Actor Ann Augustine on the high Gayatri of ‘Artist’ gave her

Gayatri remains an ache much after Artist. As the vulnerable yet stoic mainstay in Shyamaprasad’s latest, actor Ann Augustine travels into the recesses of an actor she has not explored before. Little wonder then when she says she doesn’t want to let go of Gayatri.

Ann carries home the simplicity that characterises Gayatri. On a short break at her home in Kozhikode, one finds her dressed with abandon; a casual kurta over a track suit, hair rolled up into a bun, face hastily washed, she does not seem far away from her career defining performance. Gayatri was Ann’s test and while decoding her, she unravelled her passion for cinema.

Ann’s three-year-old film career had started off with a flutter, courtesy Lal Jose’s Elsamma Enna Aankutty. However, there has not been much to cheer about hence. Her films rolled in every now and then, but none stayed in the mind as much as her debut. Films were still a surprise, she says. Granted, she knew the film world thanks to her father actor Augustine. But despite Elsamma and others like Arjunan Sakshi, Ordinary and Da Thadiya, Ann was largely going with the flow, happy being herself. “I am this very normal person,” she says. She heartily agrees, “I made a lot of mistakes.” Films were yet to suck her into its world. On the other hand, her studies continued, first her bachelors and now her masters in Psychology.

But Shyamaprasad’s Gayatri tempted her to pause. “For the first time I got a script in my hands,” she is frank. Sure she sunk her teeth into it. “I would constantly ask questions and even argue with Shyam sir on why I should be saying certain dialogues.” On the sets of Artist, she learnt how passion drives a profession. For a little over 30 days in a cramped agraharam that was the prominent location, she shared space with people who were driven by cinema. “That changed the way I looked at movies. Shyam sir is an institution by himself, especially in his passion and love for cinema,” she says.

The actor who appears to enjoy self-deprecating humour says she was as surprised as anyone else on being given Artist. “I kept asking Shyam sir ‘Why me?’ and he always said, ‘The answer is in the movie,’” recollects Ann.

Gayatri, says Ann, taught her to love the craft. “I will forever love Gayatri. Actually it makes me sad when I think there is no more Gayatri in my life. I would do anything to get back and be her. We shot continuously for Artist in a small space without even a day’s break. In effect, you get attached to everything about the film. I never used glycerine in it,” says Ann.

Gayatri gave Ann a whiff of the quintessential creative satisfaction, of happiness. “Now I do not want to do movies for the sake of it. I want movies that will make me happy,” she says.

Yet, she has not signed any more films. In fact, she is back in college in Bangalore. “I want to finish my studies,” she says. But what engages her more in Bangalore is her interaction with the mentally challenged youngsters at an institution. “I go there every day. I have been getting calls from them asking where I am.”

But before she leaves, she is busy soaking in the accolades. “I have been getting a lot of calls from the media and so too from a lot of unknown people. It has never happened to me before. All I want is for people to go and watch the film.” A good film not endorsed by the audience is heartbreaking, she adds. “The audience makes all the difference.”