Kalki Koechlin: I was told to dye my hair black and do an item number
Actor Kalki Koechlin, of French lineage and Indian upbringing, says that she has overcome the barrier of appearance in Bollywood films and wants to do everything possible as an artist.
Actor Kalki Koechlin has always been someone considered to be an outsider in Bollywood. And this after eight years in Bollywood, following a high-octane 2009 debut in Dev D, a striking interpretation of Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay’s classic novel Devdas, and roles in well-received Hindi films such as Shaitan (2011), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), Shanghai (2012), and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013).
While many people have now accepted that she is “Indian enough”, it has been a long journey, says the 33-year-old Kalki, born to French parents in Pondicherry.
Talking about the advice she got when she entered Bollywood, Kalki says that although some of it was useful, the rest she chose to ignore. “I remember one woman telling me to dye my hair [black] and do an item number. But I didn’t really pay attention. I don’t think that would’ve helped me. Other than that, it has been sensible things that I’ve been told, like improving my Hindi. My dancing skills are also terrible and I worked on that,” she says.
Kalki, who will be seen next in actor Konkona Sen Sharma’s debut directorial venture, A Death in the Gunj, says that it’s still tough for her to essay some roles. “It would be difficult for me to play a rural, gaon-wali ladki,” she says, even though “playing a desi character is normal for me now”.
On the whole, she has crossed the barrier of her looks. “Most people have accepted the fact that I’ve been here and that I am Indian. I don’t think the physicality of it gets in the way,” says Kalki. “Of course, there are certain roles that wouldn’t be credible for me to play,” adds the actor. She has played some very unconventional roles — her debut film Dev D itself saw her play a teenage sex worker, and then in Margarita with a Straw (2014), she played a young girl suffering from cerebral palsy who falls in love.
Talking about the kind of roles she wants, Kalki says that she is interested in trying out different things. “I want to do everything. I am greedy,” she says. “I love independent dramas. At the same time, I love Cat Woman and Wonder Woman, too. Romcoms interest me. As an actor, it’s important to be versatile. I don’t think I am consciously looking to do something different. But even if it’s a similar role, I like to bring something new to the film and the character. I like to play someone unique.”
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