Nargis Fakhri on being away from showbiz: I understood my problems, I’m healthier

Actress Nargis Fakhri made her Bollywood debut with filmmaker Imtiaz Ali’s romantic drama Rockstar (2011) opposite actor Ranbir Kapoor. After appearing in a few Hindi films, she decided to take a well-deserved two-year break and so returned with her family to the United States.

It is said that the glitz and glamor of show business has a downside and can be detrimental to mental health. In an exclusive chat with News18, a candid Fakhri reveals that working tirelessly around the clock and coping with the frantic race for years has not only affected her emotionally but also physically.

She tells us: “I fell ill. I was going through too much mental and physical stress. I had many physical ailments that interfered with my daily life. It was very difficult to ignore these problems. My body, somehow, was telling me it couldn’t handle it. I knew in my head that I had to take a break because I wasn’t the happiest person.

Fakhri further reveals that the tumultuous nature of the film industry has proven to be a challenge for her. As she tried to cope with the ebb and flow, she struggled to navigate the pressure of work.

“In an industry like this, you’re constantly running on a hamster wheel, you’re always in a frantic race and you have to keep up because you don’t want to back down. You have to attend meetings, you have to do commercials… It never ends! You only have a few days off between projects. The pressure and mental stress you are under is heavy even if it depends on the type of movies or characters you are doing. You have to invest your soul when you take action. Actors need more than a few days off to reconnect with themselves,” she explains.

Fakhri shares that despite those hiccups, she continued by focusing on the silver lining. “I kept working because I was lucky enough to have opportunities and I didn’t want to just throw them away and walk away. I certainly enjoyed some moments, but I had my share of unhappy days, weeks and months,” she recalled and added, “I had to push on. I just didn’t want to give up. I was pushing myself so hard that my mind felt disconnected from my body.” I really needed a rest.

The 42-year-old believes being removed from her support system affected her in the early years of her career as she tried to find her feet in the film industry. She says: “If your family is close to you or lives nearby, there is no such thing. Coming home to your family, with whom you share a good relationship, is very important because they ground you and recharge you. If you don’t have that, you just find yourself floating in the wind with nothing to hold on to. I am a very strong person and I could have continued but it was a necessary decision to leave. I had to talk to myself and be like, ‘Hey, what’s the point of being here? Why do you listen to others? Listen to your body, listen to your feelings.

Going out of sight and therefore losing one’s mind is a phenomenon that many actors have faced in the past. But Fakhri wasn’t scared of it when she decided to hit the pause button. She says, “I remember talking to my agency about it. They told me not to do this and warned me that if I disappeared I would be out of people’s minds. I can’t deny their fears, there’s definitely some truth to that. But what was important was the answer to the question, “Why would someone choose to disappear and how badly do they want to be there?”

The Main Tera Hero (2014) actress says prioritizing her health took precedence over the fear of being out of the limelight and she recalls how she often met fans whose love assured her constantly that she was in it for the long haul.

“The idea is to find out why you make a certain choice and to decide what is important. The statement “out of sight, out of mind” may be true to some degree, but people like me who are in the film industry can leave their mark and live forever. I believe you can never be completely forgotten. Even when I wasn’t working and taking time off, people who met me said, “We can’t wait to see you on screen. They were looking forward to it and so, I think you’re never completely forgotten, and I don’t feel forgotten,” she says.

A significant turning point in Fakhri’s life was a Vipasana retreat she went to during her absence from Bollywood. She also credits spending time with herself and loved ones as helping her reconnect with her roots. She says: “I am very introspective and I often ask myself questions. I knew it was my decision and my choice to be an actor but if I was not happy, I had to change that. The break was great because it helped me. I understood my problems, became healthier and had time to relax mentally. When I was ready to come back to India in March 2020 after realizing I missed acting, the country was stuck. At that time, I was on a vipasana retreat, where you can’t talk or even look at people. It is something that everyone must try at least once in their life.

While she was set to return to India two years ago, the Covid-19 pandemic further delayed her plans. Optimistic, she thinks it has done her good. “Since we were retired, we didn’t know anything about what was going on in the outside world. We had no access to information and everyone just meditated for eight hours a day. When it was finally over, my friends told me we were hit by a pandemic, the food in the grocery stores was over, and everyone was inside their homes. But meditation and retreat helped me not to be disturbed,” says the actor, who was last seen in the film Torbaaz (2020).

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