We live in a country where fashion changes like numbers at box office every weekend, where it depends on how Deepika Padukone dressed the last night or what Kareena Kapoor Khan wore to Soha Ali Khan’s wedding the day before. Similarly, our favourites change from Deepika to Kareena or from Ranbir Kapoor to Ranveer Singh. The only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that we all are die hard Bollywood fans, we’ll love it, we’ll hate it, we’ll cry with it and sometime we’ll even want to just shut it out, but we’ll never stop watching Bollywood movies with almost the same story lines all the time. Love, Hatred, Revenge, Happy Endings and our favorite stars – that’s all what takes for a movie to attract us. Our favorite stars play the most important role in this. They are the ones for whom we go to the theatres … oh come on, most of us do and we know we are guilty for it. I am. The story comes second. If both are great, well, then it just becomes a ‘sone pe suhaga’ kind of a combination.
It’s like a race where all our Bollywood actors are fighting against each other either to be our favorite or to get that tag of a superstar. But do we really need that? Or do we need people who are intelligent, cool and comfortable and who do not care if people like them or not; instead they do things that are supposed to be done when you are in Bollywood; say acting and in a way that no one can judge if it really happened or if he or she was just acting.
Such is this 31 year- old French descendant who is an actor, a writer, a poet and an activist, Kalki Koechlin. She started her career by debuting in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D. We all know about the movie because of two things, how gracefully Anurag directed the Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel Devdas by giving a modern take on it and how smooth Kalki was while playing the role of Chandramukhi in it.
Kalki with her sultry looks and a talent to brighten up any role will not only amaze you with her acting or her selection of movies and roles, but also the issues she takes up for the society’s well-being. She has been a strong contender for fighting for women on various social media platforms; one of them being the satirical video, titled “Rape? It’s your fault”, which she shot with VJ Juhi Pandey and the very famous stand-up comedian group, AIB or be it through her column where she writes about the myths and perceptions about disability and sexuality keeping in context with her movie, “Margarita with the Straw” which is yet to be released in India. She wrote, how there are double standards in our society, “I’ve seen, for instance, men harp on about women’s freedom, women’s rights and then at that very moment, have their lunch served to them by their submissive wives.” Well, we cannot help but agree to her.
Earlier this year, she also gave a 16-minute monologue titled, ‘Truths of Womanhood” on how women feel staying in a patriarchal society and being subjected to sexual, physical and mental abuse by men. Being the dynamic woman that she is, Kalki even shared her story of how at the age of 9 she was sexually abused through a leading channel and how she thought she did something wrong and couldn’t tell it to her parents; this made her have some really tough years while she was still young. When asked in an interview, what made her talk about being sexually abused? The answer she had made me fan girl over her even more. She said, “I am trying to help bring the difficult subject of child sexual abuse out in the open. I don’t think public platform is the only way to talk about it, I think sometimes it’s important to speak about it and break the silence.”
Before being an activist and a mainstream actor, Kalki also worked as a theatre artist. She has written, produced and acted in many plays. In an interview she said, “Theatre is really an actor’s playground. There’s nothing like performing for a live audience. It doesn’t matter what day you are having, good or bad, once you come to the rehearsal hall, you leave everything behind. When you are on stage, you’re in the show. That’s the thing I love to come back to. I always get sharpened as an actor.”
Even while Kalki was completing her degree in drama and theatre in London, she was in a theatre group and later co-founded a theatre group, Ouaff, in 2008. She has also won many awards including the prestigious MetroPlus Playwright award for the play, ‘Skeleton Woman’ for which she was a co-writer with her friend and colleague, Prashant Prakash.
Kalki is one of those actresses who proved her talent with her versatility towards various roles and her acting not only in the theatre world, but also in the mainstream Indian cinema.
It has been quite a journey for her filled with such unconventional roles and still being critic’s favorite. When asked about how an actor automatically has a bigger social responsibility, about the selection of her roles and if they put out any kind of message to the public, in an interview by Anupama Chopra, the stellar actress replied, “I think a film industry or any industry of art is a reflection of society and showing them what we are, the good and the bad. That is responsible cinema. To be able to show as strongly the bad in society as you are showing the good. So when you do get a film that is horror or a film that is about a controversial subject, it is making people uncomfortable because they suddenly have to look at themselves. Why are they uncomfortable with a woman who is powerful? Why are they uncomfortable with a woman who is evil? I think it’s very easy to blame. Bollywood gets blamed for a lot of things but it is a reflection of the society we live in and until we take responsibility as a society, each one of us, we cannot blame it on the art.”
Further when asked if she would agree on the fact that it’s a great time for women in Bollywood? To which she replied, “It is a great time to be me for sure. I am happy. I hate differentiating women and men. I get all these interviews where people ask me, ‘Who is your favorite actress?’ and ‘Who is your favorite actor?’ They are immediately separating us. We are professionals and we are equals and we work together in an industry. Until we start to call ourselves equals, nobody else is going to start calling us equals. Yes, it is a great time for women but it is a great time for cinema and it is a great time for actors.”
Kalki has always left a significant impact on her audience by portraying unconventional characters in Shaitan, Shanghai, Zindagi na Milegi Doobara, Yeh Jawaani hai Deewani, Ek thi Daayan and the much appreciated film, That Girl in Yellow Boots in which she was not only the lead but also the co-writer of the story.
Appreciating the performance by the talented actress, Taran Adarsh wrote, “THAT GIRL IN YELLOW BOOTS is embellished with top notch performances, Kalki has the right look for her part, but it does take a lot of guts to portray this intricate role. She has an inimitable talent and onscreen presence by means of which she single-handedly carries the film with her gut wrenching raw performance”.
From Chanda in Dev D to Laila in Margarita with the Straw, Kalki in a span of just few years has carved a niche for herself in Bollywood. As The Hindu rightly wrote, “Many years from now, Kalki Koechlin will be remembered for being an unconventional actor who managed to find her grove in a hero-first Bollywood.”
Being a woman in a man’s world is certainly not an easy task, we all struggle to make our mark, but this lady here has made it with her great sense of selection of roles, with her utmost intelligence and her will to do anything and everything to make the world a better place for the women to live, with not being so in to our faces and yet being our favorite. It’s amazing how a woman can have so many shades of unconventional.