Raw, unconventional, daring – Kalki Koechlin is all these are more. The actor-writer of French origin, born and brough up in Puducherry, has been as unconventional in her choice of film roles as she has been honest in her opinions on cinema, India, and feminism. As Kalki turns 37 today, do check out the five roles in which we loved this talented actress the most.
Dev D (2009)
In an unconventional debut, a modern-day adaptation of the acclaimed Bengali novel Devdas by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Kalki – then 24 – played a school girl who loses her parents’ support and turns to prostitution after a leaked sex tape scandal. She later falls for the titular character, Dev, and – in a departure from the original story – ends up riding into the sunset with him. A complex character with an unusual journey, Leni’s role was safe in Kalki’s hands – as she delicately transforms from the naïve teenager to a pragmatic, kind adult.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
In this blockbuster film by directed and co-written by Zoya Akhtar, Kalki’s character Natasha is one that the audience would love to hate. Natasha is the insecure yet controlling fiancé to Abhay Deol’s Kabir. Yet she does and says all the right things in front of a third person, as her upbringing in Delhi’s posh neighbourhoods has taught her. Kalki does an exemplary job in getting even the nuances and body language for Natasha right, that somewhere you relate to her, and even feel bad for her at some point.
That Girl in Yellow Boots (2011)
This Anurag Kashyap film revolves around Ruth, a young woman from Britain in search of her father in Mumbai, a city that gives her only misery and hopelessness. As Ruth, Kalki is relatable, her grief and helplessness – while also being independent and determined- is portrayed gracefully. The shocking climax of this thrilling yet emotionally disturbing film ensures that you don’t forget this movie, or Kalkis’ Ruth, easily.
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Margarita With a Straw (2014)
In this Shonali Bose directorial which delves into the sexual psyche of a patient suffering from an incurable medical condition, Kalki is the protagonist Laila – the role of a lifetime. Laila’s (Kalki Koechlin) coming of age, following her complex relationship with Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a blind girl of Pakistani-Bangladeshi descent is treated with sensitivity and yet the seriousness of her condition (cerebral palsy) and the limitations it brings in her life are never underplayed. The film successfully deals with themes of inclusion, self acceptance and sexuality.
Made in Heaven (2019)
Written by Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti and Alankrita Shrivastava, this web/television series on Amazon Prime has won audience and critics alike with its realistic portrayal of Indian weddings and marriages. Kalki, as Faiza Naqvi, is the ‘other woman’ – dealing with a difficult divorce while having an affair with her best friend’s husband. She seeks help from a therapist while struggling to be true to her self and the people who care about her, and Kalki’s depiction of Faiza Naqvi stand out in a stellar cast, which includes Sobhita Dhulipala, Arjun Mathur, and Jim Sarbh.