Kalki Koechlin – Richa Chadha get Featured on Cosmopolitan India December 2017 Issue
GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN!
This is a very special shoot for us—in over 250 issues in the last 21 years, Cosmo India has never featured multiple Bollywood celebrities on a single cover. But it’s different with Kalki Koechlin and Richa Chadha. They are the stars of a rare female- centric Bollywood film (Jia Aur Jia just dropped), and two of a handful of B-town actors who are outspoken feminists. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they are thick friends—a fact that puts the covershoot crew at instant ease.
“Yawn,” says Kalki when we prod her about whether or not female actors are always secretly
competing with each other. “Since the time I’ve been in the industry, I have never seen that. I have never been in a catfight either,” she assures us.
Richa doesn’t completely agree, but says it’s true in Kalki’s case. “We’ve done a lot of work together, and because of that we are quite comfortable around each other. Even the film (Jia Aur Jia) turned into one big holiday,” Richa tells us. “That’s true,” Kalki quips. “There’s a crazy wavelength that we tapped into. She’s a weird mix of extremely intelligent, and at the same time, she can be in la-la- land and talk about fairies and random things!”
As we chat between shots, it’s clear to see that this ‘mutual admiration society’ between Richa and Kalki is not an act.
“I really respect her as an actor,” Richa tells us.
“It’s very rare that you work with people who are truly secure and give ideas about your craft as well. I think everyone needs to be secure about what they do and their place in the world. For instance, I don’t know if I could do a movie like Margarita With A Straw or if Kalki could do a role like Bholi Punjaban.” Richa turns to look at Kalki, then continues: “I feel the reason many people become insecure is because they think they’re dispensable. A couple of actresses have given me the cold shoulder in the past and I, very brazenly, go and give them a tight hug and ask them how they’re doing. I think that when you really connect with a human being in an honest way, it’s very hard for them to not like you.”
And spending months together in Sweden, during the shooting of Jia Aur Jia, only brought them closer. “We bonded because we spent so much time looking for vegetarian food for Richa,” Kalki jokes. “You know, she used to be like a little orphan child at the breakfast table with her plate full of fruits and boiled eggs, so that she has a storage of food for the entire day.” The two burst into peels of laughter. “I’ve turned vegan, so it wasn’t exactly a breeze…” Richa says, “but what came as a revelation to me was that Kalki doesn’t shop much. And it was really surprising for a hoarder like me. I do these ‘arty films’ and my closet is full of stuff that I would never wear, like golden pants or a full sequinned gown.”
From the sound of things, Sweden was all kinds of fun. The girls reveal how they spent their free time exploring thrift stores, watching movies, and getting lost in streets.
But the most memorable experience, they agree, was when they tried the Swedish sauna. “We did the whole jumping- in-the-ice-cold-lake thing after the sauna, and oh my God, it was amazing!” Kalki gushes. “We were damn nervous about it at first, but then we kept doing it again and again. And we almost felt drunk, you know? So light headed.”
Kalki is a self-confessed travel geek, of course, and wishes she had more time to do so. Among her favourite cities around the world, New York tops the list. “There’s just something about New York… I also really like Istanbul—it’s the perfect mix of East and the West. And can I also add Pondicherry to the list? I really like going back there,” she says. When in a new city, the one thing she absolutely hates doing is ticking the tourist-y things off her list. “I’d much rather interact with the local people and find what they’re doing. Believe me, you discover some real gems that way…ones you’ll never find in a travel guide. Oh, and I love catching up on theatre when I’m in NYC or London!” If you didn’t already know, theatre is a biggie for Kalki. And she has strong feelings about the theatre community in India. “We have the craft and talent, but people don’t spend time working on an original. Part of the problem is that it’s impractical, we are not getting funds and it’s hard to survive in an expensive city like Mumbai. But I’m sure it’ll get better.”
