Gouri Kishan: Wish people realise that I'm more than just Jaanu

The actor, recently seen in Little Miss Rawther, on her inspirations, aspirations, and a little more...
Gouri Kishan: Wish people realise that I'm more than just Jaanu

Earlier this month, the much-loved Tamil romantic drama '96 celebrated its fifth release anniversary, which also means it has been five years since Gouri G Kishan debuted in cinema. As the charming young Jaanu, the actor caught instant attention, and before she knew it, she was the toast of the town. As it often happens in cinema, the sensational success of '96 helped open doors for offers from various languages, and Gouri carefully handpicked them. Around 15 films, a web series, and multiple music videos later, she is now gradually firming her feet in the industry. In her latest Malayalam release, Little Miss Rawther, she plays the eponymous Naina Rawther, who is entangled in a love-hate relationship with her polar opposite boyfriend. Though the makers publicised it as a rom-com featuring a tall guy and a short girl, Gouri says it was an intentional move to conceal the original plot. According to her, it's a drama that tries to explore the complexities of today's relationships. "There's a general perception that the current relationships are not as deep and intense as they used to be. Yes, there are misunderstandings, frequent breakups, patch ups... it's all rocky, but at the end of the day, the pain one endures is the same. Naina and Abhijith are simply the representatives of today's youth."

Shersha Sherief, who plays Abhijith, has also scripted the film, and Gouri is all praise of how well he sketched her character. "I was initially surprised by how a male writer could create a layered character like Naina. She is very reactive, straightforward, practical, and sorted. She is everything like me, except for the OCD," laughs the actor. It was a two-year-long journey with the film, and Gouri, a screenwriting graduate, says it has been the best learning experience of her career so far. "The team was receptive to my suggestions, some of which made more sense—perhaps because I'm a woman. Beyond writing, I could also observe some intricate behind-the-scenes processes and learn to take overall ownership of a project." Being the lone familiar face in the lead cast, it was up to Gouri to promote the film and she did it aggressively. Except for one traumatic episode. The actor remembers a bitter prank involving cops, which left her scarred, forcing her team members to tender an apology. "It wasn't out of my consent; so, somewhere, I felt a sense of betrayal from my team members. But they soon realised it and handled my concerns sensitively." Despite the best of their efforts, Little Miss Rawther, which hit screens last Friday, has opened to mixed reviews, and Gouri is not one to live in denial about it. "Yes, I now realise it's not everyone's cup of tea. I've been reading all the feedback to understand what worked and what didn't."

Gouri feels it's this constant retrospection that has incited her to review her career choices lately. Though she was initially content with doing films that satiated her creative excitement, it's not the same anymore. "Particularly, post-Covid," stresses the actor. "There was a phase when I was a part of several indie films, but none of them yielded the desired results. When we put in so much effort and the work doesn't even reach 10 percent of the target audience, it takes a huge mental toll too. My priorities changed once I realised that selling a movie is even more difficult than making one. Today, I pick a project based on how well it's mounted and if it has the potential to reach the masses. It's an added advantage if my character has something new to offer."

Being someone who broke into the scene with a celebrated love story, Gouri has always had a special place in people's hearts. That, she says, is both a boon and a bane. "I've always felt loved when people called me Jaanu, but of late, it has got me wondering if I haven't done anything worth talking about after that. It's a bit disappointing; I wish people would understand that I'm more than just Jaanu," sighs the actor, as she elaborates on tackling stereotyping. "I've been consciously trying to do characters that people don't imagine me in. Even Naina Rawther is like that, where I've openly explored intimacy. It's funny when people ask me, 'You're a family audience actor, why are you doing such roles?'. I wish to underline that I'm an actor, that's all." 

The expectations and stereotypes aside, Gouri is also conscious of her physique and the role it plays in offers coming her way. "Though I'm 5 feet tall, which is the average height of an Indian woman, I sometimes wish I was a bit taller. My body type is such that I appear short and petite. Naturally, I'm aware that I won't be getting characters that demand a commanding physique, but at the same time, I'm also apt for a certain type of role, which I'm being offered in plenty." Gouri cites the example of actor Suriya, who despite having seen so much success, is still subject to trolls for his height. "For a certain section of the audience, he is not the ultimate hero. Female actors also endure the same discrimination. It's a miserable mindset to have. I wish people would focus more on personality than physique."

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