The sad faced heroine in the super hit Kannada film Dia that released last year, just before the lockdown is Kushee. The actor from Mandya in Karnataka has made Bangalore her home and with full support from the family became an all-rounder (in studies, art, music and sports). She learnt Bharatanatyam and music and performed at Rangashankara (a theatre) and nurtured a dream to be an Army Officer. She laughs, “I was heavily influenced by the NCC in school and college and once went to an Army chief’s tea party. I wanted to get into the Army.” In an interview to Klapboardpost.com, Kushee (happiness) talks of her ‘sad’ role in Dia.
A successful audition: Name any extra curricular activity, I was in it. I sought admission in theatre and it became my passion. I couldn’t handle too many things and gave up dance and music and stuck to acting. One of my teachers in the Kannada industry rated me as a good actor and suggested I get into the movies. He said this when I was in the 11th and 12th standard. I discussed it with my parents and they would say yes for everything. I started going for auditions of serials and one day I auditioned for Swarnalatha Productions audition. Director Ashok selected me and this was for Dia, my first film. I would always have a doubt as to why the girl in the film is constantly sad and crying and if she continued to do that, would the audience accept such a character. We rehearsed for two to three months, I would go home, lock my door, read the script, watch films that were given as reference, attend rehearsals, memorise those lines. My world revolved around the script. My mother began to get worried and would often discuss with the family.
Preparation for Dia: Ashok, the director of the film was like a strict teacher. He didn’t reveal to me initially that I was selected. He said I am in the film but my place can’t be taken for granted. If I am not performing well, though the shoot started, I can be replaced. He is a personification of patience. I would repeat the same mistake 100 times and he would correct my speech, tone, expression etc. It is only because of his meticulous approach, people have enjoyed my act of crying and sadness you saw on the screen. There were very few scenes where I could smile. The director would instruct people on the sets not to joke or smile at me to ensure I continue the mood of the character. He would tell me not to talk to others and be aloof. Many people started cursing Ashok when they saw the climax. He was trolled and people were upset with what he did to the heroine’s character. I believe that only because he gave us a sad ending, people could register it on their minds. Otherwise they would have forgotten the three characters.
What worked in its favour? The acting, the making of the film because no shots were hyped or elevated and there wasn’t a single commercial shot. People wanted something new and fresh and all of that worked in its favour. People got connected instantly. The director’s first film was a horror subject and it was a big hit titled ‘Six minus five is two’. He didn’t want to repeat the genre, so this one is romantic and the next probably will be suspense or crime. I don’t think he expected this film to be such a hit. It was released on February 7. The first week was slow, it was a surprise for us. Dia, the title was confusing and people thought it was a Hindi film. We started doing publicity and people began spreading the word and when lockdown was announced, we released it on OTT and it was like wow. The graph zoomed upwards and we all became overnight celebrities. I am still wondering if all that happened was true. We got messages and requests to re-release the film after lockdown. Some were asking us for account numbers, they wanted to transfer the ticket price; they said they are ridden with guilt for not watching the film in the theatre.
Lockdown helped: When we, the cast got all this fame, I was flooded with scripts from Kannada film industry. The best part about last summer was the lockdown, we had sufficient time to sit and think about it. I heard around ten to fifteen scripts and finalised three; I realised the responsibility of being choosy as people from all over the country and outside were messaging me and describing how much they loved the film and my role. The films I signed and worked are yet to release. The lockdown in a way worked well for us but during the shoot every evening when I returned, I was under a lot of stress considering the role I played. It was a great launch, the subject was woman centric and it was helmed by a reputed production house and why would anyone throw away such an opportunity? Being a fresher, I got such a great opportunity and I was determined not to disappoint anyone. I got offers to act from other languages too but due to dates issues, some got postponed and some cancelled. I resolved that if I have to make my debut with a straight Tamil or Telugu film, it has to be with a great story and people should notice and recognise me. My up and coming Nakshe is a suspense thriller and the other one is Cookie College. This is almost done. After having done Dia, I found the rest of the films easier to perform. In Dia I didn’t have much freedom and director Ashok had everything fixed on his mind, be it an expression or a hum. We just followed his instructions. He wanted us to unlearn and learn everything all over aga