Actor, Playwright, Social Activist: The Many Shades Of Kalki Koechlin

Bewitching. Bodacious. Benignant. Breathtakingly beautiful. And ballsy. You saw her for the first time on the silver screen in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D as Leni who adopts ‘Chanda’ as her alter ego. Kalki Koechlin was both astonishing and astonishingly-apt.

Kalki Koechlin was drawn to theatre from a young age. If not an actor, Kalki would have been a psychologist. After completing her schooling at the age of 18, she moved to London to study drama. There, she worked for two years with the theatre company – Theatre of Relativity, writing The Rise of the Wild Hunt and performing in plays such as David Hare’s The Blue Room and Marivaux’s The Dispute. A lesser known fact, yes, she also moonlights as an accomplished playwright. Kalki Koechlin is a force to reckon with, onstage and on-screen.

Ever since she set her foot in B-Town her choice of characters has been the kind that resides in the mind, the thoughts of the audience. She breathes life into her characters. She knows how to evoke more from the watchers, unbidden!

Kashyap had rejected Kalki, initially, as she is not an Indian. Her audition tape forced the man to change his mind. Kalki is a sophisticated seductress, brimming with terrific energy at all times. Looking back at the start of her career, the actor was unemployed for a year and a half after Dev D.

Kalki Koechlin then expanded her orbit into screenwriting with That Girl In Yellow Boots, in which she also played the protagonist. Kalki Koechlin was not dancing in a chiffon saree, the camera was instead tracing Ruth as she caromed through Mumbai in search of her father. From working as a waitress to being a part of teleshopping ads in her early days, That Girl In Yellow Boots won Kalki Koechlin critical acclaim.

Kalki has seen the sleazy side, our ugly underbelly, Bollywood’s casting couch. Kalki in an interview with a leading publication confessed it exists, it did try to entangle her in its grip, but she is “slippery” as she always managed to get out of it.”The minute I felt uncomfortable, I walked away! ” She feels the crux of the matter is that a bad actor, however much she works her way through the casting couch, will never sustain.A bad actor remains a bad actor! The casting couch is not the answer to any aspiring actor’s route to success. When she first sought work in the industry, she was only rendered dance numbers, Bollywood long held a fascination for hurling foreigners as item girls.

Struggling to make a mark, Kalki’s mainstream jaunts began with Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara, that took her to Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. While there were many other films in between and after, these not only helped her rise to fame but also proved her versatility as an actor, earning her the tag of a “nonconformist”. She becomes the characters she plays.

Margarita With A Straw saw Kalki Koechlin as a stubbornly willful girl who suffered from Cerebral Palsy. Causing social waves in India but garnering praises from people around the world was Laila compassionately portraying taboo subjects.

And that’s what Bollywood’s flower child loves to do. Kalki unabashedly uses her acting prowess to influence the masses. She is an outspoken feminist who extensively campaigns for gender equality. She voices her opinions without mincing her words. She is always seen taking a stand on social issues, Kalki is also a social activist.

Her brilliance is underrated!




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