16 November,2014:Â Kalki Koechlin, 30, may have been born to French parents, but is Indian by birth and soul. She is emotional, calm and sensitive and while she gets hurt easily, she doesn’t show it. She is free-spirited and likes to live with a sense of abandon, but is equally responsible and full of love. Over an hour-long conversation, ahead of her upcoming romantic comedy Happy Ending, she talks to Bombay Times about her strong mother, her love for Anurag Kashyap and why she is more Indian than French. Excerpts:
Talk about your family background?
I was born in Pondicherry. Both my parents are French. They met in Pondicherry in the 70s, got married and stayed back in India. My father is one of those hippies with long hair, who started making small hand gliders and teaching it as well. My mother had been married previously and thus, I have a half- brother who is ten years older and had come with her from France. So he too grew up in Pondicherry like me, speaking English, Tamil and French. My parents divorced when I was 15 and my father, who lives in Bangalore, then re-married and has a seven-year-old son. My mother is single and lives in Pondicherry and also spends a lot of time with me in Mumbai.
How did you come into films?
I studied in Hebron boarding school in Ooty from the age of 8 to 18, as both my parents were working. My mom earlier worked with my dad and later, taught French. My mum was quite strict, so I was in a very strict household. I would be quiet at home, very well-behaved and then, as soon as I would be in school, I was loud, an entertainer and the clown of my class. At home, my parents were quite old so the surrounding was of elder people, there was no noise, reading books was encouraged, TV was not encouraged, so I was the geeky studious type of girl. When I was 18, my mom said I had to study as my paternal grandparents in France had left me some education money in their will. So, I went to study drama in London, as in school, I was very interested in writing and drama. I discovered the best of theatre in London and joined a theatre company there. But I really missed home and found it a culture shock there. Also I did not know where I belonged. To them, I looked firang and they would say, ‘You don’t look Indian and you don’t look French either, as your accent is not French. So, what the hell are you?’ I didn’t know what to tell them. And while I enjoyed my time there, life was tough and expensive and I would be waitressing on weekends. Once I got done, I was glad to come home, but having stayed away from parents, it was hard to come and live with them as they still treat you like a child, so, for a while, I stayed with my older brother, who is an astrophysicist in Bangalore. I lived with him and did his dishes and a lot of theatre, trying to find my feet till I met Atul Kumar from Mumbai.
I moved to Mumbai to do theatre with Atul and did a lot of theatre in the beginning. I was auditioning for films constantly, as I didn’t think I could survive on theatre. But I am realistic and also knew that I could not do Bollywood, as I am white, didn’t speak Hindi and couldn’t dance, so I didn’t know where I could fit in. I was also doing a lot of ads, including some terrible teleshopping ads selling exercise machines. But I had to prove to my parents that I could do it on my own, so I was not asking for money. If I needed money, I would ask my brother, but not my parents. He is much older to me, so has been like my parent and is a part of the mad, wild family, so he understands me better than anyone else. I then got a call from Rucha Pathak of UTV for the role in Dev D. I later found out that she called me as she had been to Blue Mountain school in Ooty, that was a neighbouring school, so when she read my school on my CV, she got interested to meet me. Anurag had seen my pictures and told Rucha, ‘I don’t want some white model. I want an actor.’ I auditioned and Anurag was surprised by my audition. He said, ‘You can act? Can you learn Hindi in two months?’ I said, ‘Well I can try. Give me two months.’ He put me in touch with Karan Makhija who taught me really well right from the basics. I went back to audition and got Chanda’s role in Dev D. That was 2009.
When did you start seeing Anurag Kashyap?
By the time, Dev D released, we were seeing each other. Six months into the shoot, he asked me out, finally. I didn’t think I was aware, but he told me later that he was fully, madly in love. I got along with him, but I am not a very open kind of person, so I noticed that he liked me only when he started coming for my plays repeatedly. He would come and watch every show. I was attracted to his honesty. We are both very emotional creatures. We lived in together for two years before we got married.
Who do you love the most in the world?
My younger brother who is seven years old, as he is most innocent. Everybody else has their share of baggage. I almost feel like he is my son. He is a beautiful soul and reminds me of me when I was a kid. He will be a good boy with his parents and then he has the naughty side to him wanting to express loudly, just like me.
Talk about Anurag Kashyap?
We are still friends and chat and meet. He is a good guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. Anybody who comes with a sob story to Anurag can get him to adopt him. He is not materialistic at all and is a giver. The not so good thing is that he is not aware of influences and people pulling him in different directions. He is also a very angry person and can defend himself very well, but he does get swayed. For instance, he will read an article and that will ruin his day. He will take it out on people the whole day. He is very affected by people and things around him. I used to tell him that the sky won’t fall if you switch off your internet for a day. You don’t have to argue with every banda on twitter. But he would get sucked into it and waste his energy on that and that would frustrate me. I could see it affect him in everything in his life, be it his work or our relationship. Twitter is just an example, but it could be anyone commenting. We live in an industry where everyone has views and they will judge you without knowing you and that is a frustration you will live with all your life if you don’t let go. I too used to get upset, but learnt quickly that you can’t get so affected by everything that is said.
How painful is the separation?
It took a long time to decide. We both love each other very much and are painfully nice to each other. It’s not easy, but I focus on work. It’s been a journey and discovery of who I am and what I am on my own. I have gone back to writing, working on my craft and working on my body. I have also taken a lot of holidays with my family this year.
Talk about your mother?
My mum has been worried about me and I don’t think she is happy about our separation. She makes me confront things a lot more. She is a strong woman, who has been through a lot in life and had it not been for her, I would not have been as strong as I am. I am worried about her and keep telling her that she needs to get herself a boyfriend. We have a great, but fiery relationship. She is old and needs to be around me. But when I am with her, she also drives me up the wall, but she loves me. Sometimes I tell her, ‘Maa, go on a holiday. Go to some place.’ Otherwise, she is reading Bombay Times and saying, ‘What is this? Is this true?’ I keep telling her, ‘Don’t focus on all this.’ Work is the answer to everything. Enjoy what you do and put your energy and faith in that and that’s what I am doing. She is my reality check and will never praise me to my face. In fact, she is always critical of me. She admires the fact that I have not become bitter and in fact, am full of love.
Do you have friends in the industry?
Zoya Akhtar is the person I am most honest with. She is a very honest person and is also very close to Anurag. She understands both sides and the nice thing is that, she doesn’t take sides.
Which was your lowest point in life?
I have many, but the first low one was when I was in second year university in London. I missed home so badly, but had no money to come back home for a break. It was winters and was horrible and depressing. The warmth that I had with my friends in India was missing. In India, you can just show up at a friend’s house and they will feed you, you can borrow someone’s clothes and touch each other. In London, they would say, ‘Oh, let’s meet for coffee at 4.15 and we will talk about I don’t know, this play that we saw.’ I was eating so much junk food that I also put on 10 kilos and became chubby. The other one was two years ago, when things were really tough between me and Anurag. My mom too was very sick and was in hospital. So I would be in hospital, then go shoot Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and then I would be fighting with Anurag. I didn’t know where I stood and was a wreck. It was a really tough time, but then we talked and came out of it.
Source:The Times of India