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Kalki Koechlin

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Kalki Koechlin
Kalki Koechlin2.jpg
Koechlin at Manish Malhotra's fashion show "Men For Mijwan", 2014
Born Kalki Koechlin
(1984-01-10) 10 January 1984 (age 32)
Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India
Nationality Indian
Alma mater Hebron School, Ooty
Years active 2008–present
Spouse(s) Anurag Kashyap (2011–15)
Relatives See Koechlin family
Koechlin's voice recorded in 2014.

Kalki Koechlin (French: Listeni/ˌkəlkiˈkklɑː/; born 10 January 1984) is an Indian film and stage actress, producer, play and screenwriter, of French descent who is pre-dominantly known for her work in Bollywood.

Koechlin made her screen début in the black comedy Dev.D in 2009, and her performance earned her the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was nominated for the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress for her roles in the comedy-dramas Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), both ranked among the highest-grossing Bollywood films of their respective release years. She also worked as a co-screenwriter for That Girl in Yellow Boots (2011) in which she starred.

Koechlin won the Best Actress at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and the Screen Award for Best Actress Jury Award for her role as a young disabled girl in Shonali Bose's coming-of-age drama Margarita with a Straw (2014). Her other notable works include the crime-thriller Shaitan (2011), the comedy-drama My Friend Pinto (2011), the critically successful political thriller Shanghai (2012) and the romantic comedy Happy Ending (2014).

Apart from her acting career Koechlin has written, produced and acted in many stage plays in India. Her most recent play Colour Blind (2014), a take on the life of Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore which she co-wrote, screened at the Sir Mutha Venkata Subba Rao Hall in August 2014. She has written a number of other theatre plays and has won accolades for her work including the The MetroPlus Playwright Award for the play Skeleton Woman (2009).

Early life[edit]

See also: Koechlin family

Kalki Koechlin was born on 10 January, 1984 in Pondicherry to French parents Joel Koechlin and Françoise Armandie, who came to India from Angers, France.[4][5] Her parents are devotees of Sri Aurobindo. Eventually the family settled in Kallatty, a village near Ooty in Tamil Nadu, where Koechlin's father established a business designing hang-gliders and microlight aircraft. Her ancestor Maurice Koechlin, a French structural engineer, played an important role in the design and construction of the Eiffel Tower.[6]

Koechlin initially attended kindergarten at Hebron School, Ooty, and did a short stint in a Mysore-based school before completing her schooling back at Hebron, Ooty. She studied drama and theatre in Goldsmiths, University of London, where she also worked with a theatre company called Theatre of Relativity for two years. She performed in various plays like David Hare's The Blue Room, Marivaux's The Dispute and a devised play The Rise of the Wild Hunt in her two-year stint with the theatre group.[7][8]

After finishing her studies Koechlin moved back to India, and lived with her elder brother in Bengaluru. Unable to find work in the city, Koechlin decided to move to Mumbai. She then contacted Atul Kumar and Ajay Krishnan who were looking for actors for a theatre festival called Contacting the World, held in Liverpool. Koechlin took the project and to pursue it further she shifted to Mumbai.[9]


Debut and further roles (2009-12)[edit]

Koechlin, after moving to Mumbai, auditioned for Anurag Kashyap's Dev.D (2009), which was "one of the many auditions she attended".[10] It was a modern take on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's novel Devdas,[11] and Koechlin played the role of Leni, a young girl who turns into a prostitute after a MMS scandal; the character was based on Chandramukhi.[12] After seeing her portfolio, Kashyap had initially rejected her stating that she was "not an Indian" and "do not look the role". However, the production house secretly auditioned her and sent Kashyap the audition tape for his feedback. After watching the tape, he called Koechlin and offered her to play the part.[13] The film met with generally positive reviews and was a box office success.[14] Raja Sen of called it a "fantastic visual ride", and ranked it at second in his list of the best movies of 2009.[15] Anupama Chopra gave the film two-and-a-half out of five stars and wrote: "..Kalki who is an intriguing actor but perhaps not experienced enough to pull off the complexity of her character".[16] Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express mentioned her as "astonishingly apt" and called her journey in the film as "riveting".[17] For her performance, Koechlin was awarded the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress.[18] The following year, she acted in the black comedy, The Film Emotional Atyachar.[19]

