Kani has proved her mettle, time and again

Kani Kusruti adds State best actor award to her bag of achievements

Kani Kusruti has been a presence, on stage and on screen, for around two decades now. Even then, it is in Sajin Baabu’s Biriyani, which fetched her the best actor (female) award at this year’s Kerala State Film Awards, that she is playing a full-length lead role in film for the first time. Yet, she has been very much active in the acting circuit, performing with acclaimed theatre groups abroad or playing notable roles in films and short films.

One of those short films The Discreet Charm of the Savarnas, which has garnered much praise when it began streaming in YouTube last week, has her playing the role of a privileged independent filmmaker, who along with two other filmmakers, is looking for an actor who “looks like a Dalit.” Last week, she also won the best actress award at the fifth BRICS festival, which was held along with the 42nd Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF).

Dedicated to P.K. Rosy

“I would like to dedicate these awards to P.K. Rosy, the Dalit actor who was driven away from the industry for playing the role of an upper caste woman. I still see the same issues around me, of how several brilliant actors are facing discrimination and do not get any offers due to their colour or caste. I am also dedicating this award to the actor who had to face sexual assault and against whom insensitive comments are being made. I have much respect for the likes of Parvathy for standing up for her,” says Kani in an interview to The Hindu.

In Biriyani, she plays a woman struggling hard to survive in a deeply religious, patriarchal society.

“When Sajin finished viewing the edits, he had told me that it is a performance which could win awards. But I did not take that seriously, as the past year had so many great performances in Malayalam cinema,” she says.

Beginnings in theatre

Beginning her acting career right from her school days, she began her stint in theatre with Thiruvananthapuram-based Abhinaya. After attending the theatre arts programme at the Drama School in Thrissur, she pursued physical theatre at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. She has acted in several Malayalam films, including Kerala Cafe, Cocktail, Shikkar and North 24 Kaatham.

She recently won the second best actress at the Imagine India Film Festival in Madrid and was also nominated for the best actor award at the Tribeca Festival in New York for her performance in Prashant Nair’s Tryst with Destiny.

“A television series that I acted in Hindi, Ok Computer, will start streaming soon. Although I get more offers from there, I wish to act in more films in Malayalam,” says Kani.

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