Apart from working in films and theatre, Richa and Kalki have both dipped their toes in the world of web series. Richa played the lead in Amazon Prime’s first production Inside Edge, which garnered rave reviews and is also set for a second season. “It’s heartening to see that people liked it so much,” she says. “When I first took it on, for some reason people thought I was taking some kind of demotion. But it is the next big thing. The Internet is a great tool, and it really helps you reach a wide audience.” The success of her first web series has led to a lot of international offers, particularly for a South African web series. “I don’t know if it’ll work out because it’s all in a very nascent stage. But I’m auditioning a lot, and I’m hoping one of these days we’ll have some good news,” she affirms. Kalki, too, is working on a web series with Zoya Akhtar, in which she plays a rich Delhi girl who’s going through some love trouble. “I’m really enjoying it, I love my character. I think, right now, it’s a little bit of a cowboy land, you know…like, everyone wants to make a web series. I literally get offered one every two weeks, but it’s definitely a format that’s here to stay,” she says.
Richa and Kalki are both masters of their craft and champions of alternate cinema. But another thing that binds them together is their unabashed attitude when it comes to expressing their views or supporting causes that require strong, opinionated voices that can bring about a change. Somewhere in between talking about travelling, food, turning ‘Bholi Punjaban’ into a stand-up act (yes, that might happen, people), our conversation veers into a serious territory, owing the whole Harvey Weinstein scandal that wobbled the world recently. Richa also wrote a blog post about it. “When I wrote it, my agenda was to address the problem. However, I was doing promotions for a film at that time, and all that anyone would ask me was that if it had ever happened to me. The media expects to speak about these issues, but what happens is that it becomes about the people who shared their stories, rather than the problem itself,” she says. “Yeah, there’s no doubt that there are [Harvey] Weinsteins in every industry, not just in ours. But a lot of pressure is put on celebrities— that they should come out and speak about it. And when they do, they’re accused of wanting publicity. And the onus is always put on the woman, to risk her career and speak about such things. The repercussions always fall on the women, it’s a really tricky thing,” Kalki shares. “I think this problem is like pollution, it is so omnipresent. You hear about such horrific things on a daily basis, like the rape of an infant or a gang rape; and when I read this stuff, it really disturbs me. It’s so tragic,” adds Richa.
But both of them agree that being vocal about their views is a double-edged sword. “You can’t be a saviour for everyone, but one must do their bit and try and make a difference,” Kalki says, emphatically. “Celebrities should endorse causes as it makes a big difference, but very often it’s misconstrued. And that’s what bothers me. But luckily, in my field, I’m allowed to let my art, my work, speak for me. So I’d rather put that down in my work— sometimes directly in a spoken word and sometimes in my performance.” Richa nods in agreement. “I used to be more candid before. But now I’m very careful about what I say. We’re put on the spot very often, and the thing is, we’re not an expert on everything, and it becomes very difficult. But now I make it clear that I won’t comment unless I know about the subject. It’s important to draw that line.”
THE COSMO QUIZ
1. The weirdest thing in my handbag right now is a custard apple!
2. The best relationship adviceI’ve ever been given is don’t judge your partner.
3. The most disgraceful thing I did this month is… I bullied someone, I think.
4. The last song I downloaded was Havana by Camila Cabello.
5. The last person I looked aton Instagram was some trainer on my friend’s feed, trying
to gauge if he’s any good.
6. My spirit emoji is the one with the tongue out,
7. The Snapchat filter I love is the one that distorts the face.
1. The weirdest thing in my handbag right now is apricot salt and sweet seeds from Vietnam.
2. The best relationship advice
I’ve ever been given is that don’t treat the other person like they’re your everything.
3. The most disgraceful thing I did this month was peed on the beach.
4. The last time I cried was
5. The naughtiest thing I’vesaid to a guy is ‘Get your coat, we’re leaving’.
6. My favourite karaoke song is Jeanne Moreau’s Le Tourbillon de La Vie.
7. I never leave the house without mascara and motivation.
8. I like to party in NYC! There are some really cool jazz bars in Brooklyn.