Koechlin had four releases in 2011, the first one was Bejoy Nambiar's crime-thriller Shaitan with an ensemble cast. Koechlin shared screen with Rajeev Khandelwal, Gulshan Devaiya, Shiv Pandit, Neil Bhoopalam and Kirti Kulhari.[20] The film received positive reviews from critics and Koechlin was nominated for the Best Actress Award at the Star Screen Awards and the Stardust Awards.[21][22]

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara press conference at Chandigarh.

It was followed by Zoya Akhtar's ensemble coming-of-age comedy Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Zoya had wanted to work with Koechlin since she saw her in Dev.D and That Girl in Yellow Boots.[23] She played the supporting role of Natasha, an interior designer. Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN wrote: "Kalki Koechlin, playing what is essentially a caricature, keeps her character grounded in the real; so while you may not particularly like her in the end, you can see why she acts that way."[24] The film also emerged as a box-office success,[25] and Koechlin received a Filmfare nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role.[26]

She then co-wrote and starred in Anurag Kashyap's thriller That Girl in Yellow Boots. She played the role of Ruth, which was partially based on her own experience in India.[27] Shot in thirteen days, the film was screened at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and the 67th Venice International Film Festival.[28][29] Roger Ebert giving a three-and-a-half star out of four, wrote: "[Koechlin] creates a memorable woman who is sad and old beyond her years."[30] Her final release of the year was the Sanjay Leela Bhansali-produced comedy film My Friend Pinto.[31]

In 2012, she reunited with Abhay Deol for Dibakar Banerjee's political-thriller Shanghai. Premiered at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival, the film was based on the Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos' novel Z (1967).[32] Koechlin portrayed a political activist student in it, for which she was simultaneously reading the script while preparing for her marriage.[33]


Koechlin at the Lakme Fashion Week, 2014

In 2013, Koechlin had two releases, the first being the supernatural thriller Ek Thi Daayan. It was based on 'Mobius Trips', a short story written by co-star Konkona Sen Sharma's father Mukul Sharma.[34] Based on the themes of witchcraft, the film received mixed to positive reviews by critics and had average collections on the box-office.[35][36]

She then went on to star in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, a romantic comedy co-starring Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor. Koechlin played the role of tomboy Aditi Mehra. Upon release, the film received mixed reviews from critics,[37] with Raja Sen criticising the film's "lack of a good story" and added that "Kalki’s at her shrillest and smiliest".[38] Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani opened to good box-office collections, and emerged as one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time with earnings of 3.02 billion (US$44 million), for the film, she earned her third Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination.[39][40][41]

Later that year, she was featured in a video called It's Your Fault, along with VJ Juhi Pandey. It was created by All India Bakchod, and was released on their YouTube channel. The video went viral with over 150,000 views in 2 days.[42] Dealing with the issue of rape, the video mocks the mindset that blames women for provoking it.[43] Koechlin's sole release of 2014 was Saif Ali Khan's maiden production Happy Ending, where she played a supporting role. The film opened to mixed reviews and was a box-office failure.[44]

Koechlin then starred in Shonali Bose's drama Margarita with a Straw, where she played Laila, a girl with cerebral palsy. It tells about her struggle with the normal activities in her life, and how she discovers sexuality. Her character was inspired by Malini, the cousin of director Shonali Bose.[45] The film premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, and was also screened at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, 19th Busan International Film Festival and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.[45] Margarita with a Straw released in India on 17 April 2015 to generally positive reviews.[46] Deepanjana Pal in her review for Firstpost wrote: "The actress has done a good job of miming the physicality of someone with cerebral palsy, but what is truly remarkable is the lack of artifice in her expressions." She also called the script "ungainly".[47] John Beifuss of the The Commercial Appeal lauded Koechlin's performance writing, "[Kalki] Koechlin delivers the type of performance that in a major movie garners Oscar notice like Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything but she’s never a showoff."[48] Koechlin won The Best Actress Award at The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and garnered a nomination for the Best Actress Award at the Asian Film Awards.[49]

