'E is a perfect comeback vehicle for me'
As she ends her 14-year-old break from Malayalam cinema, Gauthami says horror is a fresh genre for her and she totally trusts the makers
It’s been 27 years since Gauthami made her debut (His Highness Abdullah) in Malayalam, and exactly 14 years since her last movie (Varum Varunnu Vannu), but her absence was never really felt. As an actor, activist, survivor and a female icon who never shies away from speaking her mind, Gauthami has always been a presence in Kerala.
Now, ending this hiatus, she is back through E, a super-natural thriller which she terms “a perfect film to make the comeback.” In conversation with CE, Gauthami opens up about her movie, activism and safety of women among other topics.
It is over 14 years since you were last seen in a Malayalam movie. What caused the hiatus?
My Malayalam films have always been close to my heart and almost every character I have played has been distinct from the others. This has allowed me to test myself as an actor. This hiatus, however, has been because of the natural turns that life takes. As one goes through different phases in life, one must prioritise accordingly. During these past years, my daughter has been my priority and I was completely focused on her upbringing. Since the past two years, I have slowly been coming back in front of the camera through a couple of movies and TV reality shows, and with E, I feel I'm completely back at work in front of the camera.
E is a super-natural thriller, a genre that is relatively unexplored in Malayalam. What made you chose it?
Exactly what you said - the fact that it is a fresh genre, both for the Malayalam filmmaking industry and for me. I look for opportunities to challenge myself and broaden my horizons, and this was the perfect film for me to do that. Especially since both Sangeeth and Kukku are good friends since Daddy days. I have complete faith in them as filmmakers. I was excited to work with a team that would be fresh and highly motivated to do a great job.
Malayalam industry has changed a lot in recent times. How different is it when compared to other South industries?
Not just the Malayalam industry, but the whole of the Indian film industry has evolved. Art always reflects changing social trends and ethos, and cinema is a direct reflection of such metamorphosis. So, yes, Malayalam film industry has changed with the times. But, there are some essential qualities that have only strengthened, and that is what makes Malayalam films distinct. Subjects that are hard hitting on current social issues, off-beat stories and storytelling techniques in mainstream cinema, real and award winning performances - so many wonderful facets that have inspired other language films through the years.
You have always been vocal about social issues. As an artist, do you think it is your responsibility to bring these issues to public notice?
Not just as an artist, it is my responsibility as a citizen and as a progressive member of society, to raise awareness about issues that need attention. And, also to act in a socially responsible manner to do my part in fighting for and resolving issues. It is our collective duty to empower the weakest members of our society so that we are stronger as a whole.
There is a lot of controversy about Malayalam industry as a whole with regard to the actor assault case. What is your take on women and safety in the industry?
It is a horrifying and traumatic incident that has brought into sharp focus the crisis of violence against women. It has forced us, as common citizens, to face the reality of this horror. And we must acknowledge that it is a reality in all walks of life. That it is a crime against women and society itself. And that we must be proactive in raising our voices against this crime and set in place effective deterrents and safeguards.
No victim exists in isolation. The entire social ecosystem around them is shattered as well. Family, friends, neighbours, colleagues - the trauma of this violence touches many lives around the victim, and therefore, the price of the crime is multiplied many times over. As a society, we cannot and must not allow this perpetration of mass violence to continue in any form whatsoever.