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Sonali Bendre diagnosed with cancer: When stars fall, why don’t we rise?

Bollywood actor Sonali Bendre Behl revealed she has been diagnosed with "high grade" cancer. When celebrities are struck by grief as humungous as cancer, how do they cope with it?
sonali bendre

Newspapers and websites have been flooding with the news of Sonali Bendre’s disclosure on Twitter of being diagnosed with cancer. Thousands of people shared their sadness and expressed how heartbroken they are. We share a strange relationship with the celebrities, and when I say “we” I don’t just mean Indians. All of us around the world look at celebrities with adulation and admiration. They look so perfect that we are not even jealous of their status. Yes, we might feel a twinge of jealousy when a neighbour gets a new car but when the likes of Shahrukh Khan or Britney Spears get an aircraft, we are just curious.

When they live in such glass castles how difficult is it for them to grieve?

We have seen actors and actresses looking perfectly dressed, with winged eyeliner and that dash of pink on their cheekbones even at funerals, with glares to hide their tears (or the lack of it). We might criticise them for looking thus, but let us admit it, we can’t let them look any other way because imagine a Salman Khan being caught in a crushed shirt, loose, ill-fitted pajamas and swollen eyes. We can’t. He should look perfect always.

So when celebrities are struck by grief as humungous as cancer, how do they cope with it? In earlier years, it remained hush and mostly there were “rumours” about such incidents. The actors didn’t really come out in the open or share the news with the masses. They suffered behind their fancy curtains, wiped their tears and pain, fixed their crowns and came to the balcony to wave at their “fans”. We waved back and commented on how pretty they looked or how “tacky” was the dress that they wore.

But things are changing and social media has brought the world a little closer. In recent times, there have been some celebrities who when diagnosed with a serious illness, have fought the desperation to hide it all and have come forward to share it with the rest of the world.

Yesterday, Sonali Bendre decided to break the news to the world

She has been diagnosed with cancer and she is in New York for the treatment right now. This is what her tweet read, “Sometimes when you least expect it, life throws you a curveball. I have recently been diagnosed with high-grade cancer that has metastasized, which we frankly did not see coming. A niggling pain led to some tests, which led to this unexpected diagnosis.”

How did she first take the news? Did she just break down and rush to her room like we do, or did she ask for a family hug and they all cried together? How many drafts did she make before she finally published this tweet? Was she scared about what people would think or she doesn’t care about them anymore? Every time I see a celebrity share a dark, painful side of their lives, these are the questions that haunt me. How difficult must it be for them to share this part of their lives with people who colour them with all things bright and beautiful?

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Irrfan Khan

We love this man and how! So when the rumours started making rounds that he has been diagnosed with “brain tumour” he very gracefully asked people to wait. He tweeted, “Please don’t speculate as I will myself share my story with you within a week to ten days when the further investigations come with a conclusive diagnosis. Till then, wish the best for me.”

The speculations didn’t really end with this message but they were restricted now. A few days after this tweet, Irrfan kept his words and told the world about his endocrine tumor. In true Irrfan Khan style, he took a dig at the overenthusiastic media and fans and said, “As for the rumors that were floated, NEURO is not always about the brain and googling is the easiest way to do research ;).”

Recently, he wrote another letter talking about how his perspective about life and ambitions has changed after the diagnosis.

Irfan khan
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Lisa Ray

Lisa Ray, the actress we remember as the Afreen girl, was diagnosed with a cancer of white blood cells in 2009. She was determined to fight back and while she remained low key during her treatment, she now doesn’t shy away from discussing her cancer days. She calls herself a cancer survivor and often says, “I find that talking about cancer or any other disease openly is considered taboo. I would like to encourage people not to hide something like this. It is not a curse, it doesn’t mean that you are going through bad luck. It’s a speed bump, an obstacle and you will find support if you are open and honest about it.”

Lisa ray
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Manisha Koirala

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. Manisha Koirala, the ethereal beauty, who epitomised the song ‘Ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga’ didn’t just take her illness head-on but also became an inspiration for all. She posted her bald pic during her treatment days on Instagram and broke all shackles when she declared she was vulnerable and that it is normal.

Manisha koirala
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Our heroes are definitely behaving like heroes

But we still need to learn how to treat them with respect. Chasing them to gauge the latest airport look is fine, blinding their babies with camera flashes while they play in the park, isn’t appreciated, but still pardonable. However, intruding into their private spaces while they are dealing with such a catastrophe is not just wrong, but almost a sin.

vinod khanna
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I’m reminded of a picture that was circulated a few days before veteran actor Vinod Khanna’s demise. The pic showed a very pale looking Vinod Khanna in a seemingly private moment with his family. He looked frail, old and so not Vinod Khanna-like. It was clearly not an image he would have wanted to share. Imagine the number of hours he must have spent all his life looking dashing and handsome, and that is how he must have wanted to be remembered. But we are fans. We don’t have limits and we don’t care about sensibilities. We saw the picture, felt curious, and there we sent it to ten more fans, making the pic go viral.

But we can mend our ways. This time, let us just pray that these actors get better soon and while they are at it, may they still be remembered as they wish to be remembered.

(From the Editor’s desk)
Swaty Prakash

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2 Comments

  1. I like her a lot like she is my favorite favorite star.. I love her and it is definitely kind of heartbreaking to see that.. I hope she is back again with same energy.

  2. It is truly heart breaking, such things make us realize the fleeting nature of life. We learn that life catches up with every person whether they are extraordinarily famous or not. It’s the absolute truth of life and we all should understand that the time we have here is too short and too unpredictable.

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