indian cinema heritage foundation


  • Real Name: Naveen Kumar Gowda
  • Born: 8 January 1986 (Karnataka)
  • Primary Cinema: Kannada
  • Parents: Pushpa and Arun Kumar
  • Spouse: Radhika Pandit
  • Children: Ayra Yash, Yatharv Yash

“My vision since the beginning was to represent my industry and get that due respect from the rest of the country. When Karnataka is doing so well in other fields, I wanted to shine a light on my industry,” said Kannada film star Naveen Kumar Gowda, better known by his screen name Yash. KGF (2018) brought him enormous success and fame not just in the South but across India, becoming the highest-grossing Kannada film, which was also dubbed in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. He opined, “Generally, an actor gets the opportunity to be an overnight star or he would have earned it gradually, going step by step. So if it doesn’t happen in your debut, then eventually you get it but it takes time. I took a lot of time to establish myself and then got the success. After becoming successful in the Kannada industry, I got to know how it feels to be an overnight star with KGF. Outside of Karnataka, not many people would have heard about me before KGF. But they accepted me. So KGF brought that change in my life.” One of the leading and highest-paid Kannada actors, famously known as ‘Rocking Star Yash’, he started his career in theatre. He worked in TV shows, such as Nanda Gokula directed by Ashok Kashyap. Getting his break in the film industry with the Kannada film Jambada Hudugi (2007), his first film in a leading role, Rocky (2008) was poorly received. However, he went on to star in super hit films such as the romantic drama Moginna Manasu (2008), his breakthrough film for which he earned the Filmfare best supporting actor award; the college romance Googly (2013); the comedy-drama Raja Huli (2013); the fantasy action Gajakesari (2014); the romantic comedy Mr and Mrs Ramachari (2014) which is among the highest-grossing Kannada releases and also gave him his first Filmfare award for best actor; the actioner Masterpiece (2015) and the action romance Santhu Straight Forward (2016). It was, of course, with the mega success of the period action film KGF: Chapter 1, released in 2018 in five languages, that he achieved pan-India recognition. It also won him his second Filmfare best actor award. The film’s sequel, KGF: Chapter 2 (2022) earned him further praise. 

Born on 8 January 1986 in Boovanahalli, a village in Hassan, Karnataka, to homemaker mother Pushpa and father Arun Kumar Gowda, who was a driver for the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and later the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, he was named Naveen, while his mother's side of the family called him Yashwant. His interest in acting became evident at a young age, as he actively participated in theatre and dance competitions at his school, Mahajana Education Society, in Mysore. Initially opposed to his acting ambitions, his parents eventually relented, allowing him to move to Bangalore at the age of 16 to work on a film as an assistant director. When the project fell through shortly, he joined the Benaka drama troupe, formed by dramatist B V Karanth, and worked as a backstage worker. From working as a backup actor, in 2004, he essayed the lead role in a play, playing Balarama. Simultaneously, he also earned his bachelor of Arts degree at Bangalore's KLE College. Making his television debut with Uttarayana (2004), he went on to feature in teleserials such as Nanda Gokula, T N Seetharam's Male Billu and Preeti Illada Mele. Several films offers started to come his way; however, his insistence on seeing the script was not taken in the right spirit and was instead viewed as the arrogance of a newcomer. 

Eventually, he debuted in a supporting role in Priya Hassan's Jambada Hudugi (2007). Playing a man whose infertile wife seeks uterus transplantation, his performance was favourably received. His very next film was to earn him the Filmfare award for best supporting actor - the teen drama Moggina Manasu (2008), directed by Shashank. The film followed the love lives of four girls who become friends in college. Playing the romantic interest of one of the characters played by Radhika Pandit, his performance was highlighted among the male cast as impressive. 

He starred in his first title role in the romance Rocky (2008). He essayed a college student who has a troubled relationship with his parents. The film sank at the box office, with his performance found to be “uncomfortable” in a role that “lacks clarity”. Two lacklustre films, namely the Sumana Kittur-directed action drama Kallara Santhe (2009), and Prakash's family drama Gokula (2009), were followed by his first solo box office hit - the romantic comedy Modalasala (2010). His dancing prowess also won attention, earning him the praise of easily being “one of the best we have in Sandalwood.”

