Kani Kusruti is an Indian actress and model who primarily works in the Malayalam entertainment industry. She is known for playing the role of Khadeeja in the Malayalam film Biriyaani (2020).
Kani Kusruti was born on 12 September 1985 (age 38 years; as of 2023) in Cheruvakkal, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. She attended a Malayalam-medium school in Kerala. Soon after completing her senior secondary education, she pursued a theatre arts program at the School of Drama & Fine Arts, Thrissur, Kerala. Later, she moved to Paris to pursue a two-year theatre program at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Paris. Kani, since childhood, was exposed to theatre and acting, and she used to perform in various street plays as a child artist. Kusriti, when she was fifteen, was offered a role in a theatrical production by one of her family friends; however, according to Kusruti, during her teenage, she was not interested in acting. Owing to the acting offer, she ran away from her house to her grandma’s house. In an interview, she talked about the incident and how Kani’s mother reacted to her decision. She said,
I remember running away to my grandma’s house when a family friend approached my parents to let me do a role in a drama. I was extremely shy and very body conscious. But once I got into the groove, I started loving it.”
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Weight (approx.): 65 kg
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Figure Measurements (approx.): 32-28-32
Kani Kusruti belongs to a Malayalam-speaking family in Kerala.
Parents & Siblings
Kusruti’s father, Maitreya Maitreyan, is a social activist. Her mother, Dr Jayasree AK, is a community medicine specialist, lecturer, and social activist. Her parents never got legally married HuffPost. In an interview, Kani talked about her parents and said that her parents influenced them to address them by their names. She said,
Everybody used to ask why you call your father and mother by name. I will tell you. Maitreya himself said that it is enough to call my father by his name. People found it difficult to call my mother chechi. I started calling my mother as Jayashree chechi when I heard someone calling me.”
She is the only child of her parents.
Kani Kusruti is unmarried.
Kani Kusruti is dating Anand Gandhi, an Indian filmmaker and entrepreneur. Kusruti lives with Anand in Delhi.
Kani Kusruti follows atheism.
In 2000, Kusruti made her theatrical debut with the play Bhagavadajjukam in which she played the role of Vasantsena (a kept mistress or prostitute with wealthy or powerful clients) in the play. The play toured across various theatre festivals like the Bharat Rang Mahotsav and the International Theatre Festival of Kerala. She played the role of Kamala in the theatrical production Siddhartha, directed by M. G. Jyotish, and was adapted from the novel written by Hermann Hesse. In 2007, the play was invited to the Villeneuve en Scene Festival d’Avignon, an annual arts festival held in the French city of Avignon. In 2011, Kani joined the theatre company Footsbarn and worked on a new production of Shakespeare’s Tempest. She played Miranda in the resulting performance “The Indian Tempest.” After touring Ireland, Spain, France, Portugal, and India, the production opened at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2013. Kusruti researched, co-developed, and acted in the Indo-Polish theatrical production ‘Burning Flowers – 7 Dreams of a Woman,’ an Indo-Polish production of a Polish theatrical group directed by Pawel Szkotak and produced by Teatr Biuro Podróży.
It is a play on violence against women. Aparna, theatre activist, and I have been collecting the material for the play for some time now. The Polish group had a skeleton of a play by the time they arrived and then they supplemented it with the material we provided,” The Hindu
In 2003, Kani made her film debut with the Malayalam film Anyar, wherein she played the role of a bus passenger. In the same year, she played the role of Lakshmi in the film Manushyaputhri.
In 2009, she was featured in the Malayalam film The Kerala Cafe in which she played the role of Zeba. Subsequently, in 2013, she worked in many Malayalam films like Oru Indian Pranayakadha, North 24 Kaatham, Hotel California, and Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla. In 2020, Kani was featured in the award-winning film Biriyaani, wherein she played the role of Khadeeja.
In 2022, Kani appeared in Malayalam films like Super Sharanya, Pada, Vichithram, and Nishiddho. In an interview, Kani talked about how she decided to pursue a career in film. She said,
It was my chance. When I started out, perhaps even now, theatre actresses aren’t respected. They are called sluts. In my case, a theatre group called Abhinaya in Thiruvananthapuram needed a female actor and the rest, as they say, is history. Acting wasn’t my passion back then.”
In 2014, Kani made her Tamil debut with the film Pisaasu.
In the same year, Kani was featured in the film Burma in which she played the role of Clara. In 2017, she was featured in the role of Bhairavadu in the Tamil-language film Spyder.
In 2015, she made her television debut with Flowers TV Malayalam-language show Ishwaran Sakshiyayi, wherein she played the role of Adv. Tresa.
In 2021, she made her digital debut with the Disney+ Hotstar series OK Computer in which she played the role of Monalisa Paul.
In 2021, she was featured in the Sony LIV series Maharani in which she played the role of Kaveri Sridharan.
