Words: Yvonne Jacob
Photography & Styling: Kal Kalim
Model: Akshara Gowda
Creative Agency: Jeans Corp
Hair & Make-up: Kavita Sekar
Styling Assistant: Swathi Enjamuri
Location: Discover India Studios, Chennai
A RAMP MODEL TURNED ACTRESS, AKSHARA GOWDA HAS COME A LONG WAY. BUT THE JOURNEY HASN’T BEEN AN EASY ONE
One call was all it took for me to change my preset assumptions about interviewing Akshara Gowda. If you’re stuck on the part where I said “preset assumptions” then let me clarify. I was mentally prepared to schedule my interview with Akshara depending on her availability because, hey, she’s the Southern sensation, right? But when I got on call and asked her about the timing, “Tell me when you are free and I’ll call you” was her reply. That took me a minute to process because according to the well-rehearsed script in my head, those were my lines. This was not going to be run of the mill at all.
The next morning is all about patience. I wait for the last few minutes to pass before the hands on the clock meet at 12. It is time. We exchange our greetings and the much awaited interview starts. I start off by asking her what Akshara Gowda is like off-screen.
“I’m a very odd combination. I’m a mix of extremely sweet but with a touch of the don’t mess with me. People who know me, they know me as a sweet person. I am quite open with them but then again, it’s an odd combination.” Curious about this duality of personality, I ask who brings out what side, “I start off with don’t mess with me until people get to know me. People like my parents have seen both sides but I think I am somebody who’s as normal as possible. I come from a very orthodox South Indian family where if I do some kind of a glamorous role or photo-shoot, then I make sure they don’t see it,” she laughs. Makes me think about all those times when we try and shield from our parents our pouting Insta posts or whatever pose is trending on social media.
We understand each other perfectly. Family is priority. Any special memories to cherish? “I was always competitive. I was always in the first or second rank and for three years, from 8th to 10th grade, I never got a first rank. It was 10th grade when I topped the entire school, and my parents got me my most expensive watch till then. My parents are not from the film fraternity and if someone tells them that they saw my movie, I see the proud look on their faces and it makes me happy. For me, there’s something to cherish every day.”
True, nothing comes close to the pride of dippy parents. But what about the journey to stardom? That could not have been as easy one. “I think I’m a survivor. I started off as a ramp model and wherever I am today is all by myself. I went through a phase when I was depressed but I got out of it. There’s so much to learn every day and you think you know it all, but you don’t. Some experiences will affect you and change you as a person. I don’t think the base changes but you start looking at things differently. I’ve done my share of mistakes in my career but now I live one day at a time because post-depression, I’m just glad I survived that and I’m alive.”
I wonder what it’s like to be depressed but feel it might be trespassing too deep into her personal life. She must have read my thoughts because she continues, “You don’t even realise that you are depressed. You just get disinterested in life and sleep the whole day and chalk it up as something that is physically wrong with you. It took me one and a half year to know that I was depressed. I had my family and friends who stood by me. I had my treatment but post that too I had to make efforts to get over it. But depression is like cancer. It’s not possible to get rid of it and it might relapse. I can’t say I’m completely free of it but I know how to deal with it now. It’s about how you turn it around for yourself.”
Keen to break away to happier grounds, I fall back on the one topic that never gets to make an adult smile. Childhood. Would the little Akshara be proud of the person she is today? Of her success? “More than proud, I would be inspired. After going through so much, being where I am, I would be proud and inspired, not professionally but my growth as a person, that’s what I’m talking about.”
Over the course of our tête-à-tête I also discover that Akshara has a whacky side to her. So I ask her about the whackiest thing on her bucket list. Her answer makes me smile. “I never have a bucket list. If I want to do something, I make sure I do it. There are so many things I want to do when I get old. You know that age when people can’t really say anything back to you and they can just smile? So I want to put on a shirt that has ‘Life’ printed on it and distribute lemons on the street and ask them to make lemonade!” Picturing this whole scenario, the two of us laugh. The subject must have tickled her whacky bone for she continues, “Ya! I also want a parrot and I would teach it to say ‘She turned me into a parrot. Please help!’ I really want to do that.”
You know what makes a great story, great? The twist that comes in the tale. Those unexpected turns in the story that make you go “Oh! Wasn’t anticipating that at all.” Whatever Akshara needs to be in her reel life, the real woman is simple, down-to-earth, firmly rooted and with more than a touch of humour. Akshara is the twist in the tale.