Kirti Kulhari on Netflix's Bard of Blood and how Shah Rukh Khan is the brainchild behind her character
Kirti Kulhari discusses discovering the universality of her diverse characters, and how her Bard of Blood role is different from the one she played in Uri.
(Firstpost was invited by Netflix to conduct interviews from the sets of Bard of Blood in Rajasthan in March 2019)
I was informed Kirti Kulhari had some free time between her shots on the sets of Netflix Indian Original Bard of Blood, directed by Ribhu Dasgupta.
The show, in which she plays Balochistani woman Jannat Marri, passes off a small town Mandawa, in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, as Balochistan. The shoot is in full swing here in early March, and the area still has not cozied up to its receding winter.
I had taken a detour to my hometown Jaipur, and was on my way to Mandawa, trying to rush so that I could catch Kirti for an interview while she was shooting at an age-old haweli. As I researched during my way to the location, I realised I am not the only one who is borderline guilty yet secretly ecstatic of making a trip to my hometown nearby.
When I meet her, Kriti admitted that it is always special to shoot in Rajasthan (she recently shot Season 2 of her Amazon Prime Video India Original Four More Shots Please! in an Udaipur hotel), particularly this time in Mandawa, since it is very close to her hometown of Jhunjhunu.
"I'm glad I get to spend some time with my grandparents there. Isn't it always easy to shoot and live in a place you know well? I know it's shown as Balochistan in the show but that's the magic of filmmaking. Hats off to the production design team, who found this location! As an actor, it's my job to convince myself the place I'm so familiar with is Balochistan just like I've to convince myself I'm a Balochistani girl. While that is a little challenging, it's fascinating to look at the same place differently. The fact that many parts of Mandawa could look like Balochistan, and that I may look like a Balochistani girl makes me think about the universality of everything. While I haven't been to Balochistan, and I have to recreate it with my imagination, people and places can look similar even in remote parts of the world. Similarly, I'm a Hindu girl who can look like a Muslim on the show. Then why talk about borders and other things that divide us?," says Kirti, as I smile at her philosophical musings.
It is interesting Kirti talks about universality since the roles she has essayed on screen have been of such a myriad range. For instance, her character of Seerat Kaur from Aditya Dhar's action thriller Uri: The Surgical Strike earlier this year, could not have given the same statement on the inconsequential nature of borders. "Seerat was in the Air Force. Different people react to the same situation in a different way. And that is what makes them different. Now, we didn't delve into the personal aspect of Seerat or showed she isn't a peace-loving person. Of course, everyone, including those in the defence forces, love peace. But when a war-like situation emerges, you've got to do your job. On the other hand, Jannat comes from a place of love. She has seen the terror-stricken life through her father's eyes but when it comes to her, she only wants to help her people through what she knows best — love."
Love, as Kirti mentions, is Jannat's weapon of choice. "She loves to rehabilitate people. Her area of expertise is social service in a terror-stricken area like Balochistan. She especially takes care of the underprivileged, and the women who have lost their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons to the war for freedom. Love is how she can heal people, and help them. But when the situation demands, as you'll watch in the show, she adapts. She believes in love, but is also very practical at the same time. She doesn't get her emotions get the better of the decisions she has to take in life."
Her character, she admits, is the brainchild of the producer of Bard of Blood, Shah Rukh Khan, who owns the production house of Red Chillies Entertainment with his wife Gauri, and is about to make his maiden digital production on Netflix. "When SRK sir read the script, he came up with the idea of including a character who will provide the much-needed soul to this espionage thriller show. He also suggested since Jannat is an artist, her house should reflect that with artwork on the walls, and tastefully done decor everywhere in the house," says Kirti.
"The fact that she's an artist in a place like Balochistan explains her situation. She doesn't exhibit her work since she belongs to an area where no one gives a sh*t about art. They're only obsessed with fighting for their basic freedom, and crying over the loss of a beloved one. Art is for the privileged. But she realises that. She is not the kind of person who'll whine her art is not getting its due. She recognises for every artist, the defining quality is love, to be humane. I think her art comes from that aspect of her personality, and it helps her nurture that side of her personality as well," says Kirti.
In the show, Jannat instantly connects to Emraan Hashmi's character Kabir since he, under the guise of a journalist covering the struggles of Balochistani people, is a rare audience of her art. When he mouths lines of William Shakespeare, she gets impressed even more. Little does she know he is an Indian spy on a covert mission.
When he tells Jannat there is little room for the appreciation of her art in Balochistan, she replies, "But who can explain that to the artist?" This line sits well even with Kirti's real-life choices. The argument, of her playing an Indian Air Force pilot in one film and a Balochistani social worker in the other, makes little sense to an artist who has risen above the borders and embraced the universality of everything under the gentle winter sun.
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