Initiating a conversation with controversial actor Kasthuri Shankar is easy because you ask her a question and she comes up with long answers. “I am fed up of everyone asking me why I wasn’t ‘myself’ on the show. But there was more to what the audience actually saw,” she smiles.
Excerpts from a conversation:
How would you sum up your stay in the house?
How many of you know me really? You have only seen me on stage, in public and on social media. These are where my public opinions are aired. But Kasthuri (at home) doesn’t start fights, get angry or hold grudges. This is how she is in real life. She doesn’t belittle someone and try to gain mileage out of that. I had a huge fight with Sandy and Kavin when Abhirami was sent to jail unfairly. A small portion of that made it to the show. I spoke up for Madhumitha, too. Regardless of whether or not I stand by her action, I spoke up for her freedom of expression. I won’t sit and milk a conflict with Vanitha for the sake of television content because to me that is cheap behaviour.
Why did you sign up for Bigg Boss Tamil 3? All these years, you were saying you didn’t want to enter the show.
It is not because I suddenly decided that Bigg Boss is a seemingly good programme I should be on. They made me an offer I just couldn’t refuse. At some point in time, one has to decide which stupid you want to be. The stupid with the paycheck or the stupid without the paycheck. (Laughs)
I am sure you would have seen the memes on social media.
They call me names, and I would be like: I don’t need to know your mother’s name. (Smiles) I came out of the show and saw what other contestants of Bigg Boss Tamil 3 said behind my back. I couldn’t have responded to backbiting as it happened behind my back. Viewers make their own decisions and judgments about the people who name-call.
I don’t believe in raising my voice because the truth doesn’t need noise. But every time I interacted with someone, my sarcasm would be in peak form. I would give them those little blows. I think a lot of sarcastic things I said went above the heads of even probably the editing table. Also, I didn’t stop ‘tweeting’ inside the house. I used to go to the camera and give my tweets. But nothing made it to TV. I don’t blame the show, but they needed either conflict or heightened emotions. If I came across as a docile spectator in the show, I attribute that to the surgeons of the Bigg Boss Tamil editing table.
You refused to stay in the secret room but chose to leave.
I didn’t find a point to continue. In the history of Bigg Boss, I was the first contestant to walk away from the house after given a chance to go back.
Do you think Bigg Boss has become a breeding ground for toxic masculinity?
Bigg Boss is not a programme suitable for all age groups. It promotes dubious ideologies and squanders the opportunity to propagate positive ideas. I have said this for three years and I say it again. I thought this year will be different because Kamal Haasan’s monologue was very responsible. I thought, finally, there is space for a responsible approach inside as well. I was wrong. The makers focus purely on the negatives and weaknesses of people. That seems to be the driving force of the Tamil version of Bigg Boss. I have been one of the biggest advocates of Kamal Haasan’s participation in the show as an anchor. When other people derided him, I stood up for him in public.
Further, it is a myth that I am a Rajinikanth fan. I am “actor” Rajnikanth’s fan and a bigger “actor” Kamal Haasan’s fan. Even after Madhumitha got out, Haasan talked about walls of television screens, psychiatric and legal panel and so on. He completely refuted all possible allegations and completely quelled all the theories. In every monologue, he is talking about Amazon forest fires and butterfly theory. I bought into that.
What’s your take on fellow contestants?
When I got to know there were contestants from Malaysia and Sri Lanka, I thought they were trying to make a positive change. But they are not even recycling waste. I am not saying housemates are not irresponsible. They even asked the Bigg Boss house to recycle. But I was new and enthusiastic, so I made everyone do it and they did, but the process didn’t last for long.
After a few days, I realised the housemates are a bunch of good people in bad circumstances. Everybody’s weaknesses are forced to come out. Nobody is a pushover, nobody is dumb. We have very monochromatic ideas of every contestant. Take Abhirami for instance. She is such a bundle of talent and a chirpy child. But that’s not what I saw till I went into the house myself. We got to see nothing of Reshma. She is funny as hell. People keep asking me – did you make any friends? Except for Losliya, Darshan, Mugen and Kavin, everyone’s known to me.
This year, they have an interesting mix of celebrities, including a desperate director, has-been actresses (myself too) and a scamster. The intention is to get volatile personalities, I believe.
What do you think of the Saravanan and Madhumita episodes?
Vijay TV is more keen to save their back and face over showing reality.
What’s your opinion on Vanitha’s re-entry?
Why are we questioning Bigg Boss’ fairness on this? It is important to look at entertainment as entertainment. Perhaps, this is a reflection of how people’s votes are manipulated.
Why is it difficult for older contestants to survive for long in the show?
This is what happens when you have the majority of people belonging to a certain group. Groupism is alive and well. This will be based on ages, sexes, food habits etc. If you notice the pattern of people who have been evicted, I wouldn’t even call age a factor. Sexism is.
Did you feel cornered, disrespected or humiliated inside?
Not when I was on the show. However, when I came out and saw what they spoke, I felt bad. I am curious to see how they are going to show their faces to me once everyone is out.
Who are you rooting for? Who do you think will bag the title?
They are both different answers. I am rooting for Cheran because he has exhibited consistently higher intelligence. He has played the game well, too.
Did you play the game?
I didn’t and I will never.
Bigg Boss seems a wrong place for you then.
No, any place that gives me a paycheck is fine. (Laughs) I thought I could infuse some positivity and I wanted to try. I don’t regret the experience as two weeks inside showed me that I can keep calm and cool under any circumstances. It showed me that I am not too big to apologise. It showed me that in times of conflict, I will even take up blame, just to end the conflict. It also showed me that I can be in jail and can survive. I thought to myself that I was a short-tempered person, but I realised that I don’t get angry for petty reasons. I am glad somebody paid me to go find that out about myself. For example, I did not sit quietly when there was injustice being meted out in front of my eyes. Regardless of who bags the title, Bigg Boss is the ultimate winner.
What do you think about Kavin’s love-triangle?
Nobody there is an innocent member of the public. Every single contestant is a showbiz personality and knows fully well how to play to the camera. If you are entertained by it, so be it.
Do people go to Bigg Boss for face value of the show?
What kind of face value does Bigg Boss give to most of its contestants? You will be lucky if you escape without any damage to your existence. But it’s very beneficial for newcomers.