them from seeking help, further isolating them socially. For instance, individuals with DID are not deranged or delusional or are hallucinating their alters. What they go through is real and it is not like a personality disorder, where one goes through extreme emotional reactions, rather, individuals living with DID lose contact with themselves, their memories, sense of identity, emotions and behaviors. The film industry places or positions the problem on an individual in an exciting and dramatic narrative, to show that the individual is evil mostly because they are suffering from a mental illness and this is, frankly, a very violent, if not immoral, portrayal of mental health.
The negative depiction of DID individuals in the media damages the lives of those with the disorder as it reinstates the stigma and hinders acceptance and recovery for them which then stops them from reaching out for help and support. At Pause for Perspective we have trained counselors who have experience in working with children and teenagers with an array of conditions and challenges, who experience depression, anxiety or stress in their environment because of the familial or school related issues. They also have experience in working with adults. We offer counselling for individuals, groups and families of all ages and population. Our main goal is to ensure that individuals are able to connect with themselves and with others with mindfulness and compassion.
Writer at Pause for Perspective.