This article is the first in our series ‘The Reinvention‘ about women who adapted to the ‘new normal’ during the COVID lockdown and took a new direction in their career during this challenging period.
By Shweta Bhandral
Her personality leaves a lasting impression on you – Priya Malik is poetry in action. The 33-year-old actor, poet and model started her career journey as a high-school teacher in Australia, who shot to fame after participating in reality show Big Brother Australia. It was followed by Bigg Boss in India, which gave the Dehradun-born girl an opportunity to be back home in her country.
“I was yearning to come back to India since long,” she says. She admits that while reality TV stars are stereotyped and it’s not an ideal way for a performing artist to make her debut in the entertainment industry, the show did give her a large fan following and a financial footing to set up base in Mumbai.
A poet since the age of 12, Priya had participated in standup comedy gigs and poetry readings at various events in Australia since 2014 when she won her first Australian Poetry slam heat for her work When he told me, he doesn’t love me anymore.
This recognition acted as an impetus for her to pursue spoken-word performances in India too. Even while taking up TV shows, modelling and acting assignments, Priya did not give up on her poetry. In the past few years, she has put spoken word on the centre-stage of performing arts events all over India. “I find my life creatively more fulfilling in India,” she says.
Her hands where full when India went into lockdown. “Initially, I was relieved at getting a chance to slow down. Some of my events and shoots got postponed. However, as time went by, I realised the impact would last longer than anticipated, and it began to worry me.”
Two months into the lockdown, performing artists began doing online performances on Zoom, selling tickets on Book My Show. Just a few days before the lockdown, Priya had conducted an online workshop on poetry, which had sold out.
That workshop became the base for her new launch. She learnt how Zoom works, put together her modules, and conducted her first Priya Ki Pathshaala workshop in May 2020.
“I thought it would be hard to feel connected with students, but I guess my passion helped me overcome that awkwardness. I decided to not worry about making it perfect; my main concern was keeping it real, and I allowed them to do the same. My cat jumped at me during one of the events, and we all just laughed it out.”
Soon, Priya was comfortable with the routine. Priya Ki Pathshaala is a two-day, six-hour workshop that costs Rs 999 per person, and can accommodate about 50 participants. “In one way, COVID has taken the world apart, but digitally, it has also brought us together,” says Priya.
“Participants in my workshop are poetry lovers from all over the world – from Kerala to Kashmir and Canada to Dubai and Germany. It has been amazing to be able to connect with an audience I probably wouldn’t have been able to connect with in non-COVID times.”
After having successfully conducted several workshops in the past two months, Priya – who also collaborates with other poets – intends to keep them going post-lockdown.
First published in eShe’s August 2020 issue
Syndicated to Money Control