I have never chased opportunities: Kani Kusruti

Actor Kani Kusruti, whose 'All We Imagine As Light' is all set to compete for Palme d’Or at Cannes, speaks about working with female directors, her favourite character that she played, and more
A still from 'All We Imagine As Light'
A still from 'All We Imagine As Light'

CHENNAI : It’s not yet six months into 2024 and already the year appears to belong to actor Kani Kusruti. Her film 'Girls Will Be Girls', directed by Shuchi Talati, premiered in the World Dramatic section at Sundance and walked away with the audience award. Now, Payal Kapadia’s 'All We Imagine As Light' is set to compete for Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Then there have been popular series like 'Killer Soup', 'Poacher', and 'Maharani Season 3' on OTT, which have taken her to living rooms across India and made her a familiar face in ordinary households. CE caught up with the maverick actor whose roots lie in theatre and who gained recognition in cinema with 'Kerala Cafe' in 2009. Is it the best year in her life as an artist so far? In the middle of a shoot in Kerala, Kani spoke about her Cannes tryst and more.

Excerpts:

'Girls Will Be Girls' (GWBG) at Sundance, and 'All We Imagine As Light '(AWIAL) at Cannes. Did you see it coming?

I am very happy for both films. I knew they were going to be sent to festivals but didn’t know where. Both have been special in their own way, and I am fortunate to have been a part of them.

Both 'GWBG' and 'AWIAL' are by female filmmakers, Shuchi Talati and Payal Kapadia, respectively. Does gender determine the way people work on a film? Does it impact you as an actor?

I don’t know if it has to do with gender or if it’s about these individuals. All I can say is that they have brought in a very positive working environment. GWBG had more than 50 percent female crew. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many women. It felt very democratic and collaborative. It was their conscious decision and they have worked hard to create such an environment for everyone. I want to give them credit for their work ethic. I feel more comfortable in an environment with an equal representation of women.

A still from Girls Will Be Girls
A still from Girls Will Be Girls

How was it working with Payal and Shuchi?

Payal and Shuchi are very different in their creative processes. With 'GWBW' initially, I wasn’t sure if I was understanding the story. I was a little confused. But after my first conversation with Shuchi, I felt like working with her. She is a very open-minded director. She will shoot a scene a certain way and then do it again and again as per the interpretation of each of the actors.

I immediately connected to 'AWIAL' on reading the script. Payal’s is the first film on which I have rehearsed excessively, way before the shoot. For 'GWBW', a week or so before the shoot Shuchi worked with me on the physique, walk and body language of the character.

Both Shuchi and Payal helped me understand my characters. Half of my acting credit goes to the directors for navigating me in their own way. Both are very collaborative and are very different but in their involvement with their films, they both have the same intensity.

In both films, your character’s dynamic with another woman seems to be crucial.

Shuchi auditioned many for the role of Mira, my daughter in 'GWBW'. When Preeti Panigrahi did it, it immediately clicked. She interpreted it most accurately. It was while rehearsing with her, that I understood the nuances of the story. It all came to light for me while watching Preeti interpret her character. I was very moved by it. She made everything clear.

Divya Prabha and I have known each other for a long time. We have worked together earlier but in Payal’s film, it was more about learning together. Every co-actor I work with makes me learn something. The better craft they have in them, the easier it makes my job.

Do you consider any role or film as a turning point or dealbreaker for you?

My most favourite character so far has been Monalisa in 'OK Computer'. It’s a turning point in my internal journey as an actor. I like to do comedies but rarely get them.

The fact that 'Biriyaani' was so well received and won many awards gave me a lot more opportunities than before. People started taking me more seriously. I wouldn’t say that it is my kind of film, but it brought me a lot of visibility.

You seem to like working from the periphery rather than being at the centre of the film industry…

I have never chased films. I haven’t put myself out there. I have done whatever has come to me. Only in the past three years have I reached out to people, when I have liked their work.

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