The same year, Koechlin appeared in Y-Films's mini web-series Man's world. The four-part series raised issues like gender inequality, and premiered on YouTube.[50] It also featured actresses like Parineeti Chopra, Richa Chadda and Bhumi Pednekar.[51] Koechlin then went on to star opposite Naseeruddin Shah in Anu Menon's Waiting, an independent film about two grieving people who are waiting in the hospital watching their relatives suffer in a coma.[52] The film had its world premier at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) in December 2015.[53][54] The film and her performance opened to positive reviews from the critics.[55][56]

In January 2016, Koechlin appeared in a video that talked about the approach of media and society towards the crimes against women.[57] The five-minute video was released on YouTube and feature a poem titled Printing Machine penned and recited by Koechlin.[57][58][59] The video met with rave reviews from critics.[60][61][62][63]

On stage[edit]

Koechlin has written, produced and acted in many stage plays in India.[2] She won The Hindu's 2009 The MetroPlus Playwright Award along with Prashant Prakash for the play Skeleton Woman which they both co-wrote.[64] Other plays include Trivial Disasters, The Real Inspector Hound, Ajay Krishnan's Hair (where she incarnates Rapunzel), Rajat Kapoor's Hamlet, the Clown Prince , Color Blind which she co-wrote among others. In her interview she said, "Theater is really an actor’s playground", and continued "There’s nothing like performing for a live audience. Ego-wise also, because you get this goose-bumps-and-applause thing.[65] It doesn’t matter what day you’re having, good or bad, once you come to the rehearsal hall, you leave everything behind. When you’re on stage, you’re in the show." Koechlin has opened her own theater company, 'Little Productions' and has plans to turn to a play director too.[66]

Personal life and off-screen work[edit]

Koechlin with her ex-husband Anurag Kashyap in 2010

Koechlin married film-maker Anurag Kashyap in April 2013, at her maternal home in Ooty.[67][68] The two had met on the sets of her debut film Dev.D.[69] On 13 November 2013 both Koechlin and Kashyap issued a joint statement saying they were separating.[70] In October 2014, the couple filed for divorce. On 19 May 2015 morning Kashyap and Koechlin arrived at the Mumbai family court together and filed for divorce. She said: "Right now, I am in a good space. Last year was a little bit more of a struggle, as I didn’t know where I was going. I wasn’t sure where my relationship with Anurag was going. All of it was unclear. Now, we are pretty clear that we are not going to be together. We have already applied for divorce and will get it soon."[71][72] She lives in Mumbai.[73]

Post the separation Koechlin in an interview with Daily News and Analysis said, "[But] everyone has doubts, we're all human. Even as an actor, you have days when you haven't slept enough, you don't feel like you're good enough or pretty enough. But ultimately, it's all about attitude. You must live with a little abandon and not be self-conscious. You ought to stop staring at yourself in the mirror, and just smile a little!"[74]

Koechlin has been a part of a variety of awareness campaigns, humanitarian work, and is vocal about women's equality and empowerment campaigns. She has actively participated in the P & G Shiksha campaign for educating kids living in rural parts of India.[75][76] Koechlin participated in the Mumbai Marathon a charitable event, aimed at spreading awareness regarding education, health issues like cancer and AIDS, senior citizen welfare among others.[77] Koechlin ran along with Malini Chib, who is suffering from acute cerebral palsy, and was largely the inspiration behind her film Margarita with a Straw.[78][79] She was appointed by Vogue India as the ambassador for their Vogue Empower initiative to spread awareness on women's safety and empowerment.[80]