His Kirataka (2011), a remake of the Tamil-language romantic comedy Kalavani (2010), saw him playing a wayward student who falls in love with his batchmate. Critics pointed out his dancing as well as acting talent in the film which became one of the top-grossing films of Kannada cinema. 

The year 2012 saw him star in the moderately successful romantic comedy Lucky (2012), and the action romance Jaanu (2012), followed by the Yograj Bhat romantic comedy titled Drama (2012), which became a high-grosser. 

The following year, he featured in a cameo in the Kannada-Tamil bilingual Chandra (2013). With the college romance Googly, directed by Pavan Wadeyar, he reinvented his image, going from playing largely village-centric roles to a more polished avatar. He played Sharath, a misogynist university student who dates Swathi (Kriti Kharandba), but breaks up with her after being convinced that she is cheating on him. Years later, he becomes a successful businessman and encounters her. The film became one the of the highest-grossing Kannada films of the year, with its success, as noted by the media, boosting his stardom and placing him on the path to becoming one of the leading stars of the industry.

The hero-centric hit films that followed capitalised on his star presence, firmly establishing his status as a mass hero. These include Guru Deshpande's comedy-drama Raja Huli (2013), the Krishna-directed Gajakesari (2014), and Mr and Mrs Ramachari (2014) opposite Radhika Pandit. Masterpiece (2015) was also a commercial success, as was Santhu Straight Forward (2016).  

The year 2018 saw him star in the first instalment of the two-part Prashanth Neel-directed KGF series, KGF: Chapter 1. Released in Kannada along with dubbed versions in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam, it was the most expensive Kannada film at the time, produced on a budget of Rs 80 crore, and became the highest-grossing Kannada film during its theatrical run. The sequel, KGF: Chapter 2 (2022), which also starred Sanjay Dutt and Raveena Tandon, became the fourth highest-grossing Indian film ever with earnings of more than Rs10 billion.

Yash earned copious praise for his performance in the series, playing Rocky, an assassin and gold kingpin who takes over the Kolar Gold Fields. His performance was deemed “just unmissable” and also praised for his “sly humour and unbridled ferocity” that hit all the right notes.

He acquired the title ‘Rocking Star Yash’ in 2009 after the release of Moggina Manasu, owing to his appearance, mannerisms and ability to dance to any tune. While the name is considered a reflection of his rugged, follow-no-rules image, it is also apparently an allusion to the back-to-back commercial success of his films. Considered a ‘wonder boy’ in the media, he would go on to leave an impact as a mass hero. From being the poster-boy of Kannada cinema, he enjoys nationwide recognition across India. In 2019, he became the first Kannada actor to be featured on the cover of Forbes India. He has also been ranked on various lists including Forbes India’s most influential celebrities on Instagram from South India, The Times of India's Bangalore Times Most Desirable Men, and GQ India’s 50 most influential young Indians. He also endorses several brands, and is a representative for Bengaluru Bulls in the Pro Kabaddi League.

On the personal front, he is married to Radhika Pandit, who he had met on the sets of Nanda Gokula in 2007. Married in December 2016, they have two children, Ayra Yash, and Yatharv Yash. Along with his wife, in 2017, Yash founded the YashoMarga Foundation, a social welfare non-profit organisation that promotes various social and philanthropic causes. The foundation has addressed the water crisis in Karnataka's Koppal district by investing Rs 40 million towards desilting lakes and providing pure drinking water to 40 villages in the region. 

Some popular social service initiatives of his include a collaboration with the Bangalore Police for a campaign against drunk driving in 2019, an environmental campaign to plant trees and save water, and a donation of Rs5 ,000 each to 3,000 workers in the Kannada film fraternity to ease their financial burden after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Occasionally campaigning for candidates from various political parties, he has expressed his willingness to enter politics if the opportunity arises.