Kani Kusruti exclusive interview: ‘Payal Kapadia really deserved the win at Cannes Film Festival’ - Hindustan Times
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Kani Kusruti exclusive interview: ‘Payal Kapadia really deserved the win at Cannes Film Festival’

May 29, 2024 09:45 AM IST

In this exclusive interview, All We Imagine As Light actor Kani Kusruti talked about watching the film at the premiere, and the moment it won the Grand Prix.

It was a historic night for India at the closing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Payal Kapadia's All We Imagine As Light clinched the Grand Prix, the second-most prestigious prize of the festival. A somber, gentle drama about two nurses in the city of Mumbai, the film wowed Cannes after the World Premiere where it earned an 8-minute long standing ovation. (Also read: Indian cinema had a watershed moment at Cannes Film Festival 2024. Is the industry watching?)

Payal Kapadia, Divya Prabha, Chhaya Kadam and Kani Kusruti during the photo call following the awards ceremony at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Photo by Scott A Garfitt/Invision/AP/PTI)(AP05_26_2024_000234A)(AP)
Payal Kapadia, Divya Prabha, Chhaya Kadam and Kani Kusruti during the photo call following the awards ceremony at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Photo by Scott A Garfitt/Invision/AP/PTI)(AP05_26_2024_000234A)(AP)

In this exclusive interview, Hindustan Times caught up with lead actor Kani Kusruti, who plays Nurse Prabha in the film, fresh after the historic win at Cannes. The actor, who returned to India and landed straight on a shoot, gushed about her experience at the festival- from dancing on the red carpet with her co-stars Divya Prabha and Chhaya Kadam; to watching the film for the first time at the premiere itself. (Excerpts)

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Massive congratulations to you on the win for All We Imagine As Light. The last few days must have been a whirlwind; with all the press, screening and then the win! Has the feeling sunk in yet?

(smiles) Yeah! Yes! Finally it did! I think when they called Payal [Kapadia] on stage itself… I think when we got selected in the category is when it took a lot of time to exactly believe it, but I think then it kind of prepared us for a month of probabilities or the possibilities! So, when they first told that the film would compete for the Palme d'Or was… that took some time to believe! But I think Payal really deserved the win, so I think I was really happy. Hence, I think I could take in that thought immediately! (smiles)

You had mentioned earlier that the cast will watch the film at the premiere itself. Tell me about that experience, when you watched the film for the first time with everyone.

Ideally, I wanted to watch the film before so that I can take in the response of the people more than me getting to watch it for the first time. It still was very amazing because I, as an actor, hadn't had such an opportunity before. I generally don't go for screenings. Only once for a Malayalam film has it happened to me. Otherwise I am either always watching it on my own alone, and I don't really go in public to watch it with them. So, for me it was very rare. I liked it in terms of how the audiences were quiet and gently receiving it. After the film, every tiny thing that was happening in the theatre… I could feel it. That was really nice, but to me, it was also a discovery. I was like, ‘Oh, this is how it was edited! Oh, this has come here!’ When you read a script and then you shoot you have an idea. Then after the grading and the sound, you get what has happened. There were surprises, there were places where I was like, ‘No! That can’t be cut!' So yeah, it was a mix of all those feelings.

Did you get time to explore the other films at Cannes?

Unfortunately, we didn't have any time. I wanted to watch [Paolo] Sorrentino (whose film Parthenope was in Cannes), [Yorgos] Lanthimos (whose film Kinds of Kindness played in the same section)… they are my favourite directors. Everything happened so quickly. We had a photo call, and interviews. We had to get ready, and I don't want to go like that to watch a film.

Anyway, I was already coming from a shoot so I was very tired. I had started shooting for a Malayalam web series since last month and they had to give me time to attend Cannes, and I was still shooting on the day I left! So, I was quite tired in that way and I knew I could not do too much or else I would be even more tired when I come back. So I took it as light as possible.

But you must have got a chance to meet some filmmakers or actors who attended the festival…

Yeah, my problem is that I am very bad at recognising names and faces! I don't even know who I met and who talked to me… I have no idea! (laughs) That is the truth! Except some actors who I knew or if someone like Sorrentino if I met I would have known! But otherwise, I don't think I would have recognized anyone! I am very bad at it! (laughs)

Most of my crew, they all knew! They were like, ‘That director came!’ ‘That actor is here!’ I was so bad at this and I was like, ‘Who? Oh, I didn't know.’ I am bad at this. (smiles)

We also saw you all dancing on the red carpet at the premiere of the film. Even the playlist was so much fun!

We did not make a playlist! Payal gave one song that we have in the film, this old Hindi song. So, we can choose one song while we walk on the red carpet. So we knew that. The festival only played some other Hindi songs, and we were so happy and excited that we started moving with the music. We just ended up dancing.

So the dance was all impromptu?

Yes, completely impromptu! We had no idea! (laughs) It was fun! We were happy and we were taking it very light. We were really happy to be there, in that particular moment. In the film also there is this same song where the other two actors are dancing, so we anyway used to dance when the song used to play while we were shooting it. So naturally we ended up dancing there at Cannes! (smiles)

What an incredible year you are having! There was Killer Soup, Poacher, and also the film at Sundance, Girls Will Be Girls. With All We Imagine As Light and Girls Will Be Girls, you are also part of these projects made by female filmmakers, and I was wondering whether you have any reflection on these features, and now that they have been recognized at a global stage?

Killer Soup and Poacher were also great experiences. Abhishek Chaubey and Richie Mehta were wonderful directors to work with. Even the actors were excellent… with whom I got to work with… it was such a great opportunity.

Working with Payal and Suchi [Talati] were some of the best experiences that have happened to me actually. Both of these directors are extremely kind and generous and democratic. But in their own unique way. They both are extremely different in the way they direct but both felt ideal in a way. I kept thinking there are so many ideal ways, not just one. I was so happy to discover that feeling.

For Girls Will Be Girls the number of females in the crew was very high. So, the DoP, the focus puller… all were run by women. Which was such a great experience. No shouting, nothing. It was all quiet, happy and there was an amazing feeling in that space.

Payal's film had, on the other hand, had such a wonderful sense of collaboration; where everyone was just focused on the craft and working together. That was also really amazing to see, honestly. Girls Will Be Girls happened first. I was about to start it when I auditioned for Payal. Till the time Girls Will Be Girls finished, after a few months, All We Imagine As Light started. Both were such amazing experiences.

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