Koechlin has also presented numerous monologues revolving around pressing social matters at different events. She spoke at a conference on child sexual abuse (CSA) organised by actor Rahul Bose's NGO H.E.A.L.. She also recited a monologue titled An Intense Piece about the Truths of Womanhood on Women's Day at the India Today Conclave. Her monologue which talked about the daily wars women have to wage against patriarchy, had bits from her personal diary as well. Despite being part of a number of feminism campaigns Koechlin identifies herself as a humanist over a feminist.[81]

Media image[edit]

Koechlin walks the ramp for Kay Jewels at IIJW 2011.

Koechlin is known for doing unconventional roles in films and her outspoken personality.[82][83][84] Megha Mathur of The Quint called Koechlin "a rare, unabashed feminist voice among our celebrities today",[85] while Anwesha Madhukalya of the ScoopWhoop called her "One of the few actresses to have grasped the simplistic meaning of feminism".[86]

Koechlin is a celebrity endorser and has been associated with several brands and services, including Coca-Cola, Olay, Micromax, Titan and AOC.[87][88] She was also the brand ambassador of the "Cinema For Care" section, aimed at creating awareness about disability issues at the All Lights India International Film Festival (ALIIFF) held in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala in November 2015.[89]

Koechlin is described as a style icon by the Indian media.[90][91][92] Raedita Tandan of Filmfare called Koechlin's fashion appeal as "effortless" and "un-diva esque".[92] In 2014, Koechlin was among the judges of a model hunt, The Max Fashion Icon organised by Max Fashion and the Cosmopolitan Magazine.[93] Apart from that, Koechlin has walked on the ramp at numerous occasions, including the Lakme Fashion Week, India International Jewellery Week, Shabana Azmi's annual fund raiser Mijwan Fashion Show, and also made a guest appearance at the Milan Fashion Week, one of the global "Big Four Fashion Weeks".[94][95][96][97] Koechlin is also associated with Fashion brands including Grey Goose's Style du jour and Vogue among others.[90]


Films that have not yet been released Denotes films that have not yet been released
Year Title Role Notes
2009 Dev.D Chandramukhi
2010 The Film Emotional Atyachar Sophie
2011 Shaitan Amrita "Amy" Jayshankar
2011 Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara Natasha
2011 That Girl in Yellow Boots Ruth Edscer
2011 My Friend Pinto Maggie
2011 Trishna Herself Cameo appearance[98]
2012 Shanghai Shalini Sahay
2013 Ek Thi Daayan Lisa Dutt
2013 Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani Aditi Mehra
2014 Happy Ending Vishakha
2015 Margarita with a Straw Laila
2016 Waiting Film has yet to be released Tara[54]
2016 Love Affair Film has yet to be released Filming[99]
2016 A Death In The Gunj Film has yet to be released Pre-production[100]

Awards and Nominations[edit]

Year Film Award Category Result Ref.
2010 Dev.D Filmfare Awards Best Supporting Actress Won [18]
2010 Dev.D International Indian Film Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated [101]
2010 Dev.D Apsara Film & Television Producers Guild Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role Nominated
2012 Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara Filmfare Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated [26]
2012 Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara International Indian Film Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated [102]
2012 Shaitan Screen Awards Best Actress Nominated [21]
2012 Shaitan Screen Awards Best Villain Nominated [21]
2012 Shaitan Screen Awards Best Ensemble Cast Nominated [21]
2012 Shaitan Stardust Awards Best Actress Nominated [22]
2014 Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani IIFA Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated [103]
2014 Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani Filmfare Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated [41]
2014 Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani Screen Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated [104]
2014 Margarita with a Straw Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival Best Actress Won [105]
2015 Margarita with a Straw Asian Film Awards Best Actress Nominated [106]
2016 Margarita with a Straw Screen Awards Best Actress (Jury) Won [107]


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