From London to Mumbai and back. We catch up with actor and sports anchor Karishma Kotak
Fresh off anchoring the Super Boxing League, Boxing League, the Asian Premier Cricket League and the Champions Polo League, actor and sports anchor, Karishma Kotak has gone the distance. “I did part of my schooling in Panchgani and my dad was born here. From a very young age I’ve been making frequent visits but I wasn’t brought up here. I feel like a fish out of water in London as well, since I’ve spent 12 months consistently living in India, I don’t know where I belong anymore – London or India,” Karishma shares, her voice, static, due to the long distance call. Ironically enough, she was in London. Karishma has glided down fashion runways for Manali, M.A.C. and Provogue. A woman who confidently talks about cricket in a man’s world, she’s hosted the largest of leagues and of course, where it all started for her in India, at Salman Khan and Sony’s, Big Boss. She’s appeared on the cover of some of the biggest brands in the fashion industry – Femina, Vogue, Maxim and Elle and can be spotted in the ads of Dove, Ponds, Diesel and many more. This is one woman that the camera loves to make love to. She isn’t afraid of it now and she wasn’t when she was 16. While most of us were busy being teenagers, Karishma was modelling for UK magazines like Seventeen.
I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to be exposed to a world that demands perfection at an age that promises insecurity. And how did that go? “I thought I was like the best thing on this planet!” she laughs aloud. “At 16, you’re a young woman, going through puberty and you think you know everything. You want to play dress up and want to have your hair down or makeup done and all of that. To be honest, I was lucky because I was with good names right from the beginning. ” I could almost see a 16-year-old so fascinated with the fact that she’s doing a photoshoot that there was no space for insecurity. “My mom would drop me at the studio for five-six hours and we would take beautiful photos and it was actually fun there, it got scarier when I moved to Mumbai though, because I was still in my own territory (fashion).” Circa 2005, after completing an Arts degree in Advertising and Marketing, Karishma took a year off to figure out for herself what she wants from – and of – life. While some use the dropped year to travel or explore themselves, Karishma packed her bags and moved to Mumbai. Her plan was to spend a year giving modelling a shot and then return to London for her post-graduation. “Then, there weren’t many agencies, only two, I sent my pictures to Matrix and they called back and I signed up with them. My first job was for Kingfisher with Atul (Kasbekar) and Deepika (Padukone), I was lucky I joined a good agency and I just kept working.
Even my parents felt comfortable that I was in good hands. But if she had to choose, Karishma prefers her modelling days in the west. “People there are very clear about what they want, their auditions don’t have a 100 people of all shapes and sizes, they have a set of specifications and the six people that show up, meet them all. Also, I believe they use real people that are more relatable whereas in India, that is often overlooked – it’s both good and bad,” she mulls in retrospect. If I followed her train of thought, I could understand the risk and the uncertainty, leaving behind the loved and familiar with no Plan B in place. Isn’t this straight out of a movie? They say fate often favors the brave. Her gamble paid off. In the winter of 2012, Karishma became a part of the sixth season of Big Boss. “There’s no denying it changed my life,” she says with candour. I was more interested in knowing what it did to her as a person. “You’re under house arrest with random strangers who may or may not become your friends. Whether you like the people you are with or not, it doesn’t matter. You have to hold on to your instinct. No one’s bad; but you are made to perform tasks and are turned against each other, it takes an emotional toll on you.
My father was very ill and so I was in a dark place. I wouldn’t want anyone I love to go there. You’re not lonely, but you’re alone.” Trying to shake off the sombre moment we found ourselves wrapped in, I ask about her OCD and the kind of movie she’d watch in a loop: “Piku!” pat comes the response and her signature laughter. “I love that film, every person in it was lovely!” And before you jump to conclusions, no, Karishma doesn’t see herself jumping into the movie world anytime soon. She loves what she does and wants to continue doing it for a very long time. “You travel the world, you meet lots of different people, and you work with great brands and do great shows. I’ve done a few movies down south but it was difficult because it was a huge film with Chiranjeevi and I couldn’t speak Hindi, let alone Tamil! But the way I look at it, once you’ve done that, everything else will be a piece of cake!” she grins. There we go with the optimism again. Karishma also presented ‘Extraaa Innings’ during the IPL in 2013, “In London, we would get together and watch the match, it’s how we held on to our roots,” she reminisces.
But it was too late, I was already lost, cricket might as well be Spanish for me. “You can’t ignore something like cricket as an Indian. So I wasn’t alien to it but I wasn’t an expert either. “Now I’ve become a sports wiz!” she adds with a wicked grin. Beneath it, I can sense the pride. Currently, the lady isn’t dating anybody. So I wonder whether there are a set of requirements my URBANE reader would need to possess in his armament. “For starters, he has to be a man and not a man-child,” she says drolly. “Someone who is sorted. He could be divorced or have kids, that doesn’t bother me because we all come with baggage but he shouldn’t be lost. I want to date him; not raise him!” It might have been a laugh, I could never really decide because the voice at the other end was cracking. It was a call from London, after all.