Kanika Dhillon’s films all know how to make a headline. Manmarziyaan (2018) was said to have hurt Sikh sentiments. Kedarnath (2018) was accused of promoting ‘love jihad’. Mental Hai Kya, releasing in July, has done damage with just its poster. Twitter users were outraged to see Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao balance a blade on their tongues. One thought the image was a trigger, while others objected to the film’s title.
Screenwriters aren’t usually in the firing line, but Dhillon has been credited on the contested poster. Happy that her name is out there, Dhillon, 34, says, “A poster never conveys the overall story. As a society, we have very strict definitions of ‘sane’ and ‘normal’. I feel the story of Mental Hai Kya tries to portray people who don’t fit in these boxes. It asks—how do we look at them without judgement?”
Dhillon rubbishes labels such as “odd” and “insane”, but the film’s tagline lingers in the foreground—“Sanity is overrated.” While it might enable some, there remain the mentally ill who spend their lives trying desperately to remain sane. “Without painting disorders negatively, I, as a scriptwriter, have the right to tell an entertaining story, using a mass medium,” says Dhillon, but adds that the mainstream comes with constraints. “I can’t give you