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June 12, 1999


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'Sex should be displayed naturally'

A Ganesh Nadar

Gauthami. Click for bigger pic!
Gauthami is a seasoned actress who has blended unobtrusively into every role she has played. In the last election, she decided she ought to do something more and so campaigned for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Though the lady agreed to chat just for half-an-hour, she spent over an hour discussing films and other issues of interest to her. If she displayed her intellect during the conversation, she also revealed her sharp memory when she recognised our photographer, who she'd run into only once or twice, and that too in a crowd.

Gauthami has a fun-loving nature but being easygoing in some ways doesn't mean she lacks strong convictions and she spoke with easy confidence on a variety of subjects.

Her first movie was a Telugu one produced by a relative, Dyanmedu, where she did a cameo. That was natural since she is originally from Andhra Pradesh though she was brought up in Bangalore. That led to more films. Her first Tamil movie, Guru Shishyan, suddenly brought her instant stardom. He costars were Rajnikanth and Prabhu.

She has acted in five languages in all -- Telugu, Tamil, Kananada, Malayalam and Hindi. And Gauthami can speak and write all of them.

She acted with Sivaji Ganesan and Kamal Hassan in Thevar Magan and made an impact that was only muted due to the performances of the two heroes.

"Thevar Magan was a different experience. The whole atmosphere that was created during the shooting was momentous for my career and my life. In the scene where I first discover that Kamal is married... I knew I had taken a huge step forward as an actress." She says this matter-of-factly. There's no ego visible.

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But acting with Kamal wasn't always so comfortable. In Apoorva Sahodarargal, she admits, "For a dance scene with Kamal, my knees were actually knocking. He has such an awesome reputation as a dancer." She hasn't trained as a dancer.

But then, in Gentleman, Gauthami appeared in just one song, Chik Buk Raile with Prabhu Deva. The song was a runaway hit and Gauthami's stock soared. But she refused to do more such songs.

"I didn't want to become a one-song wonder is every second movie. I didn't want to be typecast -- which our film industry does very easily." If there is any trace of bitterness there, her voice does not betray it. She did that number as a personal favour for producer Kunjumon and director Shankar. "And I had a great deal of faith in Prabhu Deva."

In a male dominated filmdom, wouldn't she love to do a heroine-dominated movie?

"What's the point if the movie is made by a male?" she asked sharply. Again that thinly hidden thing. Anger? We pressed on.

Usually a hero is first selected and then a heroine. Wouldn't it be better if they selected the heroine first?

"We must be realistic" was the down-to-earth reply that hinted more at resignation than anger. She then adds:

"I'd like to see women making films -- not only as directors but also in the technical side. Actresses should realise their own potential," says Gauthami, revealing hidden fires.

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She admits she's not comfortable with some of the trends in the films today.

"It was being taken to a new height or depth, whatever you call it. The clothes were getting scantier, the song movements more explicit... I will not pass judgement on others but I wasn't comfortable with that. It wasn't my cup of tea."

Gauthami has played the tough inspector, the Sati Savitri and the glam doll but never a comedienne.

"The industry sees me as a sedate person. I'd love to do comedy but haven't had the chance."

Asked her favourite all-time hero and the hero she preferred to work with, Gauthami declined to name anyone. But the heroine she most admires, she says, is Sridevi. But she was positive about Rajnikanth.

"Rajinikant is a lovely person to work with. He is simple, down-to-earth, a person of few words. He doesn't create a hangama on the sets. Quietly comes and does his work. Cracks jokes.

"We used to have a lot of discussions on philosophy. He is well informed. He is a complete professional. His popularity has not gone to his head. I started liking the film industry only after doing Guru Shishyan with Rajni."

And what about the Big B? Did she look forward to working with someone like him?

"I'd love to work with Amitabh Bachchan. A good role with him, not a small role in the film."

We came to the directors. While she wasn't willing to name her favourite there, she did mention her admiration for Bharatiraja and Balachander before adding:

Gauthami campaigning for the BJP. Click for bigger pic!
"I'd love to work with Gulzar in a quintessential Gulzar movie -- with Gulzar dialogues, songs, and direction." And what were the roles she most enjoyed?

Gauthami finds herself on safer ground here. She names her characters in the Tamil movie Nee padhee Nan padhee and a Malayalam film, Sukurpam.

"It took me 3, 4 days to get out of the character after leaving the sets. I'd like to play a character who challenges my ability to the limit," she says. But double-roles don't come in that category. She isn't interested in double roles though, how much ever other actors go on about the difficulty to handle them.

"They tend to become a farce in our movies," she says dismissively.

Did Indian films tend to slide towards Hollywood?

"The big mistake we are making is presuming that what's good for Hollywood is good for us. In Hollywood what they depict is their way of life. Sex is a real part of life. You can't hide it. It's on the top of the mind of most Indian men. Abuses on women take place in real life.

"Sex has to be addressed. It should be done in a way that's not out of place in the movie; it shouldn't attract attention to itself and be made a big deal of. It's like the performance of a beautiful artiste. The actress blends so well with the character that nobody notices it. People mistake histrionics and melodrama for good acting. But sex should also be displayed in this manner, that is, naturally.

We asked her what she thought about the casting couch.

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"I would like to point out that it is not peculiar to the film industry," she said. We left it at that.

What would she have done if she hadn't become an actress. And that lightens the mood.

"I'd definitely have been an entrepreneur. I wouldn't do a 9 to 5 job," she laughs. "I like be my own boss." We shift gears to discuss her involvement in politics. And she gets serious again.

She finds the situation bad and feels that it is likely to get worse every year.

"Everybody complains but nobody does anything." The Bharatiya Janata Party had come to her and sought her support in the elections. And since she found the leaders pragmatic, she campaigned for them. She isn't standing for any election, at least not immediately.

"I don't anticipate anything. I take things as they come," she said, going on to complain that people are just not aware of the power of their vote.

"When I went out to campaign I realised that they didn't understand why they were voting," she says, apparently still bewildered.

What about her children? Now that she had a good idea about the nature of the film industry, would she dissuade them from stepping in?

"If my children want to act, of course, I will allow them -- both the boy and the girl. Well, didn't my parents support me?"

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