Kalki Koechlin is one of the few Bollywood actors who doesn’t stick to just films. She has hosted TV shows, a podcast with the BBC, does theatre and goes on biking holidays whenever she can.
Koechlin, whose new web series “Smoke” released last week on OTT platform Eros Now, spoke to Reuters about why she’s open to any medium to ply her trade, the reason she doesn’t have a PR agent, and her thoughts on India’s #MeToo movement.
Q: You are one of the few film actors who are branching out – doing a podcast, a web series, etc. Does the medium matter to you?
A: No. I mean, yes, I want to do films and want to do films that people want to watch. But I also understand that the digital platform is growing immensely – it is new territory and opening up a lot of creative space – not just for actors but also writers and musicians. Theatre, I have always been a part of.
The podcast is something new. I was reluctant to go into it, because I didn’t know if I could handle being on the other side, of being an interviewer. But I have found it extremely enlightening and fun to do. We’re targeting a young, 21st century audience, so it is based on changing India, the changing attitudes, etc.
Q: What about films? Your film appearances have become more sporadic in the last couple of years. Is that by design?
A: I wish it was by design. No, no, definitely not. I wish I was doing all the films all the time. The thing is, I find myself so busy that I don’t realise that I haven’t done a film in so long. Because there seem to be so many projects all the time. I just finished “Gully Boy” (Zoya Akhtar’s film), and “Haathi Mere Saathi” has been stalled, but we did start it. I am doing a new play that is opening in November, so I feel like I am busy with enough work, but yeah, I am not always in the news, and that is okay with me.
I don’t have a PR agent, for example. I don’t want someone creating an image for me. I am who I am, and if I have to be in the news, it will be when it is relevant, not because my cat is missing or something else. I love the fans I have and the reach I have. But I am not trying to make it a bigger. That has to happen organically. I am not here to be a celebrity – I am here to be an actor.
Q: But in an industry that often muddles the two, is it difficult to stand out?
A: Not really. If I wasn’t getting enough work, then maybe I would say it is difficult. But I do get enough work. And I value my privacy. I go on motorbike trips through rural India, or along the coast of Maharashtra. That kind of freedom, I really value that. When I have a film, I love wearing my designers and dressing up and doing interviews. When I am in the news, it is relevant to the work I am doing.
Q: That is refreshing to hear, because so many actors feel the need to constantly stay in circulation…
A: It’s not just actors. It is the case with normal people. I’ll be on holiday and see someone spending their whole time taking selfies and videos and putting it on their social media. You are on holiday, in the middle of nowhere with a beautiful sunset behind you, and this is what you are busy doing. It’s become a bit of a trend that you live your life for other people and to show them.
Q: How do you view social media?
A: I get to do that in my place of work – be on social media, put myself out there - so when I am outside of it, I am grateful to not. It’s like not wearing make-up. It’s liberating. Also, there are certain things I wouldn’t want to do – like if I have a child, I wouldn’t want to post everything that child does on Facebook or whatever. But yeah, I get excited by things and post them on WhatsApp groups – so I get the need to share, and it’s important, but it shouldn’t take over your life.
We are the teenagers of social media. It’s a new medium and we aren’t sure of our responsibilities. We’ve been given all the sweets, but only when we get rotting teeth will we be like, “Oh we shouldn’t have had so much.”
Q: How have you processed the whole #MeToo campaign in India?
A: It’s been very hard. Sorry, but the media is very bullying, because they want an immediate comment and answer every time you are in front of the camera. There is a new story on hourly basis, of which you have no details, and you are supposed to comment. I find that very unnerving, and unfair.
I have very much tried to keep my silence in terms of specific cases of which I don’t have details. However, as a movement, I am heartened to see how much it has grown, not just the industry but across the board at workplaces in India. I am heartened to see how progressive that is for our country.
(Editing by David Lalmalsawma; This story is web-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)