Occupying a unique position in Hindi film, Kalki Koechlin’s ethereal, fine grained demeanour masks an interior that is intrinsically Indian. Born in Pondicherry to follower of Sri Aurobindo parents, the actor parallels her namesake Lord Kalki, who it is said will emerge from spiritual devotees hidden in a small village. The 27-year-old has managed the ascent from pocket-sized theatre venues to the Filmfare stage with DevD as her only showreel. But with three films releasing at the end of this year and into early 2011, a trio of avatars await.
Just as Abhay Deol’s Road, Movie found acclaim on last year’s international film festival circuit, on the day of our interview it is announced That Girl in Yellow Boots will follow suit. “It has been selected for Venice and also Toronto in September. It will then have a general release after that.” As well as playing the lead, the project described as “offbeat and quite dark” has been co-written by Kalki with director-boyfriend Anurag Kashyap.
Presently in Barcelona filming Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Kalki does not give a lot away. “I can’t say too much about the film at the moment. We are currently shooting here in Spain. The film stars Abhay Deol, Hrithik Roshan and Farhan Akhtar. It is about their journey: the journey they go through in the film and what each one of them discovers by the end.” It seems di rigueur that when male actors outnumber their female stars – in this case it is just Kalki and Katrina Kaif – the girls become the target for on the sets high jinx. “They are all a lot of fun, Hrithik can be quite dry and sarcastic in his humour and likes to tease me.” “But,” Kalki adds, “so far nobody has played any pranks.”
Another project Happy Days by Akshay Shere, former assistant to Ram Gopal Varma, completes the trio. “I think it might have changed its title, I have been in Spain for a month so am a little bit out of things, but it should also be out by the end of the year”. Kalki seems to now sign advertising work which mirrors her film roles, judging by her recent Coca Cola commercial opposite Imran Khan. “The ad was shot by Dibakar Banerjee who has made films like Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and LSD, so it is something a little bit different.”
A Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress in DevD, whilst gratifying, “has not changed my career overnight,” and the actor admits she is still trying to find the ideal place to display her black statue. On her success in the Devdas story remake, she feels: “That is down to Anurag.” She credits the director for changing the script to reposition the Chandramukhi role as a multilingual Tamil, French, Hindi and English speaking half-Indian girl. “He watches his actors and sees what they do and how they perform and uses those skills in his films. He just saw me doing things like juggling and said ‘Hey I could use that!’” Unlike foreign actresses angrezi accented Hindi, it is Kalki’s childhood spent in south India which influences her diction. “I struggle a little with the inflection of words which can sometimes sound Tamil, but have a tutor to help with my scripts.”
Her star may be on the rise now, though Kalki recalls a period after university in London, “working with a theatre company called Theatre of Relativity and making no money.” Some Kalki fans might consider DevD the actor’s debut film, but there is also an early cameo in YRF’s Laaga Chunari Mein Daag and an appearance in a Powerful Swing Massager infomercial. “I was doing theatre in Bombay and I couldn’t survive off it so had to do other work.” She says: “I gave my CV and photos to all the production houses and used to get calls for lots of random things. The swing massager ad happened because I needed to pay the rent.”
Kalki’s choice of films seems akin to that of her repeated co-star Abhay Deol: offbeat but with a soup