Popularly known in world of gaming and cosplay as Niha Novacaine, Niharika was introduced to the world of cosplay through her love for anime and manga. “One day I was searching online for one of my favourite video game characters, and stumbled on images of fans dressed as their favourite anime and manga characters. I found that pretty cool and through my research I learnt more about cosplay,” says Niharika.
Niharika, a twelve-year-old then, fell in love with cosplay and decided to become one of the best cosplay artists of the country. “It is very popular to hire cosplayers abroad, especially in Japan, which then caught on to the western world. And now it’s beginning to gain some acceptance in India,” says Niharika.
However, Niharika seriously began to work towards a professional career in cosplay when she was in junior college. She established the first of its kind anime club in Mumbai; and joined a fashion course to aid her growing passion for the art. Niharika’s first cosplay character was the ninja Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto.
Niharika’s professional foray into cosplay began in 2013. At that time, she was studying psychology, but dropped out from the course and joined fashion designing. “ I was into cosplay as a hobby but wanted to learn more about it. I wanted to learn to make my own costumes. Soon I began making my own costumes, and learnt about make-up and accessorizing. Work started slowly trickling in. I won’t say I am very busy and hardly have the time, but it surely is heading there,” adds Niharika.
Since the past two years, Niharika has been in the world of cosplay and alternative fashion designing, and the journey has not been easy. “I was pretty much the first cosplay artist in the country. Apart from that I am a metal and goth head, and an alternative model, so I was isolated from most people. Even my college friends would keep away from me, thinking I was weird. It was pretty hard initially but then I was able to turn people around, and today it’s picking up, so it feels great,” says Niharika.
Added to this, is the perception of some people of cosplay as consent. “There are those who try to touch you and think it is okay, but it just isn’t. You have the lecherous kind everywhere, who can really put you
off, but then if you have an open and safe environment it really is fun. There is nothing else I can see myself doing,” adds Niharika.Talking about the changing scenarios in India, Niharika says: “It is good to see the change, a lot of gaming companies are coming to India now. Elsword, which is big abroad, will be launching in India. It’s really catching up, I hope more games come in and there is more demand for the work I do. India has beautiful art and talent; it’s unbelievable that there is so little recognition of it.”
With the increasing number of people who are venturing into the world of cosplay, Niharika advices everyone to keep it fun and entertaining. Also, the venues for designers and costume-making are limited. Says she: “You don’t have to go for super expensive costumes; you can always look at budget options. Try not to be over competitive with other cosplayers, because it just takes the fun out of the whole experience.”
Niharika believes that cosplay gives you the power to become a character you love, and derive an inner strength from that. “I get strength from every character I portray, I feel braver as a person. If I get to choose the character I play, I like anime powers that tackle social problems and personal issues. If you look at a popular character like Harry Potter, it is about the strength he derives from fighting against evil. Maybe it’s because I feel strongly about so many things, that I want to be that character for that duration,” concludes Niharika.
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