Hearing about the life of Kani, daughter of social activist Maithreyan and Dr AK Jayashri is wonderful…
‘I call my dad Maithreyan only. And my mother Jayashrichechi (chechi is elder sister in Malayalam). They are not legally married. Rather, I call Jayashri chechi’s father and mother as dad and mom. I lived with them till I was 15. In a very conservative atmosphere. Maithrayen and chechi lived two houses far.” Kani remembers it with a smile in her small house.
This daughter is also in a different path as her parents. Started acting in plays since 15. Kani acted in movies when she felt it was not enough to live.
”There is only one thing Maithreyan and Chechi told me, don’t respond if you are asked about caste or religion. None of the school certificates have my caste or religion.”
Your father and mother seems different?…
Certainly. They have given me all the freedoms. In our country when a girl has to ask so many people for permissions even when choosing a frock. I’m not saying that is bad. But, there won’t be a place for that girls wishes.
But, it is not like that in my case. Even if I feel like smoking a cigarette, I don’t have to ask anyone. That doesn’t mean I believe smoking cigarette is a bad thing. But even that wishes I don’t have to let go.
Maithreyan and Chechi will tell about its bad effects. but, they never push their decisions on me. I’m not saying there is no difference of opinions. We criticize each other and get angry. But, only for a small time. If I feel like doing something, they only say ‘do it if you like’. But, suppose I do something on my own. If there is a problem in that, they won’t move aside saying, ‘you decided it, you deal with it’. They will be with me.
Are you also opposed to marriage like them?
I have not decided anything now. My dad and mom won’t say ‘you are this old, why don’t you get married’. They will say live with anyone you like. It is my choice.
How did you get into acting in plays?
I used to participate in Sanskrit festival in school. I used to act Kavalam Narayanappaniker’s plays.
Even before that, feminist movement in Thiruvananthapuram ‘Sakhi’ organized many street plays. When mom and dad goes for that, I used to go with them. I was studying in 5th then. I did not have any reluctance to act like this, then.
I learned about requirement of a girl actor in ‘Abhinaya’ theater research center of Thiruvananthapuram when I was in 10th.
By then I had a feeling that play is good. Then, as I grew up, I became very body conscious. I was not in a state to decide anything. After seeing my state, Jayashri Chechi said, ‘you just go and check there. Don’t act if you don’t like. I started liking plays when I reached ‘Abhinaya’. I thought I can make a it my profession.
At last, I went to study in Thrissur school of drama. I acted in one or two plays. it was then that play director Abhilash Pillai came to take ‘Khasakinte Ithihasam’ (History of Khasak). He told me about ‘International school of Jacques Lecoq‘. So I joined a one year course.
I learned more about acting when I went to France. Perspective about life also changed a lot. I only wanted everyone to talk good about me. I even moved aside even small things I wanted to do. But life in France changed all that.
Here we do even things we like secretly saying it is against culture. A small example. I go to a public space. Boys can drink there openly. But if any girls drink at all? It will be a big problem. Earlier I used to give up even if I wished to do it.
But, after that I occasionally drank as part of socializing. But, I don’t drink now. I don’t like its taste, that’s the reason. I don’t think there is anything bad in drinking.
In short you became a rebel after coming back from France?
I don’t think living as one wish is rebelling.
There was a letter from Maithreyan, recently. It read like this, ‘you also have a right to smoke and drink like anyone. Smoking cigarette is comparatively bad. Because, it affects others too. There is nothing wrong in drinking socially. But please don’t drink like it is bad in secret.
I don’t compromise on things I like. I am careful to create a space for that always. Suppose when I travel at night and someone try to grab me. I will try not to provoke him by saying ‘I don’t like anyone touching me’. There were many experiences like that. When traveling at night, one or two men come to me and ask ‘where are you going this night?’. I say something like ‘Aiyyo, sorry brother, I came here by mistake’ and leave.
When you decided to try a hand at movies?
When I was back from France, Shankar Ramakrishnan asked me to act in Island Express in ‘Kerala Cafe’. After that I did ‘Cocktail’. It was the role of a prostitute. Then, Naxal girl in ‘Shikar’ (Prey), then small roles in ‘Karmayogi’ and ‘Urumi’.
Do anyone come with you in film-play sites?
I go alone wherever it is. I didn’t feel girls are not safe be it in play or films. So, if someone likes me physically. When I say I’m not interested, I have seen only people who say ‘ok’ and leave, in both fields. Nobody behaved badly with me.
Name also seems different like the person?
Maithreyan and Chechi named me Kani. When I was enrolled in school, Principal asked, ‘What is her initials?’, so Chechi added an initial just like that, ‘Kani K’. When I reached 10th, teacher asked me, ‘I need expansion of your name.’ When I came home and narrated this, Maithreyan and Chechi told me ‘you pick anything you like.’ So I chose ‘Kani Kusruthi’. (Kusruthi means playful in Malayalam). My passport and all has that name.
There is a famous theatre group. Footsbarn. I’m with footsbarn for 2 years. Go inside and outside India with play acting. That is my plan.