Goa has produced many talented individuals over the years and many have made their way into the film and entertainment industry. Despite being one of the smallest states in India, it has many precious pearls in the ocean. Harsha Khandeparkar is one such talent who left to work in Mumbai’s tinsel town at a time when not many Goans had the courage to do so. She was young then and now, she works for most of the famous TV channels.
Harsha started singing at a very young age and she has captivated TV audiences with her stellar performances in many serials. Even as Marathi films have also opened up for her, she confesses she would love to do a Konkani film in the near future.
Harsha inherits her singing talent from her mother. “I climbed on to the stage at a young age to showcase my talent,” said Harsha adding that at barely nine years old, she was performing on stage. “It all began when they asked to participate in an event. People really appreciated me and I was even invited to sing for a band as a child artist,” Harsha recalls.
Even as studies took over as her main focus, Harsha continued to sing and pursue another passion: acting. “I have been born and brought up in Goa. I completed my 12th at Xavier’s and then shifted to Fergusons, Pune, to pursue my studies in Zoology. I continued to sing and do drama, but I never thought that acting would turn out to be my mainstream career,” she reveals.
Bunking college one day turned out to be more than just a happy outing for the young students. “These people from 9X TV were going around looking for fresh faces. They asked us to introduce ourselves on camera which we happily did. The recording was sent to Mumbai. The next thing I came to know is that within a month I was asked to come down to Mumbai for the audition for a role in a TV serial ‘Nilanjana’,” relates Harsha of the first innings of her film career which began in 2009, during her first year of college.
What perhaps took Harsha by surprise is that although she was asked to audition for the role of a younger sister, she was chosen to play the lead. “My Hindi was not good I had no experience of cameras or acting. I do not know what they saw in me, but they chose me for the lead.”
Understanding the intrinsic importance of education, Harsha returned to college after a year, after the serial stopped, to complete her graduation. “Education is important. Studying or working outside Goa also gives you that extra edge. In my college, I interacted with people of different nationalities and cultures. I must credit my college for the exposure and confidence I gained. Education has helped me in every aspect of my life,” she reiterates.
In the course of her career in TV and Marathi film, Harsha has played varied lead roles from comedy to negative characters. “For Nilanjana, they hired a tutor for me so that I could speak the Marathi language well. It was a huge body of work and I had to work with very well-versed actors. I played the role of a young girl paired with a much older actor in this serial,” she states. The offers came pouring in after that, an advantage she says of having played the lead role.
“I kept getting calls and I am glad to be a working actor. After this, I played the lead role in ‘Hum Dono hai alag alag’ on Star one. It was produced by Paresh Rawal. It was a hilarious role where I played a coy girl against a modern boy. This ran for 7 to 8 months. ‘Ultra’ on Colours came next. I played the negative role of a girl pretending to be blind. Next came Star Plus Rajashree’s ‘Garv – ‘pyar ka dard’. I also did a Marathi movie, ‘Teez Umar Ka’ opposite Chinmay Mandlekar, another well-known name. In between, I also did acts for CID, Savdhan India, and others,” she elaborates.
From bunking college to bagging a lead role in a TV serial might be a dream most girls have but rarely achieve. “It’s a luck-based industry and I am lucky indeed to be a working actor,” admits Harsha, who has been grateful for a good break that has helped to pave the way for her. The journey nevertheless has been tough sometimes.
“Anyone from the media knows it takes a lot of courage to face this field which is not steady. There are so much uncertainty and competition you can get bogged down by rejection. For 1 role there are 1000 actors auditioning. I was lucky that with my first break I got to play the lead, but there were times when things did not work out. I had to stand in queues for auditions.”
Harsha advises people who want to join the industry to have a back- up plan in terms of education or other skills, so if acting does not work, there is a standby. “The industry is not easy to survive.”
More than her acting prowess, what has sustained Harsha is the unstinted support of her family, especially her mother who encouraged her ‘to go ahead and do it’. “To come from a small place like Goa and to work and survive in such an industry, family support, especially moral support, is vital to make that journey easy,” she avers.
Harsha’s main mantra of success, unlike her contemporaries, is to be open to working in different kinds of films and serials. Not being choosy has landed her more roles. “Out of sight is out of mind. It’s important to be seen. I am not picky,” she explains of the industry she has now worked in for almost a decade. Terming herself as an actor who sings and wants to explore different avenues, Harsha once worked as a creative head for a serial on DD which ran for a year and a half. “I wrote for the serial and I played the lead role as well.”
As much as she enjoys working in serials, her work in a Marathi film gave her a high. “To see yourself on a 70mm screen is another feeling altogether,” she enthuses. For the future, she sees herself hopefully performing in more Marathi movies but is also open to working in Konkani films if the opportunity arises. “Goa does not have many choices. I would love to come to Goa if there are opportunities.”
What does Harsha do when she’s not in front of a camera one may ask. Well, she indulges in her favourite hobbies like dance, for which she attends classes, reading, watching movies, creative cooking and as a foodie, she enjoys visiting different places. “I enjoy my life. I believe if you are working hard, you must enjoy yourself too. I love to go out with my friends, partying and shopping,” she states. However, she would also like to acquire new skills like baking, playing the guitar, which she has already begun, and the harmonium.
For Harsha, the stars still beckon and twinkle in the distance.