Except for the two ‘K’s, which Ekta Kapoor, Rakesh Roshan and Arjun Hingorani would consider damn lucky, Kalki Koechlin is one helluva difficult name to pronounce. And to unravel her talent, layer after layer, is not any easier.
Last year she gave us a performance as a lesbian with cerebral palsy (my God, this woman had problems) which ranks with Daniel-Day Lewis’ portrayal of a similar character in My Left Foot. Except that Daniel had it easier. His character wasn’t gay.
Now this week, we woke up to Kalki’s startling video 'The Printing Machine', where she raps out a mean rapper message condemning the excesses of the media. Being part of the circus that is entertainment media in this country, I cringed squirmed and cheered, all at once. On viewing 'The Printing Machine' I immediately called Kalki up to congratulate her. She was as usual, the epitome of graciousness.
Over the years since she made her debut in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D, she has carved her niche as a distinctive actor and thinker with a voice that is persuasive not shrill, a voice that doesn’t lose its smile even when addressing grim issues.
Before this scathing indictment of the hysterical media coverage of rape and other violations of a woman’s body and mind, I had seen her do a fiercely satirical, sarcastic comment on rape entitled It’s Your Fault, where Kalki hit it where it hurts the most: the male ego.
Last year when Kalki came to Patna to perform a play entitled Trivial Disasters, I invited her home for dinner along with her stage colleagues Richa Chadha, Purab Kohli, Cyrus Sahukar and Sayani Gupta. She was so relaxed, so at home and not the least self-conscious about being in a town so far away from home.
After dinner with Kalki, I heaved a sigh of relief. For a very long time I felt encumbered by misgivings, regarding my equation with her . Her then-husband Anurag Kashyap and I dislike each other intensely. And I wondered how Kalki felt about me. Though I must confess even during her married years, she was the portrait of graciousness whenever I would reach out to her. However, having constantly faced hostility from boyfriends and husband of female actors, I have become wary .
That lovely evening over dinner Kalki dispelled all my misgivings without even trying. She is a complete natural, effortlessly warm and generous. Kalki is one the most genuine people in the entertainment industry, and she is a hard worker. She treats acting as an extension of her own convictions as a human being.
I was wrong about Kalki, to begin with, as I’ve quite often been in the past. Upon watching Dev D for the first time, I thought Mahie Gill would be the bigger name among the two. I was wrong.
Thank you, Kalki, for proving me wrong. For having a mind of your own, which thinks and forms opinions independent of others around you. I didn’t know where you would fit into Bollywood. But then again you surprised me. You made me realize conformity is not a virtue that needs to be cultivated for survival. There is more strength and value in making your own place and space, away from the humdrum. Quirky is often an alias for special.
The girl in yellow boots is today quite comfortable throwing off those boots, to just be herself. Thinking, feeling and responding as she will. As the printing press goes "taka-taka-dak" there are minds that can still think independent of what is spoon fed to them in the media.
Kalki Koechlin is one of those.