You may not have seen much of her work. But Kanu Kusruti is one of Indian cinema’s most powerful actresses.

In a rare interviews she opened up about her craft and career saying, “Objectively, I see myself as someone who delivers an average performance in acting. I would love to consider the genre, the story, the screenplay, the dialogues, the editor, the director, the team, the character, and the facility for rigorous preparation of the part. I really enjoy the challenge any and every part offers.”

When asked how she how she reaches the core of a character so unerringly Kanu attributed it to craft. “It’s mostly all craft for me. While certain talents might be inherent, it’s rigorous practice and exploration that help me unlock my potential. I believe my job is to become a versatile, finely tuned instrument capable of channeling diverse perspectives; to bring characters to life, making them deeply believable and credible. When I refine my craft, I also end up sharpening my instinct and expanding my latitude as an actor. I rely on rigorous practice to breathe life into characters beyond the range I am born with. This constant expansion of toolset and vocabulary helps me in my attempt to illuminate the unseen in a character and perhaps even excavate meanings in the narrative material that might not be immediately obvious.”

About playing secondary roles to actresses Huma Qureshi and Nimisha Sajayan, Kanu cuts in curtly, “There are no secondary roles according to me. I personally know many actors who are far better than me or anyone presently working in the film industry but have never been given a chance or recognized. It disappoints me to witness such injustice in the world. In India, we often fail to recognize true talent and artists. Personally, I have felt I have received more than I deserve, so there is no anger on my part. Never has the duration of a character in a story stopped me from doing a project. I auditioned for the part of Mala, the one Nimisha is portraying. I did not get it. Later, Richie reached out to discuss another character – Dina. He sent me the script. The part really resonated with me and I was already drawn to the subject of the story. Some projects become not just opportunities but sources of inspiration and discovery; this was one of those.”

She is happy being a part of Malayalam cinema. “Within India, I find that Malayalam cinema often produces stronger screenplays, narrative vision, and audience resonance. This might be due to my limited exposure outside of Kerala, and I’m open to discovering other regional cinema that might be equally unique and cutting edge. I don’t have a specific wish list of actors, but I’m always enthusiastic about collaborating with amazing actors who might still be emerging. Working with individuals of profound talent and rigor becomes a unique opportunity to learn and grow. Among non-Keralite directors, I’ve liked the work of Gurvinder Singh, Dibakar Banerjee, Kanu Behl, and Chaitanya Tamhane, and I would love to work with them someday.However, I am truly fortunate to have some of the most brilliant cinema auteurs as family and friends. I’ve been and continue to be closely involved in Anand’s creative process. I learn immensely from observing the work of these brilliant minds, Shreya Dudheria and Khushboo Ranka. Discussing, deconstructing, and exchanging ideas with them has become a way of life that I deeply cherish. I hope to work with them on their future films.”

Although she envies none, and is very happy in her own space,Kanu has several favourite actors and filmmakers. “There are many contemporary and traditional theatre actors within and outside India that I love. But if I had to pick one film actor, I would say Denis Lavant is one of my favorite actors among many. I have never felt like playing a part that was done by another actor. If a part is poorly performed by any actor, I would wish it to be done by other actors whom I truly admire. But there is one director outside of India whom I absolutely love to associate with in any capacity that I can, and that is Yorgos Lanthimos.”

Although she plays a wildlife conservationist in Poacher, Kanu confesses she is not involved in any wildlife preservation efforts . “I try to be aware as much as I can. I cannot assert that a message from cinema is essential, but I crave a cerebral high after watching a film or any form of art. I yearn for art to extend my intellectual insights and nurture my streak of playfulness. In Poacher Richie Mehta has granted me ample space to delve into my character, providing researched notes he has done for the story. I observed he is kind and patient to everyone on the team and pays a lot of attention to details. However, it wasn’t until the dubbing sessions that I comprehended the grand scale of the show. That’s when I grasped that Richie and his team had meticulously crafted the entire narrative well before the shoot commenced.”

Kanu confesses she is not particularly selective. “I embrace almost all the opportunities that come to me. Presently, I approach the offered character as a chance to practice my craft rather than what the narrative speaks. While I currently accept most roles, I hope for a future where, with more diverse offers, I can become discerning about the stories I choose to be a part of. My passion for acting evolved slowly over the past two decades. I began acting in theatre at a very young age because I was invited to, not because I had the passion for it. This came about because there was no other girl available who was permitted to participate in theatre, even if she desired to. Yes, Kerala can be alarmingly conservative also. My parents were helping their theatre practitioner friends by letting me participate in a play that they were making at that point in time. I continued my theatre journey with other productions, directors, and theatre schools. Initially, I viewed it all as an amateur interest. Only in the past 5-6 years did I recognize the responsibility of an actor, prompting a more serious commitment to the craft.”

Kanu looks forward to more interesting work. “There is Girls will be Girls directed by Shuchi Talati that premiered at Sundance, which won two awards. Payal Kapadia’s film All We Imagine As Light is in post-production. One Malayalam web series is in the post, and Maharani Season 3 is already streaming. Other than Poacher, Killer Soup also got released. One Hindi film is also in post-production. Two web series and one Malayalam film are lined up for the coming months.”