Took a break from acting due to sexual demand From Filmmakers
In 2019, in an interview, Kani claimed that she decided to take a break from films due to sexual demands made by filmmakers. In the same interview, Kani revealed that the filmmakers approached her mother to convince her to fulfil their sexual demands. Kani explained,
I always wanted to be an artiste in the cinema industry. But once I came in, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to make it. There were lots of adjustments needed to be done and lot of restrictions were imposed for being a female actor. I found it hard to survive hence decided to drop the idea of becoming an actress. Many even came to my mom telling that her daughter should make adjustments if she wants to be the part of the project.”
Soon after making the allegations against South Indian filmmakers, Kani decided to go back to theatres; however, she couldn’t earn enough as a theatre artist. Later, she decided to resume her career in films.
Letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi
In July 2019, Kani Kusruti and 48 other actresses wrote an open letter to the 14th Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to highlight incidents of communal violence in the country. The letter highlighted the fact that the slogan ‘Jai Shree Ram’ had been used as a provocative war cry. In October 2019, an FIR was filed against those 49 people.
Trolled for wearing a red lipstick
In January 2021, Kani Kusruti was trolled by netizens after she attended Kerala’s 50th State Film Awards in which she was seen wearing red lipstick from Fenty Beauty by Rihanna; the social media users trolled her based on her dark skin tone and for wearing red lipstick as it is a prevalent belief that only fair-skinned women can carry off the red shade of lipstick. The News Minute
- In 2019, she won the Best Actress Award for the short film Counterfeit Kunkoo (2018) at the January Awards.
- In 2019, she won the Best Actress Award for the Malayalam film Biriyani at the Jury Awards.
- In 2020, she won the Best Actress Award for the Malayalam-language film Biriyani (2019) at the Kerala State Film Awards.
- Owing to the caste system through last names in India, Kani’s parents never gave her a surname. At the age of fifteen, when Kani had to submit an application form to her school, she invented her surname ‘Kusruti.’ The word ‘Kusruti’ in Malayalam means mischief. Indulge Express
- In 2019, Kani, after winning the Kerala State Film Awards, dedicated her award to PK Rosy, the first woman actor in Malayalam cinema who was hounded out of the state for being a Dalit, and who dared to play an upper-caste woman in a film. In an interview, on being asked why she dedicated her award to PK Rosy, Kani replied,
PK Rosy is Malayalam’s first heroine. She had portrayed the role of an upper-caste woman in the film Vigathakumaran. Many people, who watched the film, were disturbed because she herself was from the Pulaya caste. They burned her house down, and she had to run away. In a way, such discrimination still continues. We hardly see any actors from the backward castes as stars or actors, who get a lot of offers in the Indian cinema. Another reason is that violence and abuse against women — be it in the film industry or anywhere for that matter — still continues. People have attacked PK Rosy very brutally — such things happen even now. So there are all these aspects why I’m reminded of her every day as an actor. Also, there has always been a request to have the Best Actress Award called the PK Rosy Award but that never happened. So this is also a reminder. Indulge-The New Indian Express
- Her favourite music album is L. Shankar’s Raga Aberi.
- Kani Kusruti follows a non-vegetarian diet. Kani, during an interview, talked about her comfort food and said,
- In 2016, Kani Kusruti was criticised for her role in Shailaja Padindala’s directed film Memories of a Machine. In the short film, Kani plays the role of a woman who recalls her childhood and narrates her early sexual experience with an older man and how she enjoyed it. Soon after the film was released on Youtube, Kani and the filmmaker were brutally criticised for normalising child abuse and promoting paedophilia. The Times of India
- In an interview in 2018, Kani talked about her career as an actor and said that she had decided to stay away from the Bollywood industry. Further, in the same interview, Kani explained the reason and said,
Quite honestly I don’t think I have a place in Bollywood. They don’t really cast dark-skinned women with my kind of features in commercial films, do they? Also, I can’t speak Hindi fluently. So unless I have sufficient time to rehearse for the film, I can’t play a part in Bollywood anyway. To be in Bollywood one requires to actively network, make a professional portfolio, hire an agent – I am not saying these are bad things, I just haven’t made the effort to do them, so that’s one more reason. I usually get cast in independent films through the credit of my previous work.” Indian Women Blog
- In 2020, Kani Kusruti was featured on the cover of Grihalakshmi, a women’s magazine published in Malayalam. In an interview, Kani talked about the Grihalakshmi magazine and said that when the magazine publishers approached her for a photo shoot, she had categorically told them that she wanted to wear minimal make-up and wished to have her body hair untouched by make-up or photoshop.
- In an interview, Kani said that had she not become an actor, she would be a public health employee or a doctor or a dancer. Kusruti said,
I prefer science to art. If possible I would have pursued a career in public health. I would have done my MBBS and higher studies. Dance is something I enjoy. When it comes to acting, I prefer live performances on stage to doing it in front of a camera. It could be theatre or classical dance forms such as Koodiyattam. Had I learnt Koodiyattam I would not have done anything else.” The Hindu