Kalki Koechlin says that her work doesn’t contradict her ideologies. She says that she’s a woman of substance and that’s what her work also shows. Kalki’s next, Mantra, has her playing the role of a daughter who’s a part of a dysfunctional family. The film is set in early 2000s when liberalisation hit India and MNCs came in. For Kalki, Mantra is quite relatable because she says she had witnessed that change of economy and how it affected the lives of people growing up in that phase.
Apart from doing films that become a talking point for its content, Kalki is also known in the industry as someone who is not vocally a shy actress. She represents that league of actresses who don’t refrain from putting their point of view across on topics from both within and outside the film industry. During my interview with her in the Capital, I found a peculiar quality. Not many celebrities or actors have the patience to hear what an interviewer has to ask, analyse it and then give an answer. Kalki has that. Even when she senses a question that is capable of offending her, she takes it in her side and answers it gracefully.
Here are the excerpts from InUth’s interview with Kalki Koechlin where she talks about independent films, not getting roles in commercial Hindi cinema, her love for acting and more.
Mantra faced a lot of struggle. It is a film which has been crowd funded. How has it rolled up for you? Does it look fine?
Yes. I hope it’s fine. It’s a good film. I loved the script from the beginning. It’s a powerful story. It’s a very relevant story. I could relate to the story because I grew up in the 90s. I was a kid growing up in India. So, I understand what that change was like and we all have pretty dysfunctional families I think. We can always relate to it.
This film received so many awards at various film festivals. Do you think that when a film of this stature is appreciated so much in all these film festivals around, it also helps it to get a wide recognition in India as well?
I suppose it gives a certain buzz when it travels to festivals and gets awards. Independent cinema is still struggling in terms of getting a release. We can make films easily now, getting it made is easier but releasing it in theatre screens is hard because there are too many films being made. And there are not enough screens. That’s a struggle. I suppose it helps a little bit but I don’t know if it helps that much.
Your major stint in the industry all these days have been through independent cinema. Why aren’t you doing films like Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara?
I must be offered them to do them.
Is it so? Don’t such kind of scripts come in your way?
So, there’s no demarcation between doing independent cinema and commercial films?
No. Not at all. I am an actor. I am greedy.
When you do characters like this (Pia Kapoor in Mantra), and the character like you played in Margarita With A Straw, you contribute a lot it, because you yourself are an empowered woman. You play certain characters and contribute from your own experience and personality into these characters.
But, is it also the opposite? Do these characters also contribute to you?
Of course. 100%. You learn so much from each character you play. You have to fall in love with your characters in some way or the other. You have to find the humanity in them. You learn what it feels like to be that person for some time.
I mean, that’s why I am an actor. I love my job because it’s about empathising with other people who are different from you. And it just makes you understand yourself better. What makes you angry? I think every human being has aspects of them which are really good and really bad. We all have them. It’s just how we accept them and how we learn to live with them rather than brush them under the carpet or show a different side to the public and a different side in private. It’s about being all of you. Accepting the bad things about yourself as well as the good things.
Most of your films of late are the ones with female writers, women filmmakers. Is it a conscious choice?
No. Not at all. I think it’s great I got to work with lots of women. But, totally by chance, women just come and offer me films more.
You wrote an article for Indianexpress.com recently. There in, you mentioned how people still consider and tell you that whoever you are today, is all because of Mr Anurag Kashyap. Has it got more to it? Because when they pick up certain names, be it Mr Kashyap or anybody else for that matter, they are also telling you that it’s not you who have contributed to your success, but somebody else.
I think over time, people look at your work. So your work speaks for you.
Whatever the work that you are choosing or doing, do you want it to bring a change in the industry? And what kind of change you want?
Of course. I want a change to happen in the industry. I want a change to happen in the world. I am sorry but we have as many problems in your industry as we have in mine. Blaming Bollywood is not the solution. We have a problem with the attitudes in our society, the way we educate our boys and girls and that begins from a young age. I think that’s a very important message. Sure, entertainment is a great way to also talk about it but we should also be talking about it in our office spaces, in our schools, in our homes, educate our parents on how to bring up their children. That’s a huge process. And each one of us needs to contribute. You are responsible, I am responsible. That man over there is responsible for the way he gazes at a woman. Everyone is responsible.
Is there anything else you want our young audience to know about the film and your character?
I am a young person in the film, so maybe you will be able to relate to her. Her name is Pia Kapoor. You guys I know are very intelligent, internet savvy crowd. You guys are already out there watching Indie cinema, Netflix, Amazon. You are accessing all that stuff and it’s rare that stuff comes to our cinema. So it’s important that you guys don’t download this film but you go and watch it in the theatres. That would be really important in order for us to be able to make more films like this.