'She definitely has some answers': Kalki Koechlin on her character Batya in Sacred Games 2
It has been 10 years since Kalki Koechlin entered Bollywood and in the last decade, she has surprised us with her choices of roles, be it Chanda in Dev.D, Laila in Margarita with a Straw, Tara Kapoor Desphande in Waiting, Aditi in Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani or Faiza in Amazon’s web series Made in Heaven. Off the screen too, she has been very vocal about social issues, particularly related to women. As she is set to play Batya in the second season of Sacred Games, a role for which she auditioned, Indulge speaks to Kalki about what made her come on board for Sacred Games, how closely her role is linked to the answers the audience has been waiting for, how she feels about the decade that went by and how she takes out time to go back to theatre. Excerpts:
Q: What made you come on board for Sacred Games? We also heard that you auditioned for the second season of the show. Tell us more about it.
Kalki Koechlin: I had already seen the first season and had also enjoyed it as an audience. At that point, I didn’t even know that I was going to be a part of the second season. Then I got a call for an audition. And, I haven’t got a call for an audition in a long time. So, I was super nervous. The audition scene was really nice but it had a lot of strong Hindi words and they asked me if I can come for the audition that same day and I was like, ‘No, no, I need two days to learn my lines properly’.
Q: Tell us something about your character.
KK: My character, Batya, is 37 years old and is very calm and has all the answers to her life. No matter what you say, she answers very calmly. And, that’s what you think she is but when there is pressure and when the plot thickens, you will figure out that she also has darker sides, which are based on the fact that she had a troubled childhood.
Q: What’s her story? How did she end up in an ashram?
KK: So, the backstory is that she is born to a Palestinian mother and a Jewish father and she grows up in France. At some point, her mother left her and went back to Palestine so she grew up with a sense of abandonment and emptiness. She runs away from the house, does drugs — she is basically looking for something — that’s how she ends up in the ashram in Croatia.
Q: And, would she be having a direct link to all the answers that we are waiting for?
KK: She has a direct link... She definitely has some answers.
Q: Your character speaks pure Hindi but also has a French accent. Tell us about the preparation that you undertook for this role.
KK: With Hindi, I am a lot more confident now from what I used to be. I still need my lines in advance because I just always feel there is a slight accent to my voice. So, I put a pen in my mouth (between my lips) and rehearse my lines. So, Hindi is still a challenge but the accents are fun. I love trying a new accent and for the French accent, I have a mother who has a very strong French accent, so I had to keep her in mind.
Q: You have completed a decade in the industry. How do you sum up the journey so far?
KK: It has been very eclectic. There was no stable point, I think. It has been full of ups and downs. But, a lot more different mediums have come up now than when I started. So, now, I am doing web, film, theatre and podcast besides writing spoken words.
Q: The spectrum of the work that you do is very vast — theatre, short films, videos carrying a social message, commercial films, independent films. How do you go about choosing your next work? And, what has been the most memorable work of yours?
KK: Originality. Also, you are looking for different things at different times. In the beginning, I was very frustrated with having to play just dark and bold roles, I found it refreshing to do a light character in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Even after Margarita..., I started getting roles of people with disabilities, so breaking those stereotypes is a big thing for me. But, largely, you get 15 scripts and 14 of them are bad and one is good. So, you say yes to the good one (laughs). My most memorable work so far has been Margarita With A Straw. It was a very challenging role that I did and it was received very well.
Q: What matters more to you — commercial or critical success?
KK: Both. Sometimes I have done a great script at a very low cost, with very little production and in a few days of the shoot and on other times, the project and the platform are bigger. But, that has never been my first reason. If I like the script and my character, then I start thinking about other practical things — will this film be made, is there good financial backing, etc.
Q: You are producing Anton Chekhov’s famous play, Uncle Vanya. What keeps taking you back to the theatre? How do you take out time with theatre?
KK: Being in front of a live audience means that every show will be different. It is an actor’s medium and the director can’t manipulate a shot later. There is no editing and everything happens on the stage. The kind of alertness that you need to have for being on the stage — it doesn’t come from spontaneity, it comes from a lot of preparation. About managing time, I block my dates six months in advance and tell everyone that I am doing a play and won’t be available for this month. You have to plan ahead and hope that you don’t get a Steven Spielberg film in between so that you don’t find yourself in any dilemma (laughs). But, once I block my dates, they are blocked.
Q: Lastly, tell us about your up-coming web-series Zee5’s Brahm?
KK: We are shooting in Shimla right now. It is a thriller. It is about a very famous novelist, who meets with a very bad accident and after that, she suffers from several issues including memory loss. She is basically unravelling things from her past.