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Konkona, Kalki’s A Death In The Gunj reaches Toronto Film Festival

Actor Kali Koechlin gets candid about films, theatre and her personal life.

bollywood Updated: Sep 20, 2016 07:53 IST
Subhash K Jha
Subhash K Jha
Hindustan Times
Kalki Koechlin,Anurag Kashyap,Margarita With A Straw
Actor Kali Koechlin doesn’t believe that there’s a difference between men and women filmmakers.

Kalki Koechlin, who made her Bollywood debut with Dev D directed by Anurag Kashyap, who she later married, has come a long way. Though the Indian cinema initially found it difficult to slot Kalki’s distinctly Caucasian look and global demeanour, it has lately made peace with her cosmopolitan personality, and is offering her author-backed roles in films such as Margarita With A Straw and Waiting.

Kalki, who separated from Kashyap two years ago, is also making her presence felt strongly in theatre and regarding social and feminist issues. Her latest film A Death In The Gunj has just been released to tremendous ovation at the Toronto Film Festival. Excerpts from the interview:

Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut A Death In The Gunj was very well received at the Toronto film festival. Your reactions to it.

I am very happy about that. I wanted to be there in Toronto for the screening. But I had other engagements. But I am really happy for Konkona. We shot the film in Jharkhand, four hours drive from Ranchi.Logistically it was very tough for Konkona to cart the entire crew to Jharkhand.

Read: Let’s start at the beginning: You can’t miss Kalki’s powerful, scary wo-man-logue

How did the crew manage to shoot in the wilderness?

Initially we stayed in Ranchi and drove to the location travelling four hours every day. That was way too exhausting. Later we shifted to the location and stayed in local people’s homes.

You have worked with female directors before. How different is it from working with male directors?

I’ve worked with Shonali Bose in Margarita With a Straw and Zoya Akhtar in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara. The personality traits are quite pronounced in each of my female directors. Zoya is like one of the boys: boisterous. But Koko(Kokona) is very quiet. But oh my God! She knows exactly what she wants from each actor.

When do we get to see A Death In The Gunj?

It will be released soon. They want to create a buzz before the release.I haven’t seen the film yet. They completed the film just a few days before it was taken to Toronto.

Are you are collaborating with the Pakistani poet Mariam Paracha?

Yes, we are getting together on September 18 in Bangalore . It’s for a mushaira being organized by the the National Youth Poetry Slam(NYPS). I am a judge along with American poet Sarah Kay. Miriam has already heard of me.But I am not familiar with her work. So I am really looking forward to meeting her. And of course I am a big fan of Sarah Kay. I am very excited and nervous about the event.

You recently took an amazing road trip with your Dad Joel Koechlin for travel shot on Fox Life channel. Share your experience with us.

Yes . It was quite an experience travelling all across the North East. You know,I always felt close to my Dad. But it is a strange relationship that I share with him. Because my Mom and Dad separated when I was a child.So I only met my Dad on weekends and on special occasions. Our meetings were sporadic. But whenever we met we had fun. We shared adventurous trips together. He is a nature photographer. It was thrilling to go trekking and mountaineering with him.

Read: Grab your dad and take him on a trip to the Northeast like Kalki Koechlin

So who came up with the idea of doing a travel show?

Initially my Dad did. He said, ‘Listen, we haven’t travelled for years. The last time we went together was to Gulmarg four years ago.’ He wanted to travel to the North East because we had never been to that part of the world. I always wanted to go there. I then thought of making our trip into a show. We looked for a channel that would understand what we were trying to do in that journey.We didn’t want it to be another celebrity show. We wanted the North-East to be the focus.We wanted it to be raw and real. Fox allowed us the freedom to do the show how we liked. So we took off from there.

How long did you travel?

We took off for two weeks.And we covered three states Arunachal, Assam and Meghalaya.It was enriching and exhausting. Completely worth it. The people were so wonderful.And the food out there is completely different from what eat.

What arethe films that you are shooting for now?

It’s a film called Ribbon.It’s directed by Rakhi Shandilya—another female director . It’s her first feature. It’s about one’s married life in the city. Sumeet Vyas from the series Permanent Roommates is my co-star.

You are part of both Theatre and cinema.Which medium do you prefer?

I love both. Theatre is my first love and my training ground. Cinema has become a part of my life now.

For a very long time, Bollywood cinema seemed unsure of where to slot you. Do you feel at home in Bollywood now?

I feel happy with the work I’ve done and I feel lucky to have met the people I’ve worked with. I have a good relationship with all my co-actors and directors, but I do have a social life that is outside Bollywood.

You’re a social activist also. How did you discover this aspect of your life?

I guess it just happened by chance. I keep getting invited to various talks here and there which were outside the bounds of cinema and Bollywood where people want my opinion on other things and I tend to voice my opinion.

Read: If you are not a feminist then you are a bad human being, says Kalki Koechlin

Bollywood tends to look at non-conventional women in a typical way. How far have you managed to break the rules in Bollywood?

I don’t know. Some people still tell me I don’t have the right look for certain films and keep trying to stereotype me into dark roles but it’s also changing and I guess an actor’s biggest challenge and satisfaction comes from breaking their own limitations.

Bollywood and the single woman....is the film industry a comfortable place for a single woman?

I think it is an uncomfortable space to be a woman in India full stop. I feel we actually have more freedom to express and fight for what we want in an industry like Bollywood, because we are making careers that are not dependent or answerable to anyone.

What do you feel about the kind of cinema that makes big money at the box-office? Are you comfortable doing them?(You did one —Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani)

I loved my experience in YJHD so I can’t criticise commercial cinema at large. There are some films I relate to and some I don’t.

You have gone through some major upheavals in your life. How have those developments changed your attitude to love life and marriage?

It has made me more private as a person. I used to wear my heart on my sleeve and be very candid about my love life but that proved painful when I went through my break up, so now I realise the importance of a private life and an inner life away from media attention.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

I hope to have a good balance between theatre and film. I hope to work on scripts that surprise me, with directors that push my limits, I hope to write more. I definitely want to direct a play by next year.

Is film direction an option you are serious considering?

I don’t know if I have the technical know-how to direct a film .So I’m not seeing that in the near future .But I wouldn’t rule it out completely.

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First Published: Sep 20, 2016 07:53 IST