Reluctant 'glamour girl'
It was during the shooting of `Chinna Thirai' that the award-winning Kannada director T.S. Nagabharana approached her for `Neela'. Usually, he made films for profits but once a year he made one for himself, he told her.
She was among the first of the city models to make it as an actress. Even as a model, she was the first to make it to the top four of the Miss India finals in 2000. Recently, she bagged a Cinema Express Best Actress award for her Kannada film `Neela', which incidentally, was her debut in films.
After half-a-dozen films of playing the `glamour girl', including a special appearance in the latest Vijay release `Vaseegara', she's finally waiting for her first performance based role in Tamil to come alive on the screen when `Nee Varum Pathaiyellaam" releases. "Once that comes out, people will see beyond the glamour. That film should do a lot of difference to my current image," a confident Gayathri J tells Sudhish Kamath.
TILL NOW, it was like Gayathri Jayaraman's required for glamour here. But all that will change after `Nee Varum Pathaiyellaam'. It's like if the hero has 30 scenes, I have 35 scenes in that film. The best part is that I'm the only heroine in the film and it's a completely-deglamourised role, you won't be able to see the make-up," she says.
Surprisingly for an actress, Gayathri is extremely candid when she rates herself. "In `Manathai Thiruduvitai', I was pretty ugly. In `April Mathathil', there was a huge difference. In `Vaseegara', I look great but that's about it. There was no scope for me to act there... which is what I expected when I signed that film. But with `Nee Varum... ', I expect people to say `She can act' as well".
In fact, Gayathri had been refusing films ever since she was in school because she strongly believed that she cannot act and of course, she was too young then for her parents to even let her consider a career in films. "No one ever in my family had been an actress and I doubt if anyone ever would be. I am actually happy that my parents did not encourage films when I was in school because I would not have known to handle the industry then. I was too young then."
"I refused films because I wanted to do medicine. In spite of getting 94 per cent, I couldn't get a medical seat, I got to do physiotherapy which I lost interest in after a while. That's when I took modelling up seriously and started to do B.Sc in Life Science at IGNOU," she recalls.
Once she made it to the top four of the Miss India finals in 2000, tinsel town beckoned her again. "K.B. picked me up for his TV series `Chinna Thirai' and I did a couple of stories for that. I didn't look at it as acting then. In Bombay, it's different for a model to make two ends meet, so for me the fact that they were flying me down was more of a chance to come home to my parents."
It was during the shooting of `Chinna Thirai' that the award-winning Kannada director T.S. Nagabharana approached her for `Neela'. Usually, he made films for profits but once a year he made one for himself, he told her. `Neela' was of the latter variety - a tale of an `Adivasi' singer girl who fights throat cancer and goes on to be a cultural witness to help her landlord.
"I told him I cannot act. And he said that he was paid to make people act. It's my job. You come and I'll make you act. Even while we were talking, his wife was shooting me on a handycam. They believed I could act. I have never looked the way I have looked in that film. It was a performance-based role devoid of glamour. It's sad that in spite of having done a film like that, here you are called only for the glamour requirements. People want their heroines to look healthy. I love models with high cheekbones, but I've seen that people here think that the girl is sick, she hasn't eaten and is starved. To be a heroine here, you need to look healthy, with round faces and chubby cheeks... which... is not difficult to achieve," she laughs.
Thankfully for Gayathri, the Cinema Express award for her performance as `Neela' boosted her confidence to take on performance centric roles however rare they may be. "Down south, the man is the head of the family. It's only natural that cinema is a reflection of that. But I don't think it's too much to ask for films where the heroine is as important to the film as the hero." But for the moment, Gayathri is content and happy with Kollywood and sees no reason to head North. "How we welcome people from Bombay is not how they welcome us. It's like entering a completely different field."
Looking back, she's happy she didn't choose to do films from school. "I now know what is right and what is wrong. In this industry, that's what is important to know."