She has been in the line of fire for speaking up against issues ranging from the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, the atrocities inflicted by the Indian Muslims and for being a feminist. But, that hasn’t stopped this bold actress to speak her mind and spread her message out to the fans. She is the Bollywood actress Payal Rohatgi, who with her glamour and boldness has earned both followers and trolls! The Voice of Woman recently caught up with the fearless actress who shared her experiences in life and Bollywood. Share with us your experience in the industry. How tough or easy has it been for you to hold your ground? My experiences in the Bollywood industry have always been of public knowledge. Everyone knows how director Dibakar Banerjee misbehaved with me. The incident happened before the #metoo campaign. But the Bollywood biggies didn’t support me and took the side of Dibakar Banerjee as they didn’t want any more Payal Rohatgi’s to emerge to reveal their secrets. Consequently the incident led to me getting less Bollywood offers, thus, I started doing television reality shows. My first reality show was Bigg Boss season 2 in the year 2008. I started off with the Femina Miss India pageant, where I represented India and won the title of Supermodel Miss Tourism World in the year 2002. My journey into Bollywood started from a non-film background. Looking good was my entry-level into various projects in Bollywood. I was always limited to glamorous roles, even if I wanted to do something concrete and substantial as an actor. I have had more of small budget films in my journey, but when I wanted a transition from small budget films to big-budget films, casting directors of Yash Raj Films refused to consider me for an audition. In one incident, I had to pay a casting director money to meet me so that I could show her my pictures and meet her personally. But then she never called me for an audition! It is an entirely different thing to not get a role after an audition, but to not even given a chance of an audition shows what kind of bias nature the industry bigwigs have towards outsiders. What motivates you to pursue your passion? I believe in living my life to the fullest. I live my life according to my way and don’t get affected by the biased opinions of people. There are some liberal feminists out there in Bollywood who think that it is fine to talk bad about Hindu Gods and Goddesses. But I believe that standing by one’s religion is essential, and it is a way of showing respect to it. I want to be clean to my inner conscience, and I always do things that make my conscience clear and pure. Of late, there has been an uproar about mental health, which was otherwise a taboo topic in India. What are your views on it? Mental health is a taboo topic, just like sex. People need to talk about both of these topics to raise awareness about them. Our country has a lot of mental issues and it is crucial to deal with them. The area of mental health and its treatment should be adequately professionalised as there are many psychiatrists out there who remain vague and don’t give proper diagnosis details to the patients. I went through this specific struggle in Bollywood because I was an outsider which led me towards depression. I was then asked to consult a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder which is similar to the diagnosis of Sushant Singh Rajput. That is how I connected to his story. According to me, the psychiatric occupation needs to be more adequately professionalised. There should be proper contracts drawn with the specialists to regularise the information between them and the patients. In abroad, each information remains confidential between the doctor and the patient, but here the case is different. Here, the consultants leak the information to the media as they want to get more patients. There are many mental health issues inside Bollywood because there are gangism and bullyism done by the big camps. These camps offer work to people who butter them. They are willing to give work to the people who are ready to work without any pay Due to this, many outsiders don’t get work and suffer from mental issues like depression, as they are treated as outcasts. So there are a lot of issues that are connected to mental health in Bollywood, but people hardly talk about it. Don’t you think it’s crucial to look into the mental wellbeing of each person, no matter how happy that person is on the outside? It is essential to look into the mental wellbeing of each person. You often don’t know what an actor is going through. They might be happy on the outside, but people are hardly aware of what is going on in their mind. Even the brightest smiling faces may be hiding the deepest scars. As such, we need to get beyond the social media and connect with people who matter in our lives on a more personal basis. Did you face any mental turmoil in your journey? How did you cope with it? Yes, I faced mental health turmoil in my journey. At one point in my career, I lost many projects, and wasn’t called for auditions. When this gangeism happened against me, I got depressed and consulted a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and prescribed me medicines. But soon I realised that those medicines weren’t doing any good to me but was pushing me towards a darker state. That’s when I thought of going away from all these- I reached out to my mother, changed my phone number, and started doing yoga, meditation and all those activities that made me happy and positive. I decided to be strong and not let anyone take advantage of me. I believe in survival of the fittest, and so I took these steps for my betterment. I faced terrible dark moments in life, but I always believed in lifting myself up as no other person is going to do that for me. How do you keep yourself fit? Are you an ardent gym person? I resorted to fitness to overcome the dark phase of life. I am a gym person and do regular workouts. I believe in sweating a lot as it releases the good hormones in the body. I also do yoga and Pranayam, and it is these activities that have made me a better person. I also practice different kinds of cardio exercises to keep myself fit and active. The pandemic has brought about new hobbies in people. What interest has it ignited in you? I have learnt to cook a bit as our cooks and helpers had to go home because of the pandemic situation. Also, I am learning to trade in shares and trying to understand the trade market from my father, who is an expert in trading and investment. So I help him and also learn from him in the process. Tell us the skincare routine you have been following religiously in the absence of access to salon/spas. I am missing salons and spas a lot as I regularly used to go for massages to relax the body and muscles after workouts. I think it has been since March that I haven’t visited a salon or spa. I wash my face regularly with water and don’t use a face wash as I have sensitive skin. Also, I wash my hair every second day as it has grown long and I haven’t been able to get a haircut. I feel that until the pandemic is over, we should get used to these long hair and the fact that we have to treat our face primarily with natural products that we can procure easily. I also try to eat healthily and moisturise my skin regularly. Share with us the recent movie/series you’re binging on. I have not been seeing any series or movies at present because I am concentrating a lot on the share trading work that I am learning. I like to talk a lot and so have started making videos. I spoke about Sushant Singh Rajput, about Indo Pak relations, about Hindus being targeted, about feminism and a lot many issues in the videos because I feel I need to talk about these. And I study a lot about these topics, which is why I don’t get much time to watch movies or series. The pandemic has led to a distraught violation of women’s rights with a spike in cases of domestic violence. What do you have to say about it? Yes, the cases of domestic violence have increased drastically. Usually, they go out for work and come back as better human beings. But at present, the frustration to be in the house 24×7 and the DNA of the man have led to a high rise of cases of domestic violence. I pray that God gives some wisdom in the minds of these men so that they understand that this is the time God has given them to spend with family and not to abuse the time that is in the hands. Also, the women affected by the violence should stand up against it and for their rights. They should call the cops and complain about the men. What would you like to share with your fans and our readers? Always raise your voice for the issues that you think you should stand up for. You live in a democratic country; it is the largest democracy in the world. Everyone is free to speak up, but we are still living with a colonial mindset. Always love your country India and the Bharatiya Sanskriti! The big actors who work in the Bollywood movies are not heroes; they are mere entertainers. The policemen who work day and night and the soldiers who guard the borders and provide security to all are the real-life heroes. They are the ones who deserve all the love and support from their countrymen. So, always love and respect the soldiers and policemen!