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Entertainment, Sandalwood

Harshika Poonacha is not one to shy away from a challenge, and reveals how the casting couch in Bollywood was the reason she stayed away.

Harshika Poonacha

It has been 10 long years in the film industry for this Coorg beauty who started acting at the age of 15. She has at least 20 films to her credit across various languages including Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam. Actress Harshika Poonacha, who turned a year older on May 1 celebrated her birthday marking her decade-long special journey. She was also supposed to make her debut in Bollywood but backed off from it due to ‘casting couch’ incidents which have become a major concern in the industry, after a series of actresses came out in public, expressing their anguish against it. 

Harshika speaks to Bengaluru Chronicle about her reason to opt out of Bollywood for now, and even shared her birthday plans.

“I was 15 when I started my journey in the industry. Then, I was juggling school and films, and continued to do so till I graduated in electrical engineering in flying colours. I never had the opportunity to celebrate my birthday, apart from a few charitable causes. But this time, I thought I should thank each and everyone who has been a part of my special journey with a special treat. I have been busy calling everyone to be a part of the celebration. It’s been so special that the smile on my face hasn’t disappeared for three days,” says Harshika Poonacha.

For someone with no godfather in the industry, it’s been a great achievement to survive this long. “Many have started their journey into the industry, but none survived this long. It was only Radhika Pandit who made her debut a year before me, who has stayed this long. There were several ups and downs in my career but I have managed to make an identity for myself. People, both in the industry and the lovely audience recognise me for my work, irrespective of how the films have faired at the box office,” she adds.

The actress also addresses the elephant in the room, the casting couch. “After a great experience working in the South Indian film industry, I had the opportunity to work in a couple of Bollywood films, names which I cannot reveal as I left them even before they took off. In fact, they were released and I am told that they ‘bombed’ at the box office,” she shares.

Ask her about the reason she has stayed away from an industry which is considered the best platform, she says that after finishing the photoshoot for the Bollywood projects, she was contacted by the manager and was told that they were expecting other ‘commitments’ too, and this is when she decided to drop them.

“As soon as I came to know about it, I decided to quit the project. I have worked with most of the leading production houses in the south, and I never felt such bad vibes while working with them, but unfortunately I had to come across such a thing even before I could start in Bollywood. Moreover, I have never taken any shortcuts and strongly believe in professional ethics,” Harshika adds.

Her debut Malayalam movie Charminar, has earned her appreciation even as the movie is set for a Dubai release in the coming days.

“It was only in the past four years, I have had the opportunity to work in films without also juggling studies. Previously school and college kept me busy, and I worked during breaks. Getting admission to a reputed college was another challenge as the cutoff percentage was so high. I managed both studies and films well. I would shoot in the day, and stay awake for long hours to study at night. It paid off when I passed engineering with a distinction,” she smiles.

The actress who a won state award for her supporting role in the film Tamassu, also awaits the release of her Kannada film Chitte.