Kalki Koechlin’s Laila wins her best actress award

Neeru Saluja - Kalki - Margarita


By Neeru Saluja

Kalki Koechlin is not wearing her ”˜yellow boots’ or ”˜designer shoes’ this time. She is walking her way to fame on a wheelchair. Her latest film ”˜Margarita with a straw’ where she plays a girl with cerebral palsy is creating waves at international film festivals. The film has fetched her the best actress award at the recent New York Film festival and was the only Indian film to win an award at the Toronto film festival last year.

Shonali Bose’s ”˜Margarita with a straw’ was also the opening film at the 15th annual New York Indian Film Festival held in New York from 4-9 May 2015. As actress Kalki walked the red carpet, the Indian Down Under got a chance to interview her. Dressed in a golden glittery Sabyasachi dress, she charmed the audience with her million dollar smile.

Be it mainstream or parallel cinema, Kalki is no doubt one of the most talented actresses of Bollywood. In every film she grows with her character, be it the innocent schoolgirl to the vivacious prostitute in ”˜Dev D’ or the tomboyish girl to the fashionable bride in ”˜Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’. But her performance as Laila in ”˜Margarita’ who is a disabled teenager discovering her sexuality has left us spellbound.

“It’s been a long, scary but hugely rewarding journey being Laila”, tells Kalki as she starts discussing her journey with us.

Kalki did all she could to get into the skin of Laila and even tried to do her normal household chores in a wheelchair. Is it true that you spent two months in a wheelchair? “I spent the duration of the film pretty much on the chair all the time, so yes that’s two months. But there was also a six week intensive workshop on the psyche of the character and before that six months of unofficial research which included observation, reading up, watching films and most importantly practicing on my wheelchair every day for an hour or two.”

Besides being a brilliant actor, Kalki is also vocal about women’s equality, gender issues and has done an anti-rape campaign. Is being Laila an extension of your beliefs in feminism? “No. I am not an activist when it comes to my film choices, I do a film because of its original story telling, the diversity of a character and the vision of a director” acclaims Kalki.

Kalki started her career with her ex-husband Anurag Kashyap but soon became a popular choice for other leading directors. How was it in the beginning ”“ did Bollywood take time to accept a non-Indian woman? “I have had so much luck to work with some of my favourite directors in the industry. Honestly I didn’t feel discriminated so much by the industry as by the media, that projected me initially as a foreigner and chose to ignore my background born in South India etc. It took a few years for the audience to realise that I speak Tamil, French and Hindi” says Kalki.

So has India come of age in accepting female oriented films or do you think such films are more accepted in international film festivals? “I think Indian audiences are hungry for alternative stories as long as they connect emotionally with it or are entertained by it. The problem is our distribution system doesn’t allow for films to be screened unless there are big stars big banners backing the film. The demand is bigger than the provision in my opinion” says Kalki.

Kalki is one actress who does not follow big banners and has been bold and unique in her choice of films. She has maintained a fine balance between commercial and parallel cinema. How does she play each role with such ease and what does she enjoy the most?   “I do what comes my way. Yes I choose my scripts and I sometimes wait many months for a good script but I am not trying to differentiate between a commercial film and an Indie one, just between a good film and a bad one!” tells Kalki.

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