The challenges of being a creative persona in an increasingly intrusive digital age are endless. The realm which is constantly observant, allows very little room for mistakes and demands an unrealistic standard of perfection and righteousness.
At the same time, the democratisation of content has allowed room for amateur creators, creative entrepreneurs, established celebrities and artists alike to spark a conversation on their personal journeys.
In this rising creative economy, online discourses revolve largely on the role of creativity, mental health and how the two concepts are perceived. Even in these dystopic scenarios that the online realm presents us with, there is a glimmer of hope in the dialogue and safe spaces that these creatives have helped establish.
Amidst this sea of voices on the internet, Shruti Haasan has created a ripple that is unmissable. As an actor, singer, songwriter and model, Haasan’s creative journey was privy to several mental health upheavals that the artist has been rather candid about for several years now.
“The weaker you feel, the stronger you project yourself and the stronger you feel, the more vulnerable and honest you’re willing to be.”— Shruti Haasan
How would you map your mental health journey over the years?
I’ve had an acute awareness of it from day one which I truly think is a blessing. Maybe because I was in an artistic home and it is a natural extension to have artistically encouraging parents who make you think about how you feel and what you think about it. These are really the basic steps needed to be connected with your mental mindscape.
After that, it was about getting therapy, understanding the value of it and experiencing the long-drawn process that follows.
How do you keep a check on your mental health even as you shuttle across your various creative pursuits?
I took a break from work and started living a sober life which was the first step. We all have chemicals running through our minds, our bodies and I didn’t want to douse it with more chemicals.
It’s a process, I wasn’t too good at coping with it in the beginning. It is really through sobriety and therapy that I have been able to deal with it.
When I came out about my personal journey, I realised that there are so many closeted female alcoholics going through anxiety and I think that every addiction is triggered by something. This is something I wanted to talk about it as a woman.— Shruti on sobreity
You recently released a track named Edge that powerfully delves into shedding one’s skin and redefining oneself. What was the inspiration behind this?
Before Edge, I went AWOL and disappeared from the Indian scene; film and music included. I decided that I wanted to start from scratch. I started working with producers from England, started writing new songs, reworked my old ones and also started performing at pubs where half of them didn’t even know who I was.
I had a completely new approach to a new audience to whom Bollywood meant squat. Haasan meant nothing and it was so liberating for me as an artist having lived a different perspective of it in the past.
How did Edge finally happen? Walk us through the journey of the song.
When the lockdown struck, that was yet another paradigm shift for me. I couldn’t write at the start at all. I was working on poetry and talking to women who inspire me online but I could not get myself to write a song.
I spent March till August last year working on it and I didn’t need any pompous arrangement to put it out.
I finally shot it on my phone at home in a black box I constructed with cloth because that is what it felt like in my head. It was about going to the edge of who I really am and what I am feeling.
We lose that courage to redefine ourselves, thats what being jaded is, it is not having the excitement to going back to square one. To anyone that’s starting out, it is the best time. The doubt (you have about yourself) actually drives you to solutions. It is a great time to be any kind of artist right now.— Shruti to a young generation of creatives that are just starting out
Lastly, what do you think are effective ways to break the stigma around mental health?
There is scrutiny around the world regarding mental health. I’ve tried for many years to understand this myself. The more I started talking about my mental health with my therapist, I came to realise that I couldn’t even talk to my friends and family on things that deeply impacted me. I felt like someone else had written a role for me and I was simply playing it.
We tend to project ourselves as a brand, a caricature and I decided that maybe I want to project myself as a person first. Once that happened, I was able to understand myself and others.
Shruti’s voice uniquely shines through an echo of hope and strength for the future of mental health and mental health awareness for the creative class.
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