In my long career as a film writer I’ve had the privilege of being very close to some major superstars from down South. Some are born humble,others simply pretend to be humble.Yash is the humblest superstar that I know. Every time we have one of our lengthy conversations, most of them off the record(more about that later) I look for signs of changes in the KGF superstar.
There are none. Firmly grounded , with not a jot of arrogance about the hysteria he generates among his fans, Yash has not changed in the past three years since KGF released. Every time we speak I remind him of his humility. And his response is the same every time, “Sir , when you say this, I get very scared. Because I am not really that humble. I may come across that way to you because you are so grounded yourself.”
Yash speaks freely and without checks and balances. He shares his success with a sense of standing back to observe the sheer wonder of it. His world revolves around his wife and two children. Yash has seen heartbreak only once. When his baby-girl had her ears pierced. He admits he wept when he saw his precious princess wince .
Yash’s Dad Arun Kumar was a BMTC bus driver a government employee. Yash’s real name is Naveen Kumar. His mother’s name is Pushpa, a housewife.
Recalling his humble(that word again!) beginnings, “We also had a provision store. I used to take care of it buy all the vegetables, etc. We faced a lot of difficulties. Initially my parents were not happy with my decision to become an actor. My dad wanted me to be a government officer. I wanted to be an actor from my childhood when I would participate in a lot of dramas and dance competition. I got addicted to the applause and the whistles from when I was very young. I loved it! Even my teachers called me ‘Hero’ I believed I was a hero. I thought I’d be a superstar the minute I got here(in Bengaluru). I lived in my own dream world. Even now I feel I am living in adream.”
Yash left home for Bengaluru with practically no money. “I ran off from my home. When I came to Bangalore I was scared the minute I reached . Such a big intimidating city.But I was always a confident guy. I wasn’t scared to struggle. I had just 300 rupees in my pocket when I reached Bangalore. I knew if I went back my parents would never allow me to come back .My parents gave me an ultimatum. I was free to try my luck as an actor but after that if it didn’t work out I had to do what they asked me to.”
Yash’s family thought he’d come back. “I began doing theatre.Someone luckily took me to do theatre . I knew nothing about it.I began making money backstage. Chai se lekar poora sab kuch….. Initially I also assisted a director to enter the Kannada film industry. While I did a theatre travelled a lot. My first appearance in stage was noticed.”
Unlike the I-slept-on-the-pavement variety of romanticized struggle that many superstars assume, Yash doesn’t glorify his ascent to stardom. “I didn’t have to struggle much. Everything went smoothly.Then I got into television though I didn’t want to, but I had to start earning money. I shifted my parents to Bangalore. Since then we all live together.My debut film Mogina Mannasu got me a Filmfare award. There were four heroes and four heroines and still I was noticed. In fact my future wife Radhika was one of the heroines in that film. We started our careers together on television. Then we made our film debut at the same time. We were not seeing each other at that time.We were only friends.”
Today Yash is a Pan-India superstar. Was he surprised by the success of KGF?“When my producer Vijay Kirgandur, director Prashant Neel and I set out to make this film our aim was to give the Kannada film industry the status and glory it deserved.We felt the other South Indian film industries had marched forward. We needed to do the same. To me, the respectability and love KGF has got for the Kannada film industry is all the reward that I need.KGF is not being seen as a regional film.What more could I ask for? God has been kind.”
Watching this superstar’s stardom grow without his ego following suit, is a pleasure and a relief. Most of our conversations are off the record because the minute his quotes appear under my byline the South Indian journalists get very upset because he doesn’t speak to other journalists. He says he doesn’t see me as a journalist. As long as you don’t behave like a superstar with me I promise not behave like a journalist with you.Happy Birthday, Yash.