At 50, Gautami Tadimalla is glowing and raring to go. “Maybe, age is more energy than a number?” I tell her. With a smile, she responds that’s something she inherited from her parents. “They were always cheerful and enjoyed life,” she says. Gautami’s strength has been her easy likeability. The suave actor, who made her silver screen comeback with Papanasam, is currently enjoying her stint as a television host with Anbudan Gautami.
“Looking back, I am feeling content with zero regrets and that’s most important. I am pretty much willing to listen to scripts. My choice of films will be based on what appeals to me in a role. It is tough to say which role I have liked in the recent past but ‘different’ films are made nowadays and it would be great to know what’s out there for me,” she adds.
Gautami took time out to speak to indianexpress.com on things close to her heart.
Excerpts from a conversation:
Rajinikanth-starrer Guru Shishyan (1988) was your debut film in Tamil. From that year to 1997, you were quite busy acting. What keeps you occupied these days?
My acting projects have been rather occasional, as I multi-task and have other responsibilities. I shoot for my television shows and do a bit of grocery shopping now and then. I take care of my pets and I read. Also, I run Life Again Foundation. We help out cancer survivors across cities and lend a helping hand in every possible way. There were movie offers in between, but nothing enthused me.
How do you look at roles that are currently written for women?
I was fortunate to have played substantial roles at the time mainstream actors were at the top of their game. Each role was an experience in itself. When I started doing films, I had to learn everything myself—be it expressions, techniques of acting, hairdo and makeup. Trust me, when I did Enga Ooru Kavalkaran, I was clueless about Tamil cinema, culture and the way it functions. I was a modern girl brought up in Bangalore, wearing denim and T-shirts. I didn’t know how to wear a paavaadai-dhaavani, for instance. As for the language, I learned from a Tamil newspaper or a television news bulletin. From a nobody to someone who views acting as an intellectual and psychological exercise, I have come a long way. Things have changed now for better and today’s industry is free from the traditional mould of what’s expected of a heroine.
Do you miss being in films?
Absolutely. But I don’t want to do films for the sake of it. I am happy being a television host, talking to people. I am in love with this phase of life. At the same time, I was never away from the industry. I was into costume designing, writing and so on. I would not say ‘no’ if a good and honest film comes my way. I want to be part of films that make a difference; something that’s not run-of-the-mill and people can connect with. If I have to leave my daughter and go to work, it has to be special in some way or the other. So far, my choices of films were more instinctive and I have done all kind of films. Also, I wish actors of my age were given powerful roles.
Having been in the industry for about three decades, what changes do you see now?
It has become more organised and everything is well-planned. A lot of subjects that weren’t handled earlier are being taken up, too. That’s good. I notice that present-day filmmakers are more receptive to ideas. Everyone’s creativity is taken into account. Earlier, one man was in charge. I see more teamwork now.
Tell us about Anbudan Gautami.
It is a great opportunity to be on the other side—interviewing people. Initially, I didn’t know how to handle it. After a few weeks, I fell into the groove. I just put myself in the background and let my guest’s personality come out. So far, celebrities have had nice things to say about the show. It is fun and I have not had any thought about it beyond that. Any opportunity that satisfies you is rewarding—mentally or emotionally. Television has a larger audience than films. With better reach comes more responsibility. I am conscious about making the platform given to me positive.
You faced cancer at 35 and I am sure it has been a long road to recovery.
It was never easy and that changed my outlook towards life. Every day counts and I am living it to the fullest. Life is about keeping your will alive throughout the lows of life and being strong. What I have learnt is only when things fall apart can we build ourselves again with a deeper and more enduring mature attitude. I don’t take my life for granted anymore. I have become more self-aware and it adds to your personality.
How do you relate to fitness?
I don’t believe in dieting and I am a staunch believer of strictly scheduling my food. I believe one should eat everything but in small quantity. But I am largely no gluten, no lactose person though I have a weakness for sweets. (Smiles)
Very few senior female actors were involved in the #MeToo movement.
I can’t speak for others, but Women in Cinema Collective, for example, is a wonderful initiative. It is high time we had something similar here as well. Good and bad exist everywhere. But honestly speaking, I have not encountered such unpleasant things in my career. First, I never had a compulsion to do films. Second, I never asked anyone for a chance. Third, I really got to work with some terrific filmmakers and actors.