“The Reason I Suppose I’m Called ‘Alternative’ is Because I Refuse to be Labelled.” Admits Kalki Koechlin in Vogue

Karen Alfonso , 10 Dec 2012
Kalki Koechlin
Kalki Koechlin

Personifying the face of modern Indian cinema, Kalki Koechlin gets candid with Vogue India’s Bandana Tewari and discusses her movie choices and how she refuses to be labelled in the industry!

Kalki Koechlin in Vogue (photo courtesy | Vogue India)
Kalki Koechlin in Vogue (photo courtesy | Vogue India)

To be or not to be, labelled

Kalki Koechlin gets chatty with Bandana in her Versova home—an unpretentious apartment in which she lives with director-husband Anurag Kashyap and his daughter from his previous marriage, Alia.

“The reason I suppose I’m called ‘alternative’ is because I refuse to be labelled,” explains Koechlin about her choice of movies. “I am not into preconceived notions. But I really do believe that we have such an opportunity to create different platforms where different genres, characters and narratives can coexist.” This Indian actor of French descent (her French parents were hippies in Pondicherry) is as erudite as her films suggest.

Found in translation

“Shalini, my character in [this year’s] Shanghai, is real, raw, stubborn and idealistic,” she says. “I think I am a product of a generation that sees young people being more opinionated than ever before. When I go to Bhavans College in Mumbai for rehearsals sometimes, I am amazed to see the kids going crazy because they’re not used to seeing a star in kurta-pyjamas, all sweaty and dirty. But they’re hard core, more than I was as a teenager. The way they dress, some are goth, some are grunge. I think this increased awareness of the world around them has opened them to different opinions and many points of view. They are our new audience. I take them very seriously.”

Kalki Koechlin in Vogue (photo courtesy | Vogue India)
Kalki Koechlin in Vogue (photo courtesy | Vogue India)

Breaking the mould

“The idea is to make that space available for those who think differently. I don’t want a dictatorship where only an Anurag Kashyap can make a film; or only a ‘dark’ film-maker can make one kind of film. But for the longest time, that space for alternative storytelling didn’t exist in Bollywood. I think it’s happening now.”

“I don’t think I consciously try to make myself different or anti-Bollywood. I never concocted a plan to change the face of Indian cinema. But I was very adamant that I won’t change or mould myself to fit in. I think that’s the pressure in Bollywood today. Even now, there is so much pressure to be the typical Bollywood heroine—do an item number or the Barbie-doll mimicry. Just because I look different, people may think I’m trying to be different. But that’s not true. I’m only doing what I truly believe in.”

Kalki Koechlin in Vogue (photo courtesy | Vogue India)
Kalki Koechlin in Vogue (photo courtesy | Vogue India)

Off The Map

She looks fresh and happy, under no visible strain of existential angst—hardly the industry standard of what defines ‘alternative’ and ‘art’ cinema. If there’s any semblance of the offbeat in her, it’s in the clothes she wears for the cover shoot, a selection from the design collaboration between the maverick Marc Jacobs and Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, famous for her off-kilter artistic genius.

But does she enjoy all the fun bits of being a star in this universe—award shows, magazine shoots, red-carpet fashion? She screws up her nose and confesses that she finds the pressure of red-carpet dressing too much to handle. “It’s a fun time for me to prove to people that I can be fashionable and I’m not always this psycho actor with no make-up,” she says. “But even there, I try to be true to myself and wear what I love and not what I’m supposed to. At the moment, I’m obsessed with everything Sabyasachi makes. At the Cannes Film Festival this year, I paid tribute to my Indo-French roots and wore Sabyasachi one day and Christian Dior the other.”

Read more about the interview in the latest issue of Vogue India.

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