*Everything about this woman is extremely weird, yet she’s so at ease and low-key about herself and her situation that her interviewers seem stunned.
*She comes across as a time traveller, almost. I mean, in the year 2030, Hindi speaking ethnically French girls named “Kalki” who write plays about skeletal Eskimos that premiere in Bangalore… I’m not saying they’d be exactly common, but at least they’d be plausible.
“There is right now a foreign invasion that is taking over Bollywood, with directors casting foreign models/actresses in lead roles. But Kalki Koechlin isn’t your typical expat find either. “After having starred in Anurag Kashyp’s critically acclaimed Dev D, Koechlin was an overnight sensation. Born and brought up in Tamil Nadu to French Parents, she speaks French as fluently as she speaks Tamil. “Naan yella Tamil maranditen, konjum konjum tha pese mudiyum, Ippo naa hindi mix panre tamil kuda.” (I have forgotten most of my Tamil. These days I mix Hindi with Tamil) says Koechlin in perfect Tamil during this interview.
“With humble beginnings in theatre, Koechlin didn’t expect her Bollywood debut to set the cash registers ringing. And after being thrust suddenly into the limelight, she shares that it has always been theater that has kept her grounded. The actress who was in town with her theatre company Quaff Theatre to stage ‘The Skeleton Woman’ spoke to MyBangalore about typical Bollywood roles offered to foreigners and acting. Read on to find out more. (((Gets popcorn)))
“How is it being back in Bangalore?
“I didn’t live here as I went to boarding school in Ooty, so I was in Bangalore only on Holidays . Bangalore was really my place of rest. I am right now shuttling between staying with my brother and my folks. I am catching up on many Tamil movies, in fact I just watched Subramaniapuram today and I loved it. I come here and get spoilt and get some good home food and hang out with friends at Ranga Shankara. I didn’t get in to the theatre scene much here as it really began when I went to Bombay.
“What did you do in Bombay?
“I dabbled in theatre for a long time for about two years. I did two plays before this Casanova and Hair, which also came to Ranga Shankara. But other than that I was also doing workshops with Rajat Kapoor, Anamika Haksar and Atul Kumar, so theatre was the thing I was doing before films happened.
“Was your move to films a planned one?
“It was not a conscious decision, I knew I could not survive off theatre and I did want to take acting as a career. Once I wanted to get into films, I took my time about it because when I first got to Bombay I gave my photos and CD’s to all the production houses. But the roles that came my way were the ‘typical white girl dancing in the background’ kind of roles which I was not too interested in, or it was advertisements. That was how I actually survived doing ads for two years. It was only when Dev D came along I got an exciting meaty role.
“How did Dev D happen?
“UTV called me for an audition where i did three auditions before getting the role. The first audition I went to I walked out because I saw the script and told them they had the wrong person as my Hindi was terrible. But when I was walking away they called me back and asked me to do my lines in English. So I did my audition in English and they loved it and said they would work on my Hindi. It took them three auditions to be convinced about my Hindi. So that’s how it happened.
“Did you expect Dev D to be so critically acclaimed? “
I definitely didn’t know it was going to be a hit, I thought it was going to be a good movie. I thought directors will respect this movie and film makers will respect this movie, but I didn’t know the masses would love it and take it in which was great for us.
“Which medium do you prefer better theatre or film? “
To be honest I don’t know. I don’t know film enough to say I love it. Theatre is my first love, I would not have done it if I didn’t love it and certainly not for the money (laughs) you really have to believe in it. So I have to say I love theatre. But film is something I am very excited about as I still have so much to learn and there is so much scope to be very realistic. Theatre is more metaphorical where you have to be louder and larger than life, where as film is more subtle and more real.
“What films are you working on next? “
Right now I will be starting in a film by the end of September called ‘Shaitan’ by Bijoy Nambiar who is a new director. I am also doing a film with Onir called “I am Afia” which has twelve short films that make up one film. There is also Happy Ending with Anurag Kashyap where I play a girl who has come in search of her father.
“What are your favorite places in Bangalore where you like to hang out? “
I used to love going to India Coffee House on MG Road, I think you get the best scrambled eggs there. Koshy’s is also another place I like. There is also Grasshopper which is a bit away from the city. I am really outdated with places in Bangalore right now as it has been a while since I have come here. I also used to love to go to Pebbles and Blue Bar. I love outdoor places in the evenings, I don’t like box like clubs.”