By Rati Pednekar
Injuries, rejection, stereotypes and stigma; performing artists face a number of setbacks throughout their careers. Whether it is maintaining your body or finding new avenues of work, there are plenty of tips and tricks available online. Here, 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 one’s 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 V, the final instalment in the series!
Starting Again from Scratch
The unsteady pay in the performing arts industry is no unknown or rare fact. Omkar Ketkar, an actor, had to deal with this first-hand when the film he was working on suddenly shut down. Omkar wasn’t paid for his work and, in turn, wasn’t able to pay his rent. While moving between PGs and the homes of friends, he also broke his leg.
“Because you stop believing in the system, you stop believing in everyone around you and in time, you stop believing in yourself.”
All in all, it was a tough time and took a toll on him. Then one day a friend asked him what he enjoyed doing the most when he was a kid. Omkar replied that it was playing cricket and being on stage. The friend advised him to start doing those things again. And he did. And it worked!
“So I just got a bat and a ball and started playing cricket in the house — where you're just throwing balls at the wall. And I felt better! I felt like I was alive again, getting back to being in the moment again. That activated an energy inside me which translated into getting work and moving ahead in life.”
It got him back to his vibrant self. Soon, Omkar even found a group of people from the industry to play cricket with. Slowly and steadily, work trickled in. His faith in himself returned so much so that when somebody reached out to ask if Omkar knew anybody who could take up a last-minute role in a play, he said he’d do it himself.
It can be anything, Omkar says. But if you take ten minutes out each day to do something you truly love, something that helps you live in the moment, your day-to-day mental health will improve. When asked if Omkar uses this technique even now, he answered:
“Absolutely. Till today. They helped me build this very moment. And it's okay, even if I don't go out and play matches or club cricket, I will still keep knocking that bat and ball around, and I'll feel better.”
It All Comes Down To…
One clear common thread in all of these stories is the need for a social support system. While Bhakti relies on her own strength to get through setbacks, she says she wouldn’t be the dancer she is today if it weren’t for her inner circle of friends and colleagues. When Lakshmy returned to dancing after a gap of a few years, it was her friends who helped her find stable work.
Fatema managed the rejections she faced all the better because her social circle in the industry helped prepare her for it. And whenever she needed it, they doled out validation and harsh truths in equal measure. Zakwana’s studio ‘On Aer’ involved the work of multiple people and a shared vision brought to life. Omkar insists that you need to talk to people and get your inner thoughts outside, where they can’t fester into something worse.
The fact remains that the biggest support for performing artists’ mental health during hard times is, and has always been, community.
All of the stories in our Dealing with Setbacks Series are incredible in their own way. We hope you, whether a performing artist or otherwise, gained a bit of insight from them!