Gouri G Kishan made her debut with 96 in 2018. She now works in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam cinema and is awaiting the release of her Telugu film Sridevi Shoban Babu. In this interview with Harshini SV, she talks about her passion for cinema, persistence to establish herself as an actor and her love for complex characters.
Edited excerpts below:
You have acted in a variety of projects from films to shorts to music videos and an anthology. How has your journey been so far?
My journey has been a huge learning experience. It’s been three years now since 96 and it was very unexpected. I didn’t expect to become an actress ever. So I just took each day at a time and now when I look back, it’s been very enriching. I’ve tried my hand at different forms of cinema and did not stick to just one. I attempted music videos, and short films even during lockdown. It gave me a lot of perspectives on how to position myself in the industry. It’s a newfound passion, something I discovered in the recent past, and I’m obsessed with it. I have delved deep and I am learning, not just the acting part but also with what goes on behind the camera. I’m trying my hand at screenwriting, I took up a course and I asked a lot of questions about the technicalities on a film set. So yes, it has been an amazing journey and I hope to find my way forward as well.
We saw very bold Gouri in Magizhini—a musical narration of a lesbian love story. It hit over 5 million views. Lesbian love is talked about a lot but it is also quite controversial. What made you choose such a unique role?
We got a great reception for Magizhini. It did amazingly well on YouTube, and the audience accepted it positively. So that is a huge plus, not just for us as a team, but it speaks a lot about our society and how far we’ve come.
When VG Balasubramanian sir, the director approached me, he said, we are approaching a lot of artists, and they all seem very hesitant. But that thought didn’t even cross my mind—that it will be a reason for controversies, or I might get typecast, or that I might get brickbats. Homosexuality is such a vast and fluid idea that it needs to be pushed in the mainstream. Moreover, the concept was organically set up through an art-form like dance. So it did not feel forced, rather I feel the audience was able to have a real-time, immersive experience.
Well, the challenges to it were, of course, connecting with my co-actor Anagha. Since this was not any other film, it was a very sensitive subject, I knew we had the responsibility to reflect on it properly. When a homosexual person watches the video, they shouldn’t feel like something was wrong. Anagha and I read about lesbianism and spoke with the choreographer Vishwa master during the dance rehearsals to work it out.
The dance portion of the video was also challenging because we didn’t want it to be very dramatic. It had to be subtle, while also conveying intimacy, intensity and complementing all this with Govind Vasantha’s music.
You acted with Vijay and Dhanush. How was it to work with such big stars at the early stages of your career?
I’ve been very fortunate. Vijay sir has taught me to be a great listener and to be kind. He encouraged and motivated me more than a few times. It goes a long way for a big star like him to encourage an upcoming actress like me and just to see how prompt and humble he is—those are all things that not as an actor, but as humans, we need to learn from each other.
Dhanush sir is my favourite actor and I was starstruck when I met him, and when I had to perform with him. But I think after Karnan with Dhanush sir. I understood that whatever is going through in your mind, you have to come back to the moment and play your character. To see that in person has inspired me to push myself.
From Jaanu in 96 to Kuyili in Mugakavasa Mutham, your roles have been very different. So do you consciously select unique scripts?
Thank you for that observation and I do try and choose very different scripts. Because, after Jaanu in 96, there was a tendency for most scripts coming my way to be of a certain type. I didn’t want to get stereotyped into a particular niche. This is a time when I need to establish my range as an actor. So with every role that I choose, I consciously try to do that.
But my process for selecting a film is simple. I don’t necessarily have to be in the limelight or the lead all the time. I just feel like if a film genuinely interests me as an audience and if I feel I can do full justice to it, I will take it up. At this point, I’m just trying not to be put in any box. So I try and choose my scripts like that, even if that means I have to reject a lot.
You shared a thread of stories about ‘Skin Care’ on Instagram. You addressed how you’re not worrying about having skin issues anymore, focusing instead on self-care and love. What do you have to say to youngsters who are insecure about their skin?
That juncture in my life where I was going through issues with my skin was actually right after 96 and Jaanu. It was supposed to be my big break but my skin issues sort of brought my confidence down. So I did beat myself up about it. But after a year of struggle, when I thought back, I decided that I’m sure there are other people who faced the same thing. I realized that self-love is everything and the way you talk to yourself really matters.
The solutions are quite simple. Somebody once told me ‘if there’s something that you notice in another person that can’t be fixed in less than 10 seconds, then don’t bother saying it’. I think that has stayed with me. Because there is that tendency, like “oh, you’re an actor,” that pressure to look perfect at all the times. But with college and all my projects at that time, and different factors like stress and travel, it didn’t help my skin at all.
So I wanted to talk frankly to the people who follow me on my social media. When I put it out there, the response was overwhelming. Even today, so many people get in touch with me saying I am facing the same thing. We only show the good side on Instagram but sometimes it’s also important to show the struggles. Most of the time, we live our lives in our heads. So we need to make sure that it’s a good place to be.
Could you tell us a little about your first Telugu film Sridevi Shoban Babu and your role in it?
I’m very excited about it. My character’s name is Sri Devi, of course, and she’s a very chic Hyderabad city girl who has a very modern outlook on life. It was fun to play Sridevi because my lifestyle or how I’ve been brought up is also sort of like that, very progressive. The challenge was to play that in Telugu, and we had a lot of scenes in rural Andhra Pradesh, so just cracking the language was a challenge. But other than that, I’m looking forward to the release. Acting with Santosh Shoban, who plays Shoban was also fun.
We know you enjoy playing diverse characters. But is there any dream role you have been hoping to play?
My dream role would be to play a real-life character, a biopic. As an actor, we all have to turn ourselves into a character but turning them into somebody who already exists and to pick up their actions, accent, body language, the way they walk and all of that, those are going to be extremely challenging and the conviction with which we do it is what really matters. So I’m not sure if I am cut out to do that, but I’d like to see how far I can go.