'People Wish Death Upon Me': Actor Sidhartha Mallya on Backlash for Being Fugitive Billionaire's Son
14:32 GMT 02.12.2021 (Updated: 10:40 GMT 19.07.2022)
Indian American model-actor Sidhartha Mallya is the son of former liquor baron Vijay Mallya, an ex-parliamentarian who owned defunct Kingfisher Airlines, an F1 team, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore cricket team. After being declared bankrupt by the Indian government, Vijay allegedly fled India over a billion-dollar debt and is now in the UK.
After penning his memoir "If I’m Honest" and creating a series on Instagram titled "ConSIDer This’' about his experience of battling depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Indian-American model-actor Sidhartha Mallya is preparing a new show around mental health.
Sidhartha opens up about facing a backlash for being the son of a fugitive businessman
who was once called the "King of Good Times"
who allegedly fled India over a billion-dollar debt.
As his father (Vijay Mallya) is due to be extradited from the UK on charges of bank fraud
estimated to be around INR 90 billion ($1.2 billion), Sidhartha is currently working in the US.
In an interview with Sputnik, Sidhartha opens up about why he penned a memoir and shared his experience of depression and OCD. He also talks about his father’s ongoing legal case
Sputnik: Your memoir ‘If I’m Honest’ is making headlines and getting a lot of reaction from readers. Was it difficult to open up about your personal life and break the taboo around mental health?
Sidhartha Mallya: Recalling past experiences about my life did trigger a lot of emotions in me. But I knew what I was getting into when I started writing it and thought this could help a lot of people dealing with mental health issues.
Sputnik: What triggered your depression and OCD?
Sidhartha Mallya: The depression hit me long ago, maybe when my parents divorced and I went to boarding school. But it only came out and became apparent in 2016 when I was going through rigorous acting training in a drama school that opened me up emotionally.
And of course, my dad’s situation (financial fraud case) had started which was hard to take and is still hard to take. I was feeling emotions that I never felt before. I’m still taking medication for OCD and I’m much more at peace with myself.
Sputnik: Did the depression push you to take extreme steps like harming yourself?
Sidhartha Mallya: I didn’t have suicidal tendencies. It never got to that level. But depression does lead to self-destructive mode if not treated on time. When I look at Sushant’s case, (Padukone, 35-year-old popular Bollywood actress is an advocate for mental health, who came out and talked about her own experience of battling depression), a lot of people start waking up and realising that suicidal thoughts can be going on in someone’s mind, even if, outside they look absolutely fine.
We, as a society, need to get better at helping people feel safe enough that if they are having those sorts of thoughts, they can come forward and seek help. And that no one should be suffering on their own.
Sputnik: So many Bollywood and international celebrities have opened up about experiencing mental health issues. While some view it as ‘seeking publicity,’ some believe it can help others to speak up. What’s your take on this?
Sidhartha Mallya: It’s definitely not for publicity. Whether it’s Deepika (Padukone, the Indian actress known for advocating for mental health, sharing her experience) or whoever else in Bollywood, or in the West who has shared about undergoing depression, it’s definitely to start a conversation around it.
No matter how rich or famous you are, whether you are male, female, Indian or Pakistani, Chinese, English American, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, rich, poor, old, young, mental health doesn’t discriminate.
And everybody is susceptible to suffering from issues of mental health at any point in life. Just because you become rich, that doesn’t mean they are barred from getting depression and mental health. People run after name, fame, money but in pursuit of all this, we should not forget our true authentic self.
Sputnik: Back in the 2010s, when you entered the world of glitz and glam, people perceived you as a rich brat who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. How do you look at yourself 10 years ago?
Sidhartha Mallya: People had a lot of misconceptions about me based on the image they had of me back then. When I completed my studies in the UK and came to India in my 20s, I suddenly got a lot of attention (owing to his father’s popularity).
I think I lost and didn’t fully understood life. There were bits of me I thought were really cool. And there were bits of me that I read in the newspapers which was a lie and that would get me angry. It was a very confusing time.
Ten years ago, I was awarded the title of Most Stylish Man in India by GQ. I never imagined myself back then talking about mental health. Today, I’m much more evolved and constantly changing with time and finding my true authentic self. But we, the society, are quick to label people and still carry the same image of the person.
Sputnik: When your father was declared a fugitive and bankrupt after he fled to the UK, how did that impact you?
Sidhartha Mallya: It was difficult to see my father go through so much suffering in life. It’s also been hard when you receive messages from people blaming me for what happened. They can’t seem to separate you from it.
Some of the messages people write on social media are horrid like people wishing death upon me.
Just seeing that is, of course, upsetting and hurts. But now, I have learnt to deal with people with compassion and see things from their point of view.
Sputnik: The Indian government has been trying to extradite your father to India from the UK. What’s your take on this?
Sidhartha Mallya: I can’t really comment on it because I don’t follow it that closely. I’m in the US. I just want him to be treated fairly. That’s what I can ask for.
Sputnik: What projects are in the pipeline?
Sidhartha Mallya: I have developed a show based on mental health that I will be pitching to some production houses in India for its making. I’m working on my podcast show and there are acting projects that are in the pipeline.