In an exclusive interview with RITZ Magazine, Kalki Koechlin reveals that she will soon be seen in a Tamil film for the first time this year
By Namita Gupta
Born in a tiny village in Auroville, Pondicherry, to French parents, Kalki Koechlin might leave you dazed for a moment with her fluent Tamil. And one might wonder what kept her back from Kollywood…and soon after a freewheeling chat, the National Award winner lets the cat out of the bag that she will be acting in a Tamil film. Known for her unconventional and inspirational roles in cinema and theatre, the quirky Bollywood star lets us in on her acting journey and the making of KALKI X HIDESIGN, marking the celebration of 40 years of Hidesign, the iconic leather brand, along with founder and CEO Dilip Kapur.
- You were born to French parents…what is your South-Indian connection?
I went to a boarding school in Ooty till I was 18 and spent holidays in Auroville. My dad’s business moved to Bengaluru. He was teaching hand gliding and kept shifting across the south. He is also into nature photography and his hobby has now turned into a profession. Since my home was in Bengaluru and I was in a boarding in Ooty, all my holidays were spent in Bengaluru. I went to a lot of music concerts like Roger Waters and Scorpions and the city helped me grow as a teenager. My younger brother (10) still lives in Bengaluru and is studying in Bangalore International School. I go there to meet them sometimes or all of us plan and meet at Auroville often. After that I went to study drama and theatre in London. I worked with Magic Lanterns theatre after returning to Bengaluru for a while and when I got a role in a play I shifted to Mumbai.
- What were the challenges in your initial Bollywood days?
Between my theatre and my first movie, I did some teleshopping ads and some modeling and after about a year I auditioned for Dev D in Hindi, a language I couldn’t speak then, so they gave me the script in English and I got a call from Anurag Kashyap saying “You can act. You have two months to learn Hindi.”After each movie you get stereotyped. After Dev D I was offered a bunch of prostitute roles. After Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara I was offered rich south Bombay type girl roles and after Margarita I was getting disability roles, but I didn’t want to get slotted, so I declined them. I was alright with waiting for the right ones, but I wasn’t just waiting, as I was doing other things like acting in plays, writing and theatre workshops. I’m fortunate to get the right kind of roles now.
- Any south-Indian movies coming your way?
It’s only in the recent couple of years that people figured out that I can speak fluent Tamil. Scripts from South-Indian cinema had come earlier too, but I didn’t want to rush. Although I can’t talk about it as it’s still in the initial stages, but I’m doing a Tamil film this year and it’s a film on the environment by a very good director.
- Who are your closest friends in the industry?
Gulshan Devaiah, Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh, Anurag Kashyap and Zoya Akhtar.
- How did the collaboration with Hidesign take place and what is KALKI X HIDESIGN all about?
I was given birth at my house in Periya Mudaliar Chavadi in Auroville by a midwife and we were neighbours with Dilip Kapur, CEO and founder Hidesign till I was three. My mother always owned a Hidesign bag in the 80s. Dilip called me last year and said I want to do a collection with you. He wanted a collection based on my sensibilities, so I took all my bags out, photographed them and sent them to him. He said, “You have a dirty jhola Goa bag but then you have a gold Gucci bag, a classic Dior etc, what category do you fall in?” I told him I had to have a bag for every occasion and that’s what we did with the new collection which is very versatile and eclectic – affordable bags for everyday use, business bags, evening bags, party bags etc. All of last year we would Skype each other, as both of us were always in different parts of the world. They would send me swatches and we would discuss each one. Our fruit of labour is out now and the KALKI X HIDESIGN range of bags for every occasion look extremely stunning.
- You have been in and out of relationships. Any relationship advice?
You shouldn’t lose yourself in someone else. Be your own person and let the other person be themselves. Expectations kill relationships. Sense of humour and respect for the other person is also very important.
- Your passion for travelling…
I go to Kashmir a lot for skiing in the stunning landscapes of Gulmarg. Another beautiful country I love visiting is Canada. I love going to the Toronto Film Festival and I find it better than any other film fests across the world. I love Japan. My elder brother who lives in Chennai has a Japanese fiancé and they will be getting married in Japan, so that’s on the cards this year. I would like to visit South America. Apart from Marrakesh I’ve not seen much of Africa either. I also go on bike rides and it’s almost like meditation for me as your mind can’t float elsewhere when you’re riding.
- Your style statement and your fitness regime…
When its red carpet it has to be Sabyasachi, but I also love new designers like Shift for their organic fabrics. I wear a lot of Auroville designers like Upasana who is known for her socially conscious fashion. I’d like to eat organic but it’s not easy when you’re out shooting. I’ve become very conscious of what goes in my body and have quit meat and rarely eat fish. I’ve also quit smoking and reduced drinking. I play football and basketball once a week and rest of the time I swim and do Vivekananda yoga. For my face I use cold-pressed coconut oil.
- What’s in your handbag?
Sunglasses, phone, wallet, keys, lip balm, bottle of water and a book.
- What’s your biggest worry?
I worry about getting old and wrinkles on the face that come with age.
- What did you do on your birthday in January?
I went to Sun & Sand and the whole day was spent with friends, drinking and swimming. My mother called and told me take this cap of youth from your bottle and put it away…if you wanna have a baby, have it now.
- Your go-to outfit whenever you can’t decide what to wear?
Acid washed jeans and white tees. Half my wardrobe is white and black and a huge collection of smart mulmul kurtas in every colour with long sleeves and a pocket designed by Sushma Sharma.
- The car you own?
- Worst pick-up line someone used on you?
Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?
- What do you find sexiest in a man?
Sense of humour.
- Your best role so far and dream role?
Margarita with a Straw. I’d love to do a biography of a historical character.
- Early bird or a late Kate?
I’m an early riser.
- Dating someone?
Not yet, I’m exploring.
- Upcoming movies?
Gully Boy where I play a music producer who discovers Ranveer Singh’s music and how we collaborate on a track. Two web series Made in Heaven and Smoke.