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Life beyond labels

From being the pin-up girl of cinema to someone comfortable in her choices, Gautami has broken stereotypes, discovers Sudhish Kamath

Photo: Sunder

Second phase Gautami talks about her new innings

When we begin talking to Gautami at her office, we begin with the response generated to Dasavathaaram. Is dumbing down an idea for the mass a necessary evil of commercial cinema? That’s when I realise Gautami does not like definitions.

“What’s a ‘class’ audience? Just because they pay a higher value for a ticket does not mean they have a higher level of awareness or aesthetics of cinema. I know factory workers who would pay 2,000 bucks to watch a film. People from the so-called class audience tell me they would have to see it a few times to understand it completely,” she says. “I think the beauty of this film is that it has reached different people at different levels. Everybody finds something different to say.”

Does hype affect how people see a film? “That’s a huge part of the thrill of going to see a movie, not knowing what to expect. I like to go in with an open mind. I don’t like to read the reviews beforehand, I don’t like to read the story or the book or find out from my neighbour how it was.” Gautami has seen the film grow in front of her eyesand with it, she grew as a technician. “It has been an eye opener. We all don’t have to go out and make films. We can do anything.It’s about your endeavour for something above the ordinary and beyond the benchmarks you’ve set for yourself.”

She seems to enjoy her second innings. In her first, Gautami was the hottest heroine on the block doing films with Rajnikant and Kamal Haasan. She giggles when you tell her that. What happened between these two innings? “Life happened. I got married, I figured out how relationships work. I had a daughter, lost my parents. I understood that a relationship has to be participated with mutual respect and equal effort from both parties; if not, it’s not something I would like to spend my life on. So, I went about shaping my life with something I am happy with and with people I am comfortable with. Then, I fought cancer and I came out of that and did Dasavathaaram.”

No one else could’ve mentioned all of that and made it sound like it happens to everybody. Especially, fighting cancer and rebooting after life-altering changes.

When exactly did Kamal Haasan make an entry into her life? “Halfway through all that,” she says. “I had decided that I did not want a life with any kind of compromise. We live one life. If you are lucky, you live to 80, you have all your faculties intact and you have life, that’s great. But if you don’t, and if you just have today, how well do you live life? How honestly do you live it for yourself? I made all my decisions on my personal life, my marriage, based on that. My daughter needs to grow in an environment that is loving, wholesome, where there is no stress, where there is no kind of pressure of any kind…”

How did she fall in love with Kamal Haasan?

“He was Kamal Sir to me. He still is, but in a different way. He was one person I looked up to and thought the world of. With every level that I’ve gotten to know him, from the audience to star to his co-star to… I’ve seen him as a writer, I’ve seen him as a director, I’ve seen him on the sets, I’ve seen him with his kids, and my respect for him has only grown. He’s an immensely strong person, very, very compassionate. These are things that are never seen or heard because he never speaks of himself and people who know him don’t speak much. It is about sharing little joys, every moment, every day, it’s about the 24 hours… I think both of us felt that and it grew to the next stage.”

Is it a relationship that’s beyond marriage?

“No, I’m not going to classify my relationship. I don’t feel the need to define it.”

That’s Gautami. She does not believe in definitions.

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