indian cinema heritage foundation

Isha Koppikar

  • Born: 19 September 1976 (..)
  • Parents: Bairal and Raghav Koppikar
  • Spouse: Timmy Narang
  • Children: Rianna Narang

Actress, model and politician, Isha Koppikar has featured in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Marathi cinema, and is known for films such as Fiza (2000), Pinjar (2003)), LOC: Kargil (2003), Don (2006), Shabri (2011), and Kavacha (2019). Tall and statuesque, with sculpted features and beautiful eyes, she had initially made an impact in high-energy ‘item songs’ in films such as Ram Gopal Varma’s Company and the Sanjay Gupta-directed Kaante, both released in 2002. She won the Stardust award for exciting new face for Company (2002), and the Filmfare awards south for best female debut for Kaadhal Kavidai (1998). She was also nominated for the HT Café film awards for Dil Ka Rishta (2003), the Filmfare awards South for best actress for Chandralekha (1998) and En Swasa Katre (1999), and the awards of the International Indian Film Academy, Screen awards, the Annual Central European Bollywood awards and Zee Cine awards for Kyaa Kool Hai Hum (2005). In 2019, she joined the BJP and was appointed as the working president of the BJP's women transport wing. 

She was born on 19 September 1976 into a Konkani-speaking Mangalorean family in Bombay, to a gynaecologist father and a bank employee mother. Her grandmother was reportedly the first woman to graduate from Mumbai's Ramnarain Ruia college. A state level basketball player, Isha also trained in Kathak from Neelambari Jadhav, a disciple of Birju Maharaj, as well as in Taekwondo and Hapkido, a less violent form of the martial art which involves subduing the opponent with the use of body locks. Entered modeling to earn pocket money, she featured in multiple ads for L'Oréal, Rexona, Camay, Tips & Toes and Coca-Cola. 

Films beckoned and she bagged her first break in a Hindi film titled Ek Tha Dil Ek Thi Dhadkan which got shelved. Meanwhile, after completing her education on her father’s insistence—she graduated in Life Sciences—she won the Miss Talent Crown in the Miss India 1995 contest. 

Eventually, she would make her film debut with the Tamil film Kaadal Kavithai (1998) opposite Prashanth; it would fetch her the Filmfare best female debut award. Winning attention in the south, she delivered award-winning performances in the Krishna Vamsi-directorial Chandralekha (1998) alongside Nagarjuna and Ramya Krishnan and the K S Ravi-directed adventure drama En Swasa Katre (1999). It was Company, the film that is credited with giving the Mumbai mafia a realistic screen presence, that brought Koppikar instant fame even though she only made a special appearance. As the film review in India Today noted, “The sole song - Khallas, lipsynched by the sexy Isha Koppikar - doesn't seem like a needless interjection.” As Koppikar would admit, “I am proud of Company because it gave my career the kick it needed at the right time and right place.”

Her next big film, Kaante (2002) saw her play a nightclub dancer in the action crime drama that revolved around six bank robbers trying to pull off the perfect heist till they discover that one of them is an undercover cop. For Koppikar, it was disappointing to discover that her role was chopped on the editing table and all she had was two item numbers and no role to speak of. However, she took it in her stride as an occupational hazard common in every line of work.

Determined to break out of the item-girl stereotype, she essayed a variety of roles including the rustic Rajjo in Chandra Prakash Dwivedi’s period film Pinjar, a terrorist in Harry Baweja’s Qayamat: City Under Threat (2003), and a lesbian lover in the Karan Razdan-directed controversial film Girlfriend (2004). Her act as a paan-chewing cop Urmila Martodkar in the double entendre comedy Kya Kool Hai Hum (2005) brought out her flair for comedy with her performance, besides being enjoyed by audiences, also earning her a clutch of award nominations. 

She went on to make an impact in several big films including Farhan Akhtar’s Don (2006) which saw her in a brief but promising role playing Shah Rukh Khan’s love interest – Anita; Nikhil Advani’s Salaam-e-Ishq (2007) comedy drama about six couples in love who face different problems caused by love itself; and the Rajshri romance Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi in which she starred opposite Sonu Sood, playing a middle class girl living with her family, who falls in love with a rich boy. On the day of her engagement her father dies. In order to take care of her siblings, she must sacrifice her love. The Lalit Marathe-directed action crime thriller Shabri won her praise for her raw and impactful performance. She was cast in the title role of an impoverished woman who faces off against gangsters as well as the police after her brother is killed. 

The Telugu language action thriller Keshava (2017) saw her play special branch police officer Sharmila Mishra in the tale about a student with a rare heart disease who has to seek revenge by controlling his anger.

In 2022, she played a character named Gulab Didi in Love You Loktantra, directed by Abhay Nihalani and Prasanta Sahoo. A political satire, it is narrated in a tongue-in-cheek manner, commenting on the current Indian politics with a touch of humour.

Continuing to act in regional cinema, she has also featured in the Marathi films Maat (2013), directed by Manohar Sarvankar, and FU: Friendship Unlimited (2017); as well as the Kannada films, Looty and Kavacha released in 2018.

Debuting in the digital space with the ALTBalaji web series titled Fixerr (2019), she played the role of sub-inspector Jayanti Javdekar. It was followed by the crime thriller series Dahanam (2022) and the thriller web series Suranga (2022) with Rakesh Bedi and Fredy Daruwala

Exploring a career in politics, she has reinvented herself as an entrepreneur, TedX speaker, lifestyle influencer and wellness expert.

On the personal front, she married hotelier Timmy Narang in 2009. The couple has a daughter Rianna.