Kalki Koechlin, during the interview at Aara Fashions Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

If you were to size up Kalki Koechlin, she’s unlikely to fit into that traditional Bollywood heroine mould. This Indian actress of French descent doesn’t dance like a dream nor does she work a sari with innate sexiness. But nobody knows it better than her.

“There’s lots said about me. I have teeth that are way too big for my face or that I am too skinny for my own good ... And I can safely say that I have three left feet,” said Koechlin in an interview with tabloid!.

“But there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s the way I look and that’s the way I was born.”

The actress, 30, who has held her own in star-driven films such as Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, was in Dubai’s Aara boutique on Monday to launch designer Neeta Lulla’s collection. Her perceived drawbacks were not evident when she waltzed into the store in an ethereal white and gold tunic with a full bodied skirt.

“But you know what: I love being unconventional because that’s the reason I stand out. If I was like everyone else I wouldn’t know how long I would have lasted in Bollywood,” said Koechlin. She has a point. Within five years, Koechlin has played a variety of roles with startling conviction. From playing a feisty prostitute in 2009 romantic drama Dev D (Bollywood’s modern take on love tragedy Devdas) to her spoilt princess act in road trip film Zindagi Na or the pragmatic Aditi who decides to let go of her childhood crush in romantic comedy Yeh Jawaani, Koechlin has always stood out from a group. Plus, she was never the main lead in majority of her films, but she managed to support her actors and elevate the film to greater heights.

“Everybody worries about their image a lot. I have never worried about it because it has been spoilt from the start. Also remember, my first film was Dev D: so people associated me with those dark roles. And it doesn’t bother me because I have never tried to cultivate a good image.” The last sentence encapsulates every Bollywood heroine’s predicament. Many in her industry are often seen orchestrating a wholesome wife-material package. In a bid to be that fantasy woman, the actresses are cagey when it comes to their love life or partying openly due to the fear of being slapped with a wild-girl allegation. Koechlin, with her bee-stung lips, toothy smile and pale complexion, has never been one of them. A self-titled misfit, isn’t she plagued by insecurity?

“I have a lot of waiting periods in my life. Sometimes six to eight months go by without work. But it comes with the territory. In Bollywood, it’s always feast or famine for an actress. That’s the way of the game,” said Koechlin. But she doesn’t let the negatives get her down. She looks to theatre when she doesn’t have film assignments to work on.

“Yes, it can get taxing and I have seen lots of people getting into this cycle of depression or changing the way they look so that they fit in. I have been holding onto my differences very strongly. I strongly feel that my world and my life are bigger than Bollywood.”

Fortunately, she hasn’t reached that “famine phase’. The estranged wife of director Anurag Kashyap has her plate full with two films that are as different as the proverbial chalk and cheese. While Jia Aur Jia is a road trip film about two girls, her next is an independent feature Margarita, With A Straw in which she plays a woman grappling with cerebral palsy.

“We had Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara that showed male bonding. But in Bollywood there’s never been that quintessential girly chick flick. So you will have two girls on a road trip in Europe in which they learn about life,” said Koechlin. Her companion as she hits the road is Richa Chadda of Fukrey fame (remember that cussing modern-day pimp?).

“Both are running away from something in life and they need that road trip. My character is somebody who enjoys life and she doesn’t stop to think about her decisions. All her major decisions in life are made in 20 seconds,” said Koechlin. While Jia Aur Jia is all about girl power and may propel you to pack your bags for an impromptu buddy-bonding holiday, Margarita, With A Straw is intense.

“For an actor, it’s not easy to play a disabled girl in a wheelchair. You have to explore that role ... I lived with somebody suffering from cerebral palsy for six months to understand it. It’s a lot of work but I told the director that if I don’t have six months to train then I wouldn’t do the film.” In an industry that’s as prolific as Bollywood, it’s rare for actors to put aside that kind of time. The adage ‘time is money’ is religiously adhered to by most commercial actors.

“I love the relentless energy that Bollywood exudes but what I hate is the mediocrity. We don’t push against barriers and all we want is box office hits. We are the biggest film industry in this world but we never have time for risks or experiments. All I want to do is progress with each film and never stagnate.”



“I am what you call a reluctant fashionista. It’s not like I try too hard. I like fashion but it’s not something that I follow religiously. I like to experiment a lot with my style,” said Koechlin when asked about her style mantra.




The one trend that she loathes:

“Animal prints. If not done right, it can look trashy. Here less is more is an important philosophy to follow.”


Being featured in best dressed or worst dressed list:

“I have stopped reading page three articles because there will always be a comment that’s a dampener to your mood. Out of all the flattering remarks, you always remember the snarky one. And all of that distracts you from work. In my head, films are my reward.”


Losing the Best Supporting Actress award at the recent Filmfare Awards for her act in Yeh Jawaani:

“While it is wonderful to get an award, nobody was more deserving that Supriya Pathak, she was so cool [in Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela]. She is a stunning actress and I hope when I reach her age, I will at least have half her acting ability.”



As Kalki Koechlin embarks on her first road trip movie, tabloid! picks out our top four buddy-bonding films:


Kai Po Che (2013):

Directed by Abhishek Kapoor, it’s a tale of three childhood friends who dream of running a sports business empire. Based on Chetan Bhagat’s best-selling novel Three Mistakes Of My Life, their friendship is put to test against the backdrop of communal hatred and politics.


Dil Chahta Hai (2001):

While Bollywood was inundated with boy-meets-girl love stories, Dil Chahta Hai was a game changer. For once, the focus was not on romance. Instead the cameras trained in on three rich, urbane boys who enjoyed some great comradeship and camaraderie. Great music, some fantastic acting by Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna and Saif Ali Khan makes this a must-watch. If this film doesn’t make you reach out to your estranged best friend from college, I don’t know what would.


Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011):

Some called it a glorified tourism commercial for Spain, but we think ZNMD allows you to live vicariously as three handsome lads embark on an all-boys road trip through Europe. It’s glossy, glamorous and has a heart in its right place. This should be your go-to bromance film, if you are down in the dumps.


Rock On!! (2008):

This blockbuster is essentially a film about four boys and their doomed rock band in college. What makes it special is the way director Abhishek Kapoor highlights their re-union. It’s not overly dramatic and the heroes aren’t frightfully perfect. Watch out for Farhan Akhtar and Arjun Rampal’s act.



Designer Neeta Lulla, who is the costume stylist for Rajinikanth’s Kochadiyaan, has interwoven Kanjeevaram silk and Kalamkari (block printing) into her new collection stocked at Aara.