Interview With

Aadhitya Baaskar and Gouri G Kishan

The latest young sensations, Aadhitya Baaskar and Gouri G Kishan who played the younger Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha respectively in 96, talk to Jyothsna Bhavanishankar about the film, how they managed to get their roles, shooting experiences and their plans.

Congratulations! You have done very well in 96 and there is appreciation all over. How do you feel?

It is truly wonderful and I am not able to put in to words about how I feel right now as all these things are very new to me. I have no link to film industry but here I am in the middle of so much attention and affection. It feels great. Thank you so much!

Tell us something about yourself

My father is actor MS Bhaskar. I am doing my final year graduation in Vis.Com at SRM, Ramapuram campus in Chennai.

I am a Keralite hailing from Vaikom, Kottayam, but I have been in Chennai almost my entire life. I have done my schooling from Hindu Senior Secondary School, Adyar, Chennai. Right now, I am studying my second year journalism at Christ College, Bangalore.

How did you get this offer?

An article on our family with a photograph had come in a weekly. After having seen the picture, people had approached my dad to check if I would be willing to do a film. Appa asked me and I was fine with the idea. I also went for auditions twice and then I was selected for 96.

This came to me when I was doing my 12th in Chennai. Director Premkumar and my uncle who is settled in Dubai now, are college mates. My uncle came across a Facebook post seeking a Trisha look-alike girl in the age group of 16 to 18 for a film. I was 17 at that time. Though my family and I are huge movie buffs, I never seriously considered acting as my career. When this came up, my uncle and family encouraged me to give it a go and try my luck. Everything went well. There were multiple auditions and screen tests. I think I was apt for the role and I got it.

Did you nurture acting aspirations from your childhood?

I am a huge movie buff and I really like the entire concept of acting and what goes behind it. I was fascinated by it from day one. But I also knew the hardships that the budding actors face; the kind of passion and the drive you need to get somewhere in the industry is insane. Though I was fascinated by it, I never really took it as a serious career option. But I do my own acting in front of the mirror and with cousins and friends, I love acting and I completely enjoy doing all that. Also importantly, I am a trained classical dancer. I have been a part of many dance dramas. I was involved in theatre and dramatics. And that was the closest exposure to acting as such.

Were you told that you will be doing the younger version of Vijay Sethupathi/Trisha in 96?

Yes, I was told about it during the selection process itself.

I was not. I initially auditioned for Shuba's character (Devadarshini's younger one) but I think after a couple of months, when they got in touch with me they thought that I was better suited for Jaanu's role. It was a level up for me. I never saw it coming.

What were your feelings upon selection?

I was happy, but at the same time, felt responsible that I should deliver the goods properly as I have been vested with a lot of trust for this role.

How did you prepare for your role? Were there any workshops?

No, no workshops as such, but to bring out the rapport level among my co-stars, we all spent a couple of days together before the shoot.

I had to work on my physique a little before shooting. I was put into a small regimen 3-4 months before the shooting began.

What was your father's advice? Did he coach you?

No, he did not. He just reiterated about the importance of good behavior at the sets. He did not interfere in any of the shooting process. Perhaps, that's why it has come out well.

What did your dad say after seeing the film?

Appa liked it a lot. In fact, all my family members liked the film.

Shooting experience?

Since this is my first film, I felt everything very new and interesting. It was very good.

There was zero pressure at the sets and I think that is very important because I was never tensed. It is a huge process and there is so much involved behind the camera. I think I was blessed to be in the unit. Everyone made me feel so comfortable and we have become a family now. It was a natural process. We never felt it was work. Shooting experience was wonderful.

Any difficult scene?

No, not at all! Since director Premkumar had planned everything well in advance, nothing was difficult. He was very cool and that helped me give my best.

There were many challenges. For example, Jaanu's character is a singer and she sings a lot of songs. I was stuck in the room at nights learning the lyrics of the songs. They are very popular songs and I had to do justice to them. The lyrics were a little tough for me initially as they were in strong Tamil and hence I had to learn them by-heart, listen to them many times. Especially the Tamil anthem that I sang, Aadhitya taught me the lines.

Did Vijay Sethupathi see the film? What did he say?

He liked it a lot. He hugged me and appreciated my work.

Were there any interactions with Trisha?

No! Since I played her younger version, there was no clash of scenes or combination scenes with her. My scenes happened in Kumbakonam and Tanjore. But her portions were completely in Chennai. I have not met her yet. I met Vijay Sethupathi sir though. I missed out on seeing Trisha by a day as she left for Petta shooting. Trisha ma'am has acknowledged my performance, she has tweeted about me and she has messaged me saying she liked what I did. That is extremely sweet of her. I was apprehensive if I had the ability in me but to get that kind of validation from her was wonderful.

Your father is a very talented artist. Did that bring upon some kind of stress on you?

No, I would not have performed if I was stressed. I felt I was able to give my best because I was cool. Even if there was pressure, I never paid heed to such things. I know my limitations.

Your favorite song in the film was "Yamunai Aatrilae". What is your favorite song in real life?

I like most of the old songs and Yamunai Aatrilae remains my favorite too.

You have sung many songs in the film. Which is your favorite?

My favorite among them was Chella Kutty Naan. I had the most fun while shooting this song. I watched the video, it was cute and teasing, the entire rhythm and lyrics. That's the song where I look at Ram and raise my eyebrows. I had lots of fun as it was a cheeky number too.

How is Aadhitya in real life? Is he like the Ram in 96?

There are similarities and differences. I am not shy like Ram. I don't fear anyone. It is not arrogance. Some people may perceive that way. People who know me well are aware that I am frank.

Are you like Jaanu in real life?

Yes, I am an outspoken person and pretty straight forward. I speak my mind. Also because I am studying journalism, you need to have an opinion. You can't shy away from things. In some aspects, I would want to be like Jaanu. The kind of depth her character has, however outspoken she may be, after 22 years, she still has that love for Ram. That speaks a lot about her as a person. I am a little like Jaanu but I have not felt strongly about anything like she has.

What did your friends from college say on 96?

Most of them appreciated but my close friends pointed out my areas of improvement. I will incorporate all those points in my next film, when it comes.

The response in Christ is more than I expected, I should say, because it is Bangalore and exposure to Tamil cinema is not as much. Today when I went to college, some people recognized me and talked to me. That was a big deal considering how different I had looked in the film. There have been appreciations and my college has also been very supportive. I can't say attendance issues. But I did need many permissions for shooting. They supported me as I was a media student myself.

Have you been getting offers? What are your plans?

I think, I will be getting only now. My plans are to be in cinema only. As of now, I can only think of acting. I love direction but I do not have the necessary expertise on it right now. I have to equip myself with the required skill sets to give quality content which I plan to do.

What are your plans now? Would you be acting?

I would, I think, if I am blessed with good offers and if people do approach me with good roles. There are so many people who have messaged me saying they would love to see me on screen again. That is the biggest compliment aspiring actors can get. If everything works out well, I think it is safe to say, you will see me on screen soon.

Best of luck Aadhitya Baaskar and Gouri G Kishan!