Meet Ayesha Kanga: The Vivacious Debutante In Netflix’s Class

ayesha kanga

The power of creative self-expression chartered new heights of exhilaration for model and actor Ayesha Kanga, known for her debut role as Yashika—the manipulative spoilt brat whom audiences loved to hate in the wildly popular Netflix series Class. A career in acting was not on the cards for the National Institute of Design graduate until Kanga watched the series Made in Heaven.

“I wanted to be an artist, a designer and a creative director. Modelling happened to me during the gap year in design when I was fired from a job. I was passionate about image-making and fashion. It was during the pandemic when I had a lot of free time and auditioned for Class,” she smiles as we get on a freewheeling chat.

ayesha kanga

Bagging The Role

Ayesha Kanga started with a blank slate without knowing about the series and its makers. “A friend of mine told me it was going to be the Spanish adaption of Elite, and I binged the show and fell in love with Lu, the character Yashika is based on. I was shortlisted for Koel’s character but wanted to audition for Yashika and was met with opposition.

Later, I found an intern working on the project who sneaked me in to test for Yashika. I heard from them after months suddenly; I was shortlisted for both parts. I pestered my way to play Yashika onscreen,” she admits. It culminated as an extension of Kanga’s way of life, “I live my life in phases of ultimate whack. Even with acting, I pushed things and worked solely to-wards them with blinkers on.”

Creating ‘Yashika’

Ayesha Kanga was drawn towards Yashika’s character arc, contrary to conventional storytelling. “In the first season of Elite, Lu comes across as a catty girl who is annoying and caricaturish. You are not supposed to like her. She showcases her vulnerability eventually. I love how she goes on from being the most hated character to being the most loved one. It’s difficult to play a character like hers, knowing people would hate Yashika. I worked to empathise with the character and humanise her. That’s how I approached Yashika.”

The rigorous three-month workshop with the other actors helped her to approach the role differently. “I made a list of TV shows I thought Yashika would watch. I felt she binged all seasons of Koffee With Karan, was a BLACKPINK fan and idolised ‘Poo’. I had to change my voice as Yashika was younger than me. She sounds squeakier and walks faster. Her boyfriend Veer has been mothered his entire life, so whenever Yashika wants some-thing from him, she uses a baby voice to talk to him,” she fills us.

ayesha kanga

Of Fame And Fandom

With instant fame and adulation pouring in, Ayesha Kanga admits to enjoying the attention and has her head firmly grounded in reality. “I never thought it would garner so much popularity. I remember having 18K followers on Instagram and expected it to go up to 25-30K after the show. Now, I get a DM almost every day; fans send me memes and videos. I get recognised on the road, and people chase me for selfies. I wasn’t aware of this kind of attention,” she laughs.

Her mother was initially apprehensive about the role, “Mom was horrified. She would say what am I going to tell Nana and Nani. She eventually watched the series and loved it. She is an absolute fan and loves all the memes and fan-made videos. She checks if I am giving more auditions and taking acting seriously now.”

Up Next?

As we discuss the evolution of the cinematic portrayal of women in cinema, Kanga explains, “I can relate it to my own experience. Acting never crossed my mind a few years ago as I couldn’t relate to the women onscreen. Audiences are more evolved and informed now. People get called out in the industry for being ageist or limiting women to mere props to male characters. We are more cautious because of the internet and social media. Creators are making an effort to understand and write better characters for women.”

She expresses her desire to take up meaty, women-centric roles. “I like complex characters and find ways to draw empathy for them. I want to play someone who is poles apart from Yashika. I want to take up every opportunity that comes my way and make sure it’s memorable. Along with acting, I wish to explore creative direction for my love of fashion,” she signs off.

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