EXCLUSIVE: Banita Sandhu on battling depression: With therapy & support, I am better equipped to handle it now
After making her debut with Varun Dhawan in Shoojit Sircar’s 2018 coming-of-age drama, October, Banita Sandhu was recently seen in the filmmaker’s Sardar Udham, which featured Vicky Kaushal in the titular role. In an exclusive conversation with Pinkvilla, the actress opened up about the gap between the two films, importance of mental health, and much more. “I think people forget that I was still at the University when October was released. So I had to go back and graduate, and that was a couple of months,” says Banita.
She also states that back then her mental health was also not in a good place. “I needed a year out just to get my health back on track, because without my health I have nothing. So yes, I did take a year out mindfully and worked on my mental health. I also worked on my craft at the same time. I feel when October was released, it was just a lot. I was in my last year of Uni and it was my first film release. It really drained me mentally and I had to recover from it. Also, if there is anything that I want from my career is longevity. I really don’t care about the buzz, quick fame or quick rewards. I am in this profession because I love it so much, and I want to be doing it for the rest of my life,” informs the actress.
Banita further adds that just when she was getting in the game, had signed an agent, was working in India again, and was signing back-to-back projects, is when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. “It did slow down our careers but more importantly people lost family and loved ones, and I am just grateful that me and my family made it through during that time. I do feel that now finally the industry is getting back, not at the same pace, but at a certain pace and I can see a lot coming through. I really hope with cinemas reopening that it will stay open now and we won’t face another lockdown,” states Banita, adding that she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
“But mainly depression was what I was struggling with when I was 18 years old, and it was something I have been battling for three years, and if I am being honest, it’s something I will always battle and live with. But because I really worked on my mental health with therapy and the support around me, I am much better equipped to handle it now. I went through depression and got better too before the pandemic hit. So when it hit, it was almost like my depression prepared me for it, because I knew that at the end of the day, all my mental health and the health needs are the most basic things - which is a routine, my family, food, and being able to creatively stimulate my mind,” shares Banita.
She further adds, “I am not saying the pandemic was easy for me, it was difficult for everyone but I was much better equipped than my friends who hadn’t really acknowledged mental health before the pandemic. It was kind of a blessing in disguise, and if anything, I am grateful for my mental health that keeps me grounded, on track and in check with what’s actually important in life.”
Did the sudden attention that came her away after the release of her first film may have aggravated the anxiety? “You know, I was so distracted and honestly kind of absent due to my mental health, and with all the university work and responsibilities that I had, that I didn’t even understand the attention that I was getting or acknowledge it. I was just trying to get through the day. Also, I wasn’t even living in India so I didn’t really face that attention when I was back home. It sure must have had some impact, but I was honestly dealing with depression long before the attention came about. It was an issue I had to address within myself,” Banita signs off.