Actor Manisha Koirala has penned her memoirs in Healed: How cancer gave me a new life, published by Penguin Random House India. Following is an extract from the book where she speaks about the perils of stardom, breaking under the pressure and her tryst with alcoholism.
Money, name, fame and a string of hits—I had it all. I had friends whom I could party with at any time and awards that were coveted by many. It was a life only the chosen few get to live.
But even though the world was at my feet, something strange began happening to me. I soon started feeling the misery of existence. I became wretched.
I think it was during the shooting of Laawaris, which released in 1999, that I felt the pressure getting to me. I had been working non-stop till then. I confided in Dimple Kapadia that I was tired of this routine of getting up, putting on makeup, going out for location shooting, returning home exhausted and being constantly ‘on the go’.
Without my realizing it, my life went into a downward spiral. I quickly lost interest in the privileges that were being bestowed on me. I became bored and disinterested in life. The pressure of performing so many roles, of expressing so many emotions every single day, began to vex me. I became a robot— instantly donning another persona at the snap of ‘Lights, Camera, Action’.
I became tired of the relentless pattern of my days—wake up, shower, put on make-up, work, come home, remove makeup, sleep. I think I felt the final snap at the point I was acting in twelve films in a year.
The pressure was too much. The burden began seeping into my bones; the complexities of my characters began gnawing at my soul. There was no holiday, no time to watch the clear blue skies and golden beaches. Just constant trips to the film set and the hotel.
I remember how resentful I had felt when I had gone for a shoot in Australia. I wanted to immerse myself in the timelessness of the Great Barrier Reef, the MacKenzie Falls, the Kakadu National Park and the stunning landscapes.
I wished to run outdoors to explore the bushwalking trails and soak in the beauty of the Blue Mountains. For I hail from the mountains myself and have been an ardent nature lover all my life.
Instead, I was shepherded out of Mumbai, taken to the film set, asked to memorize my lines and perform and promptly flown out of the country to yet another film set.
Was I enjoying getting up at unearthly hours? Was I ecstatic about visiting so many countries? Was I appreciative of all these opportunities? No. I felt like an automaton, reduced to being a pretty face. I think that’s when my mind began to get toxic. Emotionally, I began to go into reverse.
To take my mind off shoots, to numb myself, I started drinking. If I was on a diet, it would be vodka. I remember my ex-boyfriend once telling me that I had no sense of balance.
He said, ‘You are a workaholic. You either work hard or party hard. Where is your sense of balance?’
Of course I was aware that I had a tendency to go overboard. Many people around me had tried to tell me that.
But the truth is that I wasn’t enjoying it. I didn’t appreciate my work. I simply didn’t like it. Somewhere, in a contorted way, I began wilfully doing the wrong things. To spite myself, I chose the wrong films. I began feeding my ego.
I insisted on being the central character, even if it was in a B-grade film. At that point, I did not even care who the director was. Getting a central role mattered more than anything else.
My state of mind was toxic, my approach to life complacent and my attitude ungrateful.
So here I was, reliving the past in my head in a hospital in New York, praying desperately that I would live.
I snapped out of my reverie abruptly when one of the nurses came up to me and asked me to stand up.
(Excerpted with permission from Penguin Random House India; Rs 499)
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