Inside the world of India’s most prominent cosplayer

Mumbai,Krishna Bahirwani: In an exclusive interview, Niharika Patil, who goes by the name of Niha Novacaine speaks to Krishna Bahirwani about what being a cosplayer entails.

Niharika Patil
Niharika Patil
Who is a cosplayer and why did you choose to become one?

It is understandable that someone would ask me who a cosplayer is, but the reason one cosplays could be one of many. Let’s just start with what Cosplay is, the word “Cosplay” is a Japanese abbreviation of the words “costume” and “playing”. So, technically, it’s “costume playing” much like the western counterpart of LARP or Live Action Role Playing. To Simplify it further, let’s just call it dressing exactly like your favourite character. From contact lenses to body paint to makeup and wigs, cosplay is becoming a world sensation. In the recent years, it’s become popular in India as well. Most cosplayers are fans of the series or franchises their characters, the ones they dress as are from. For example, if one wants to enact or cosplay Deadpool, they are obviously big fan of Deadpool as the costume isn’t easy to put together. This elaborate game of dress up is the world of cosplay. Millions of people around the world cosplay as a tribute to their favourite series or games. For most people it’s a really expensive hobby. For others, like myself, I turned it into my profession. Essentially, anyone who dresses up as a fictional character or even as a real person other than himself is a cosplayer. I cannot answer for others but I’d say that cosplaying my favorite characters gives me strength. It reminds me of how their wit, courage and cunning might have pulled them out of adversity. You could say cosplay is my battle armour against the real world.

What is it about Anime and Manga that appeals to you?

It’s just been a huge part of my life growing up. Other girls were into boy bands, I loved Anime and Manga. Thanks to Cartoon Network, Animax and the blessed Internet, I’ve had access and exposure to Japanese pop culture over the years to pick and choose what I like. As a teen, I watched a lot of magical girl and romance Anime, but as I grew, my taste in genres varied and it all just depended on my mood. This year in July, I finally made my first trip to Japan and my fire and love for Japanese anime was almost instantly rekindled. I’d say I follow all the mainstream anime but every once in a while my friends would suggest me some new Manga to read and then bam! I’m into a whole new phase of only anime and Manga.

What has your journey as a cosplayer been like so far?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. It’s a truly satisfying hobby. It’s been the best of times in my life and also the worst of times. It took my family 8 years to realise that I’m not into anything of the funky sort. You see, cosplaying is so new in India and it’s only recently that my family have accepted it as what I want to do, for now at least. At times, there are weird people out there including creeps and perverts. Sigh. I really didn’t want to talk about this, but someone has to, so people have to realise that cosplayers are people and not mannequins they can touch whenever. It’s always the same at conventions, they either offend me as a girl or they break one of my props. It’s annoying. I mean, what do these folk know about the blood , sweat and tears that go behind the cosplayer’s costume. Yeah, that’s the most annoying bit. Otherwise even after sleepless nights, cuts, burns, pain and anger, if you finish your costume and you are happy with it.I can’t compare that feeling of accomplishment to anything else. It’s exhilarating.

Do you manage to fully support yourself through cosplay?
No. Not all the time. I do a bunch of other work like anchoring events, streaming and modelling that help me survive. It’s a tough job, but I love it.

Do you prefer to cosplay a certain kind of characters? Why do you choose the characters you do to cosplay ?
Ah, again all depends on a whim. Sometimes I get so excited, I want to look like the character I want to cosplay. For example, the day The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt released on Steam, I bleached my hair white like Ciri’s from the same game and I’m cosplaying her in January. I’m a huge Blizzard fan so I’ll be cosplaying a lot from the Blizzard universes. Other costumes on the way are Queen of Pain from DOTA 2 and a crossover of Elsa from the DIsney movie Frozen.

You have been a cosplayer for 10 years, Do you think you can do it for another 10?
Why not? I love it and the cosplay community is only going to grow in India. I’d love to cosplay for another 10 years or probably forever. The thing is, I don’t think I’ll ever stop cosplaying but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing I’ll ever do.