The exotically named Kalki Koechlin, who debuted in director Anurag Kashyap's acclaimed ‘Dev D’ and more recently, went on to marry the director, has famously been known as Bollywood’s trouble child. This image has been inflicted upon her for the kind of roles she has chosen to do. While most ‘white’ girls have been confined to item numbers and dialogue-less roles, Kalki surely stands alone with meaty roles that have helped her carve a niche for herself. Her performance in the critically-acclaimed ‘Shaitaan’ and the festival-hopper ‘That Girl in Yellow Boots’ declared one thing- she’s here to stay. Clearly excited about her next release ‘Shanghai’ she met Kunal Guha from Yahoo! India for a chat. Excited- because she reached the venue (a dingy manager’s room at PVR Juhu) before this reporter did. Here is a transcript of the conversation:
What inspired and excited you about your role in ‘Shanghai’?
I am a big fan of Dibakar’s work. When he called me in the last minute and told me about this project, I was very excited and just accepted it.
But what was the brief given to you and how did you translate it?
I wasn’t given a brief, I was just shown the script and that really excited me. Dibakar wanted a white girl in the movie, someone who was an outsider to the system and is then exposed to it. My character was that of someone who is feisty, passionate and has her set of ideals. She is not only very much Indian, she also believes that India can and will change.
Drafting Abhay and Emraan
Since you play such an idealist, are you one in real life?What are the things that separate you from your character?
Shalini is much angrier person than I am. Then I think she’s also much more of an idealist than I am. I feel more hopeless about our situation and I think that corruption is so ingrained at every level of our system that there’s very little hope.
You play the role of someone who is very righteous, could you identify with the character and was it difficult to portray it?
I could obviously identify with the angst of a white girl and how we’re treated by society and how we’re singled out. Men will always have the same stand and like to address us as ‘Hey baby! Hey sexy’ and elders will be quick to assume that we’re morally bankrupt which is not how I see myself. I think this perception is rooted to popular culture propagated by the media. Even when I was growing up, I always got a lot of lectures from my several people which were unwarranted. So I guess at that level I can connect with Shalini’s anger. I always felt that it was unfair because I was and am more Indian than most of my friends and I speak more Indian languages than most. On the positive side, since you’re seen as an outsider, people are exceedingly hospitable and friendly to you as well.
What were the challenges of working in ‘Shanghai’?
One of the biggest challenges that haunted me through the production of ‘Shanghai’ was working on my Hindi. Luckily, Atun Mongia, the casting director of the film helped me a lot with this. Then if I have to point out a specific scene, it has to be the one where I had to beat up this guy. The scene required me to be really intense and Dibakar (Banerjee) constantly pointed out that I wasn’t hitting him hard enough. After many takes, I finally managed but it was quite difficult for me.
All about 'Shanghai'
Has it ever occurred that you’ve been so absorbed in a character that its stayed with you even after the shoots?
I cut myself off when I am in that zone and ask people to leave me alone.