Photographs: Rajesh Karkera Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai
Kalki Koechlin is currently busy juggling between promotions of her upcoming film Shanghai and shooting for Vishal Bharadwaj's Dayaan.
In Dibakar Banerjee's Shanghai, Kalki plays a passionate social activist and believes that it is one of the toughest role she has portrayed so far. The director almost brought her to tears while shooting for the film, she tells Sonil Dedhia.
In this interview, she talks about her experience of working on Shanghai, her much hyped kissing scene with costar Prosenjit and how she selects her films.
For Shanghai, the point of origin was the novel Z and the Algerian film with the same name. Did you read the book or watch the film?
I have read the book. Dibakar Banerjee specifically asked me not to see the film as it is not at all like Shanghai. The film is completely adapted to an Indian process.
What attracted you to Shanghai?
It was the director -- Dibakar Banerjee.
I agreed to be a part of the film even before I had read the script. I am a big fan of Dibakar; he is one of the best directors in India.
He has never repeated himself. Shanghai is his most mature work to date. Humour has always been a part of his films and in this film too he uses it, but it's darker.
'Dibakar (Bannerjee) is one of the best directors in India today'
You play an Indian girl of mixed parentage who looks like a foreigner. Did your personal experience of growing up in Ooty help you?
Yes. I can definitely relate to my character Shalini's anger in the film. She is a small town girl and the people in the town see her as an outsider just because she looks like a foreigner.
Even though she belongs to that town, people don't take her seriously and men try to lech at her. Looking back at my growing up days I can relate to all these things.
How did you prepare for this role?
Dibakar wanted me to look ugly and weak. The first thing that he did was chopped my hair really short. My costumes in the film are worn out. He didn't want me to look very comfortable or feminine.
The idea was to bring a certain vulnerability and awkwardness to my character. Dibakar said that I had to be ugly, but adorable.
The kind of idealism and passion that my character shows is not me. I am more cynical about the changing political scenario in India or the world.
'I didn't know how big a star Prosenjit was'
Would you say it was an emotionally draining role?
Yes, it is one of the toughest roles that I have played so far.
I was rewuired to cry and scream my head off. There are many moments in the film that are really intense. There is a scene in the film where I have to beat someone and it was really tough for me to do.
We finished the film in a month. We shot in small towns in Latur and Baramati where there was no proper food or electricity.
He almost made me cry during the shoot but I must say that the hard work has paid off.
You are working with Prosenjit and Emraan Hashmi for the first time. How was the experience?
I didn't know how big a star Prosenjit was before I worked with him in this film.
He made us feel really comfortable. He would hang out with us and we ate together. He was very down to earth.
On the other hand, I had an image in my mind about Emraan Hashmi that was very filmy and romantic.
He got into his character right on the first day of the workshop. He totally surprised me. He has a great sense of humour.
'Dibakar forgot to say cut while shooting for the kissing scene'
The kissing scene between you and Prosenjit has been in the news...
Indian cinema is still at an adolescent stage when it comes to kissing or intimate scenes.
The ban on kissing scenes in films was lifted in 1980 so it's about time that we get used to it.
I don't think it is a big deal, nor do I think about it much. I really don't see it as controversial. The media creates the controversy.
I think using the kissing scene in the promotions of the film was inevitable. If we don't use it to promote the film someone else will pick it up.
There is a very funny incident which took place during the filming of the scene.
Yes, it was a very funny but an intense situation when we were shooting for the scene.
Dibakar had given us standing instructions not to stop kissing till he says 'cut'.
We started filming the scene and after a while we realised that Dibakar was oblivious to the fact that he had to say 'cut', and instead got busy shooting some other scene!
I got very angry with him at that time (Smiles).
'Anurag (Kashyap) has finally got his due'
Audiences are suddenly waking up to Anurag Kashyap's style of cinema. What do you have to say about his film Gangs Of Wasseypur going to the Cannes film festival?
I think it is great that his film is at the Cannes film festival. I am really happy for him.
As a director, Anurag has always stuck to his roots and his beliefs in terms of his films and I think he really deserves this.
I am sure he is going to have a lot of fun from now on since he has been fighting for the last 20 years and I guess he has finally got his due.
You mentioned in an article that Anurag has an image of a dark and edgy guy...
Yes but that is one side of him, which the world perceives. He is actually a bumbling, small town guy from Benaras.
Its really interesting because I used to be this disorganised person but ever since I met him, I have to become organised because if we are both disorganised we wont be getting anywhere (Laughs).
'I want to surprise myself rather than be labelled'
How do you find your balance when you put yourself into a role and then have to pull out of it when you're done?
It is always good to stay in the zone. While I was shooting for Shanghai I would stay in my character for the whole month and would cut off from people.
At the same time I am not a psychopath (sic) for the whole time but I always like to be in my character.
Acting is very therapeutic. You let out all your emotions as per the characters and mould yourself into it.
Do you ever see yourself fitting into the typical Hindi film heroine role?
I don't deliberately choose films on the basis of commercial or alternative cinema.
I am working in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, which is directed by Ayan Mukherjee. I like his spontaneity and it is a full on commercial film. My role in the film is very bindass and very loud which I have never done before.
On the other hand I am also working on Daayan, which is directed by debutant Kanan Iyer and is produced by Vishal Bhardwaj. It is a supernatural mystery. It's a low budget film shot in documentary style.
'I am a reluctant and lazy writer'
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera
You have created a niche for yourself. Is it deliberate or have you just gone with the flow?
I guess it's a bit of both. There have been times when I have waited for the right script to come to me.
In the last 10 months nothing really interesting came my way. On the other hand, there have been times when I have a lot of work.
I want to surprise myself rather than be labelled in a particular category. It is very important for an actor to constantly rework his/her image.
How do you look at competition?
I don't think about competition. I think every actor has her/his USP and a place in the industry.
There are things I won't be able to do but other actors would be able to do. My competition is myself and I would like to keep challenging myself and keep improving.
It's been a while since you have written a play or a script. Any plans to get back to writing?
I am a reluctant and lazy writer (Smiles).
I do like writing and sometimes I feel that my writing is very juvenile and sometimes it is very exciting. The writer in me is always there but I have to push it out.
I am currently writing a play, which is a comedy about death.