Dealing With Setbacks as a Performing Artist - Part III

By Rati Pednekar

Injuries, rejection, stereotypes and stigma - performing artists face a number of setbacks throughout their careers. Whether you want to maintain your body or find new avenues of work, there are plenty of tips and tricks available online. In this article, we’re taking a look at how you can manage your mental health during times of struggle.

I say ‘taking a look’ because there is no one right answer. Each person requires a solution unique to them, a piece of their own puzzle. Therefore, we have curated five stories about setbacks from different performing artists. We are publishing them as a series and hope you’re able to find some inspiration from them.

Here’s Part III!

Tackling Rejection

Actor Fatema Arif says auditions are like job interviews. Except, they are like going to three interviews a day and getting rejected most of the time. Rejection is a common deterrent in the field of acting. And in most cases, it's not about your talent but the things outside of your control — a specific look the job requires, chemistry with another actor, conflicting timings and pay rates."

Before Fatema moved to acting full-time, she was cast in a few commercial ads that boosted her confidence. Funnily enough, those ads stopped coming once she quit her job and became a professional actor. Finding work was much harder than she expected.

“Aram Nagar in Versova is where a lot of auditions take place. At random, I would just go and stand in the line of people auditioning and give it a shot. Once I auditioned for a cream brand and they took one look at me and said I’m unfit. You hear things like this all of the time.”  

What really helped Fatema deal with consequent rejections, was keeping busy. Whether it’s yoga, dance or even a new language, she insists on learning something new every day. It keeps her mind sharp and away from anxious thoughts. It also boosts her confidence.

A year into her acting career, when she realised acting wasn’t enough to sustain her finances, Fatema also tried her hand at other skills. She worked in the fields of choreography, yoga, and even content writing for a stable income. But all roads ultimately lead back to her craft…

“When I do great in yoga or Kathak it automatically reflects in my acting performance. The more you know about the world, the better an actor you become, I really believe that.”

Meanwhile, theatre has been a source of real comfort for her - from cushioning the blows of rejection to surrounding her with the right people.

In periods of time with no work, Fatema also ensures she sharpens her technique. She attends workshops and keeps up with the goings-on in the industry. It’s important to stay connected, she says. Of course, bad phases aren’t entirely avoidable.

“No matter what you do, you will have those sleepless nights. You will wake up feeling like, ‘I need work’ and ‘what am I doing with my life’. When you think you can’t even do the one thing you are good at, it’s easy to fall into a hole. I’ve gotten into it and out of it and in again. But there will also come a time when work will come and suddenly you’ll be very busy. You have to learn to enjoy both phases.”

This was Part III of our Dealing with Setbacks Series. Read Part IV to learn how dancer and coach Zakwana Bagban manages the exhaustion of a creative profession.

Editorial Desk

Editorial Desk