Niharika NM is a celebrity for speaking truth to the power of cinema, and not for screening conventional wisdom. (Image: DC)
Corporate PR is a well-oiled machine for films, but Niharika is the human counsel for whose authentic reactions the red carpet of personal warmth is rolled out. Her individualistic impulses to work of cinematic expressions represent genuine engagement with the drama, the thrills, and magic of cinema to which you and I might react, without sanitized spin. Her truths tap into our verisimilitude of non-experts, while teaching us the critical interpretative insights of someone with artistic passion.
She is a celebrity for speaking truth to the power of cinema, and not for screening conventional wisdom.
Let's get her intellectual bandwidth 70mm!
You were the first content creator from the non-fashion segment to open LFW. How does it feel?
Nerve-racking! I felt all sorts of emotions... I was overwhelmed, I was nervous, I was anxious. But I was also excited that I get to do things like this as a part of my job and out of my comfort zone.
From Instagram reels to ramp walk and now red carpet, how did the transition happen?
I honestly don’t know and neither would I say it was smooth. There were a few rocky bumps. Am glad the rocky part is over! Now I get to try my hand at experimenting with my personal style. That’s what I loved the most about the transition — that I got to experiment with fashion and find out what I like because I didn’t pay attention to it earlier. I would just live in sweat pants and crop tops. Now, I actually get to wear nice clothes.
You are in front of your phone camera all the time. But this was a different experience.
What I do in front of my camera in the confines of my home is something that’s right up my alley, my forte — comedy and observation comedy, relatable rants and sketches are something that I am so used to doing since I was 18 and now it comes so naturally to me. But doing something fashion for the first time, walking the ramp and having all those eyeballs on me, which I know are of different opinions, obviously, was very daunting. I was extremely nervous. But at the end of the day, I just reminded myself that it is one moment that you are gonna have, you either enjoy or mess it up by just being very anxious about it. So I did a combination of both — I messed up a little but I also enjoyed. So it was great!
You are now seen as the most relatable content creator on the block. What makes your videos easy to connect?
There relatability aspect because 99% of my videos, I pull from my personal experience or observations that I have had first hand and I obviously exaggerate that a little bit to turn them into a fiction piece. But it’s based out of reality and based on everyday things that we all observe, but don’t really pay any attention to. I think the fact that it happens to all of us is what makes it relatable.
You have collaborated with several big stars. How different is doing something that others want vis-a-vis your usual spontaneous witty gigs?
When I make videos for myself, I have full control. But when I collaborate with actors or celebrities, the difference is that there are two brains giving creative inputs. For the most part, I absolutely think it’s fantastic because that’s what a collaboration should be right? It shouldn’t just be one person telling the other person ‘hey you have to be this, this, this’. I love that every actor and actress that I have collaborated with so far, have been so involved in not just the process of filming it, but the writing, the post production... They have been so excited about it, which makes my day. When two people come together and ideate together and give their inputs and create something together, it brings out the best aspects of both parties involved and I think it’s wonderful.
How did you deal with the trolls?
I started out on the internet very young, at 17 or 18. I wasn’t well equipped to deal with hate at that age. So there were multiple times I wanted to give up because I am very sensitive, I am a cry baby — I cry for everything. If I am happy, I cry, when I am sad, I cry.
So definitely, getting hate would have made me cry so many times, I don’t even remember how many times! It’s been nine years now and I am at a point where every possible hate comment that can been thrown at me probably has already been. I wouldn’t say that I am insensitive to hate or I don’t have like thick skin where hate doesn’t affect me at all. On bad days, it really does affect me. But I don’t let the opinions seem like facts to me. I make sure that the line between opinions and facts is very defined and I know that it is this person’s opinion and it’s not who I am and I make sure to tell myself that.
What qualities should an influencer possess to make it big?
To be able to make content that you truly resonate with and believe in and are passionate about and not just like anything you think might be a trend or you think might interest an audience because that game will get very old very quickly and you won’t have the drive or motivation or will power to churn out content because it doesn’t come from a place of passion, but comes from a place of want of either fame, money or something superficial like that. So I think your reason to create needs to be a little deeper so you can dig deeper than yourself when you are not getting all the externals.
You are an Insta sensation. But do you miss YouTube?
I spent all of my college years living and breathing Youtube. All of my college years, I would spend hours and hours, weeks and months getting those videos shot, edited because I would do everything myself. I remember sitting for like 12 hours, 13 hours at a stretch to edit a video and Shooting those videos for 16 hours as I would have to set up the lights, the camera and I had to do everything myself. So to produce one video, I probably would have put in like 72 or more hours of labour. So as much as I enjoyed working hard for it, I don't miss it as much because YouTube is so much work. I feel like long format content, the game has changed and I don’t understand that game properly anymore.
I am extremely loyal to instagram. I love instagram, I love short format content which also comes with its own a set of challenges because in long format, you have time to set up a joke, a premise, a storyline like to get to the punch you have time to build it up. But in a reel or short format content on instagram, it’s very quick right? You have 30 seconds to set up your premise and deliver the punch. I love the challenge of it.
Your Instagram following is as much as that of an actress and the best part is even stars rope you in for movie promotions. How does that feel?
It feels great. I don’t know what else to say. I’m truly so, so lucky. Like I have an incredible audience base that supports me so much and and I think it’s also the extra love from South Indians also because we don’t see many of us cracking into the mainstream creator industry.
How did you convince your parents that you were serious about becoming a content creator?
I actually never tried convincing my parents because I knew they would say no. So I got an engineering degree, I got MBA and MFA. I got all of my following while I was still pursuing my MBA. I graduated 6-7 months ago. So I already had an established base by the time I graduated, which in itself like comforted my parents. We already set up a base for ourselves while doing the degree, so I think it didn’t scare them as much. But had I told them that I wanted to just be a full time creator and not done the degree, they absolutely would have screamed bloody murder.
If Niharika is not making videos, what is she doing?
If Niharika is not making videos, she’s sleeping, she’s resting, she’s horizontal, reading a book or binge-watching a Netflix show.
Every kid today wants to become a Youtuber. Do you think it's time we called it a serious profession?
Given the current state of the creator economy, I think it is already a serious profession. Every kid wants to become a youtuber because of the superficial aspect of it. But I think when they get slightly older, and if they still decide to pursue content, they have a purpose and if they have a passion for a certain type of content and they know what they want to talk about, then great! why not? I definitely think it’s a serious profession now.
I honestly didn’t think that the content video creation would get anywhere, let alone get this far. I started making videos as a college student on the side, as a hobby because I was passionate about it and I needed a creative outlet. I had fun making videos more for myself than for anybody else. But to see it turn into what it is today and to see people’s love and support for the content that I make, I am so grateful.
Experience at Cannes 2023
It was incredible, surreal. It was one of the highlights of my entire year. I had an incredible time being involved in the magic of cinema and also a little bit of fashion, absolutely floored by everything that Cannes has to offer. So, so grateful I got the opportunity, absolutely had a lovely time.
Prep for Lakme Fashion show
My biggest preparation was learning how to walk in heels. For the longest time, I have only worn sneakers or like big junkie block heels. And to try and wear something like a skinny heels was daunting and I think I tried to be a little more graceful than I usually am.