When the world feels like an emotional roller coaster and seems to overwhelm you with its mundane affairs, remember that harmony and strength can be attained through simple morals that are deeply buried inside the limitless possibilities of your infinite mind.
Karishma Kotak, who is an effervescent being, finds her calm within her simplistic routines be it spending time with her puppy, indulge in some yoga or standing by her family and that’s how she manages to stay the incredible and talented diva who makes her presence shine brighter than a diamond and mesmerize us with her impeccable artistry.
The Voice of Woman chatted with The IPL’s most sought after Presenter Karishma Kotak who got candid about the pros and cons of a self-employed individual in the creative field and how through perseverance and faith one can identify their true calling.
What inspired you to become an actor?
I don’t think I am an actor. I think I am but more of a TV presenter who got into acting by default for which I am very grateful. As a creative person, I am very happy to be able to do different things whether it is acting in a web series, doing a cameo role, anchoring an event, or performing on stage.
I never restrict myself as merely an actor. For me, it is more than that. I am someone who likes to do things that inspire me and make me really happy.
How did you get your first break? Where do you wish to see yourself in the next 10 years?
I used to do modeling for various magazines and publications in the UK where I was born and raised. I used to do photoshoots over the weekend while I was pursuing my studies. During that time modeling and fashion shows earned my bread and butter.
After I finished my degree I took a year off and came to India as my father is from Bombay and mother hails from Africa. During my childhood, we used to spend a lot of time at our house in Bombay during winter.
So, I came to India and started with the Kingfisher calendar followed by many contracts with well-known agencies, then a South Indian movie, and the rest just followed.
I would like to have a happy and healthy family in the next ten years. A loving and caring husband and adorable babies, so that would be another chapter to look forward to.
Do you think mental health problems are real? Can the immense pressure of the industry take a toll on one’s mental health?
Yes, mental health problems are very real and there is no further question about it. I think it is important to address them. If you feel that your close ones are feeling low and depressed, reach out to them. Sometimes we don’t even know what to say but even being a good listener is more than enough.
We all have certain ambitions that we want to achieve in our life or different places where we wish to be at a certain age. In the process, we end up putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to live up to the expectations created by either us or society.
I know as a woman, I was expected to get married and have a child maybe five years ago. Now I am thirty-seven and I did not follow that path. This is because I chose to take care of my mother and brother financially and to be able to travel and work.
Yes, there is a lot of stress on people to accomplish certain things, to be and look a particular way. All these things need to be addressed and there are professional people that can help.
Who was your role model while you were growing up?
I don’t think I have a role model. I have always liked strong women whether it is Oprah Winfrey, Gayatri Devi. Women who made their mark by doing things in an unconventional manner.
These women really didn’t succumb to the demands of society. I think this is what inspires me.
What is your biggest life lesson that still has a great impact on your life?
The lesson that had the biggest impact on my life is losing my Dad. I know we sadly do lose parents and it had a great impact on me because I had to leave him and go to Big Boss and then come out to attend the funeral.
I don’t feel that I even got the chance to bid him goodbye properly one last time. This incident has definitely changed me. I confess my feelings to my loved ones more often now. I am more affectionate now.
I feel you should just speak up and acknowledge your feelings. Like if you are sorry or you love someone just say it. Life is too short and there isn’t the right moment to be caring and telling a person how you feel.
Are you a feminist? What is your opinion on feminism?
I am not really a hardcore feminist. I just believe in equal opportunities for men and women like an equal opportunity in payment, equal opportunities at work. Slowly, I feel society is adapting to such changes to achieve the equality that is needed.
How has your experience in this industry been so far? How difficult was it for you to be able to make your own identity?
My experience in the industry so far has been a roller coaster. When you are self-employed, there are months that you work a lot. Simultaneously there are months when you have nothing.
I think I am used to not working all the time. This industry, though as glamorous as it looks, we all wait here for better opportunities.
I think my journey has also been quite interesting and I won’t change it for anybody. I have been working and living in Bombay for fifteen years now from the age of twenty-one to thirty-five and it is indeed a long time.
There are some things that work out and other things that don’t follow the same path and that is the part and parcel of being self-employed in a creative industry like Bollywood or television. So you won’t be getting all the contracts every time and it is full of tides and ebbs which can make you miss the security of a fulltime job.
Does gender bias exist in the entertainment industry?
I don’t feel gender bias exists in the entertainment industry. I am a TV presenter and I do anchor a lot of programs related to sports like cricket.
I would say, I have received a lot of opportunities to anchor sports events as a woman so I haven’t really felt that way. I think if you are good at what you do, the opportunity will present itself.
You are an inspiration to many. How do you intend to motivate women to follow their dream?
In the morning I wake up and have my coffee. Usually, I head straight to the gym to do a class. Now when we are compelled to stay in quarantine, I go for long walks with my puppy and spend the afternoon together.
I think what is really important to keep myself or anybody else who is struggling is to always do something that you truly want to do from your inner self. Whether it’s going for a walk, doing yoga or meditation.
One hour a day has to be about you. You got to switch your phone off and you do your own work that improves your mind.
I think we are unnecessarily burdening ourselves to be good at everything. For instance, during the quarantine, someone has lost a lot of weight or gained weight, became master chefs, or a great cook. Yet it is really not about that. It’s all about keeping your chakras aligned and maintaining the balance.
You need to realize nobody is waking up every single day and enjoying a good time in these difficult times. It will always vary as no two days will be the same. So we need to ease that pressure off ourselves. The moment we truly achieve that life becomes more relaxed and open.
At a certain point, I felt I needed to do ten to twelve events a month or ten leagues a year and restricted myself with such awful limitations. It has immensely affected my mental peace and well being in a negative way.
Then I contemplated and realized that I am very good at what I do. I truly started believing that what is coming to me is the best possible thing for me and I surrendered to the universe.
This is all that I have in my hands and which I can influence. I travelled to Bombay from London every three weeks, rented my own flat, and gave my best effort at my craft. Beyond all this, I can’t do anything more and have to wait for opportunities to come in my way.
I think this is the most important thing that I can say because it really helped me. We can’t put so much pressure on us because eventually, this pressure drains out our potential.
So my advice would be to do the best that you can and have faith that your work will be noticed.
What would you want to advise your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to relax more. I think I have spent many years worrying about my life and now I wish I could stay calmer and in peace.
Why do you think it is important for a woman to have a voice of her own? Any special message you want to convey to the readers of The Voice of Woman?
I think it is very important to have a voice of your own and be vocal about how you feel. You don’t need to be aggressive about your opinion since you can adopt a diplomatic stand while maintaining your kindness.
I think it’s nature versus nurture. All changes take time but I feel it is the right time for women. Women are now being heard and acknowledged for their talent more than ever. So it is important to speak about how one feels.
You can also write about your feelings. You should express your feelings to your parents, your partner, or your children. Even in the workplace if something doesn’t feel right, speak to the higher authorities, and be vocal about your concerns and express them your opinion about it.
In the process remember to be kind to yourself.