Kalki Koechlin is not a regular actress that Bollywood has been blessed with. Her intelligent choices of projects are something which makes her stand out from the crowd. Be it commercial cinema or independent movies or her presence in theatre, Kalki has pulled off each and every character like a boss. She will now be seen playing a Portuguese DJ in an Indian series called Smoke (comprising of 11 episodes) by Eros Now Original which will be available for streaming from October 26.
In an exclusive conversation with International Business Times India, Kalki spoke about Smoke, what went into the making of her character, how she zero in projects, the ongoing MeToo movement and to allow the due process of investigation to find out the necessary punishment for each and every case.
Tell us about Smoke.
It's all about the drug mafia and a whole underworld of Goa. It's something that has not been shown before at least in a web series so I'm pretty excited about it. I play the character of a Portuguese DJ who performs in clubs and is caught up in this whole mafia world and wants to free herself from it.
What went into the making of your character in Smoke?
I had someone on the sets who was a Portuguese. Her name was Ana. She helped me with the accent as I had to speak a little bit of Portuguese also. And also my director gave me some research material of DJs mainly of Alison Wonderland to get the body language right. My character has a very prominent tattoo on her back. She carries a bohemian kind of vibe in how she dresses. She kind of chilled out and likes to put her head down. She's not a very sociable character.
How do you relate yourself to your character?
I think my character is very different from me. She is Portuguese and a DJ which I have no connection with me but I think an actor's job is to understand each and every character you play. I think I can relate to the struggles, the emotions and the dilemma she goes through trying to find her way out the drug mafia and to follow her passion which is music.
Is it difficult to bring any character alive on the screen?
Yeah, it is difficult but more enjoyable. You know I love the research, the process that you take while prepping a character. I love trying different things, be more at work but it's worth. It comes with practice, a lot of practice.
You have known for your unconventional roles and movies that you have been a part of. How do you choose your projects? The depth of roles, storyline or the people associated with projects.
It really depends from place to place. I mean sometimes the story can be mind-blowing that I want to be a part of it even if I don't have a major role in the film. Other times, it's the characters that I have never played before and are challenging and If I know I would learn a lot from it. I think very rarely do I choose the film only because of it being commercial. It has to have for me something resonance.
When you stepped into Bollywood, many people criticised you saying that you were a misfit in the industry.
That's a part of people's judgement. Other people think of you as an unconventional person or looking different or being different. I don't feel that way at all. I feel I had a very lucky journey in terms of working with very different kinds of directors, films both commercial and independent and theatre. I think the versatility that I have been allowed as an actor has been amazing.
Did you ever miss out on work because of the criticism over your appearance?
I think I had a very wholesome career, I had a very beautiful career with very different kinds of roles offered to me and I have never been in a place for example where I have had no work. I have always been caught up between too many things choosing which ones to do. So I find myself very blessed. And in terms of missing out on work, I would not know about it. If I am being missed out, I only know about the work that I am getting.
There has been a major shift in the industry in terms of viewership. The audience are choosing content-driven films over star presence. What's your take on it?
I think it's a matter of many things. One is the kind of competition now that we are getting in cinema is not only coming from our own industry. It's coming from being able to access international movies through the internet, Netflix, Amazon and all these platforms. It's allowing us as an audience to have much bigger viewership. So that automatically when a market opens like that, our own creativity will open up. We will also have to cater for different tales different kinds of stories. And I am glad to see that happening.
Many women have come out and spoken about their sexual harassment incidents and named their perpetrators. What do you think about this MeToo movement that has now been triggered in India?
I am happy this MeToo movement is helping us to be more aware of sexual harassment. It exists and is a very much part of our system because until now it was kept very much under the carpet. Nobody was talking you know. And it's not only in Bollywood but all industries and that's very very telling and I hope it results in a cleaner and more equal work environment where people have equal opportunities and a safer environment of course.
Though #MeToo has arrived in India, many fear that the movement is being misused by some women to seek revenge, and many people are of the opinion that it may hamper women employment in India.
I don't agree because I think that would be a very very small percentage when you look at the larger scheme of things. And you know each and every case needs to go through an investigative process whether it's an ICC (Internal Complaints Committee) or POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) compliance agency or with the help of lawyers. The due process or the time taken is very important to investigate the accusations or the allegations levelled against an offender and find out what is the necessary punishment for each and every case. It's very important that we allow for that due process and not just club all the things in one umbrella. There are many different crimes. A crime of rape and molestation is very different from a crime of harassment through texting for example. Each crime deserves a different punishment. And that takes time to sift through and to understand. But the point is that people or bodies like ICC and POSH are actually being activated. These are bodies which have existed but now we are becoming educated about it. We are demanding them by saying 'see in my place of work so I have this person who I can talk to about such complaints'. And that's very important. Even though the laws have existed, today they are being implemented.
Are there any projects lined-up apart from Smoke?
Yeah, after Smoke I have Gully Boy (Zoya Akhtar directorial) which will be released in February next year. And I also have a play that I will be opening at the end of November called The Rape of Lucrece. Apart from that, I have a web series which will be coming out next year called Made in Heaven that will be shown on Amazon Prime.