Kalki Koechlin on Sacred Games 2: 'Saif plays Sartaj so subtly; I've never seen him like this before'
Kalki Koechlin talks about playing a godman aide in Netflix's Sacred Games season 2, and appearing in both the past and present tracks of the narrative.
She plays a girl with a troubled background who goes under sharan, or spiritual submission, of Guruji, played by Pankaj Tripathi, because in her words, "they both have a sense of loss in their lives". She carries forward his legacy, and thus appears in both the past and present tracks of the narrative, dominated by criminal lord Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Sardar cop Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) respectively.
Kalki predominantly appears in the present track, directed by Neeraj Ghaywan. But she reveals that she also has a part to play in the past track, directed by her former husband Anurag Kashyap. Kashyap gave the break to Kalki in Hindi cinema through his 2009 film Dev D, and has also collaborated with her on the 2010 film That Girl In Yellow Boots. They eventually got married in 2011, but got divorced in 2015. Sacred Games season 2 marks the first time the two have collaborated professionally since.
"The two directors I worked with, Neeraj and Anurag, seem perfect for their respective tracks. Anurag's was about Ganesh Gaitonde. It was personality-driven, about crime, drugs, and gangsters. It was more rebellious and young, just like how Batya is back then. The present track is much more calm and composed. Neeraj is also like that. He'd plan everything out, and sit with you to discuss your lines. And by that time, Batya has also grown into this Zen-like figure who has to carry forward the legacy of Guruji," says Kalki, in an exclusive interview.
While she watched the videos of a lot of godman aides from the past, she primarily fed off Tripathi's preparation for the role. "I'd just copy him on the sets, the way he walked, the way he talked. Since Batya eventually becomes a lot like Guruji, I decided to consciously bring that in, and just copy Pankaj Tripathi when he was in character," says Kalki, who plays the unique child of a Jewish father and a Palestinian mother. "Though Batya tries very hard to blend in among Indians, that never happens completely. The French accent never leaves her, and that is why I stole my mother's accent because it has still not left her despite her living in India for years."
There have been rumours that Tripathi's role bears resemblance to Osho, Kalki's leans towards his aide Ma Sheela. Kalki, along with her family, cultivated a rich spiritual side herself, as she was a follower of Shri Aurobindo in her hometown of Pondicherry. When this writer asks her whether that seeped into her performance, Kalki clicks her tongue, as if admitting that she has been caught. She soon retorts, "It must have crept in subconsciously though. But as part of my preparation for the role, I never tapped into my spiritual aspect."
She insists that since she is one of the very few characters who is functioning both in the past and the present tracks, there are a lot of backstories to explore her character's life in the middle of both the timelines, if there is ever a Season 3. "She has a Jewish father, a Palestenian mother. She was born in France. Her mother leaves her... so I have a lot of backstories with me. I hope they're explored in some form."
In the first three episodes of Season 2, she primarily shares screen space with Saif. In the present track, she heads Guruji's ashram in Mumbai. Sartaj, in order to investigate whether the ashram has a connection with the case at hand, visits the centre. He considers Batya a therapist, and wants her to relieve him of all the stress within him. "Saif as Sartaj is so subtle that I've never seen him like this before. As the show progresses, it'll be interesting to see how complex their relationship gets."
Kalki not only reunites with Kashyap in this show, but also shares screen space with Saif five years after Happy Ending. "I enjoy working with Saif. I have a chemistry with him. We also enjoy cracking jokes in between the shots," says Kalki, who believes the digital medium has opened a lot of avenues not only for smaller stars like her but superstars like Saif.
Earlier this year, she appeared as 'the other woman' in Amazon Prime Video India Original Made In Heaven. She also played an uber rich woman who seeks therapy. In Sacred Games season 2, however, she sits on the other side as she plays a therapist, a spiritual one at that, in the show. "Batya has a background in criminal psychology. So I studied how these characters play mind games with their disciples. Also, it was interesting to play a therapist. But these therapists have a troubled past as well, and also need therapy of their own. So an interesting conflict comes into the scene there."
After Sacred Games season 2, she will be seen as the lead in another web show, titled Bhrama, and a short film, titled Cottonworld.
All images from YouTube.
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