Our society is still not ready to differentiate films from reality, says Kani Kusruti

Kani, along with her co-star Divya Prabha, was at Cannes for the premiere of their film 'All We Imagine As Light (AWIAL)' which talks about two Malayali nurses working in Mumbai.
Actor Kani Kusruti
Actor Kani Kusruti(Photo | T P Sooraj, EPS)

CHENNAI: It hasn’t yet sunk in for Kani Kusruti. Two of her films — the Grand Prix Winner All We Imagine As Light (AWIAL) by Payal Kapadia and Shuchi Talati’s Girls Will Be Girls — were screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, catapulting her into an actor who has crossed many invisible borders.

Kani, along with her co-star Divya Prabha, was at Cannes for the premiere of their film about two Malayali nurses working in Mumbai. The actor is now back from the French coastal town to Kerala and is busy shooting for a web series.

Though well wishes and congratulatory messages are pouring in, Kani says she hasn’t yet been able to return many calls or reply to texts. “I didn’t get time to sit with it and take it all in,” she smiles.

In a free-wheeling chat, Kani opens up about her life, acting career and childhood.

Excerpts

Two of your films were screened at Cannes with one even bagging a coveted award. Has life changed since then?

There hasn’t been any drastic change, but I feel happy and proud about being a part of these films. The audience at Cannes could connect well with both films. ‘Girls Will Be Girls’ was screened among a younger audience, followed by a Q&A session, which was really fun and interactive.

Was your performance also lauded at Cannes?

Yes, of course. Typically, at any event related to the film, it’s actors who receive the most attention and they tend to overshadow the work done by those behind the scenes. But in Cannes, it was appreciable that there was an equal spotlight on other crew members as well. In most of the films I’ve worked, the pillars have always been the scriptwriters and directors. I also enjoy getting opinions from other actors when they carefully observe my performance and share their thoughts.

Actor Kani Kusruti
Actor Kani Kusruti(Photo | T P Sooraj, EPS)

Your red carpet entry and your watermelon bag that symbolised solidarity with Palestine were all widely discussed...

I didn’t think it would make so much noise. There were a lot of other statements being made at the festival. For example, there were gestures against the harassment faced by women in workspaces, among other issues. Also, actor Cate Blanchett creatively expressed her solidarity with Palestine. I think I got such attention maybe because the clutch was prominent in photos. I wanted to propose this idea to my team when we were preparing for the festival. But since the festival had made it clear that they don’t encourage political statements, I decided to do it myself and not pressurise others in the team. I was willing to take the responsibility. But as it turned out, our producers later felt it was important to express solidarity with Palestine on the red carpet. They distributed Palestine stickers, and a lot of our crew wore them on their bodies and phones. That, however, did not gain much attention. Almost everyone in our team was supportive and interested. So I don’t consider it a personal statement, but rather, on behalf of all of us.

Do you think creators nowadays are bound by political correctness?

As an artiste, I wish we were part of a developed society so that creators had the freedom to be creative without being bothered about political correctness. Developed countries like France know how to film nuanced stories carefully. They are given space as creators and the audience are also welcoming of such stories. Sadly, we are not. Our society is still not ready to differentiate films from reality.

Girls Will Be Girls has a female-oriented crew. Did you feel anything different while working on it?

I’ve worked with Rima Sen and many other female directors. I’d say that the working experience with female directors is not always the same. Shuchi’s set was calm without any shouting. I had the same experience while working with Manu (Ashokan) also. The women I’ve worked with are gentle and stress-free, but there are some who are also toxic. In men, I have seen both. The women I have seen are also conscious about the environment. I have come across a few such men as well, who speak and interact respectfully.

As a creative space, do such women-centric spaces offer anything more?

I cannot say that based on gender. For instance, it was relaxing while working with Abhishek Chaubey on Killer Soup. It was a better experience than working with female directors. So, I cannot bracket it to a particular gender. The male gaze is involved even if female directors do a film. It depends on the artistic awareness. They need to have supporting producers and peers as well. If the producer is not supportive or there is a lack of resources, they may not be able to create a healthy environment. We cannot compare Shuchi and Abhishek as their journeys are different. Women still need more effort to get there.

Your upcoming projects.

Currently, I am shooting for Manu Ashokan’s web series, which also stars Nikhila Vimal and Shruti Ramachandran. I did another web series last year, directed by Nithin Renji Panicker, which is yet to be released. Additionally, I have a film each in Malayalam and Tamil coming up.

(By Krishna PS, Mahima Anna Jacob, Vivek Santhosh, Vignesh Madhu, Aishwarya Prabhakaran, Anna Jose, Harikrishna B)

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