Out of the box is a phrase that suits Kalki Koechlin. From playing a prostitute in her début film, Dev D, to mainstream cinema, indie films and theatre, this talented 30-year-old now adds to her offbeat offerings with Margarita, With a Straw. The film, which premiered this September at the Toronto Film Festival, is about a teenager with cerebral palsy (CP) who evolves into an independent girl exploring her bisexuality. Inspired by director Shonali Bose’s own experiences and the life of cousin, Malini Chib, who suffers from CP, it gave Koechlin a role she could sink her teeth into. More from the actress:
The script was original, honest and real. And getting the physicality, although very intimidating, was exciting for me as an actor. It’s the kind of role you get once in a lifetime and that you grow immensely from—both as an actor and as a person.
I spent a lot of time with my director’s cousin, Malini, and worked with her physiotherapist and speech therapist. I also did a body workshop with actor Adil Hussain. Then I read a lot—books like Marion Stanton’s Understanding CP, Malini’s One Little Finger, and watched movies like the Korean film Oasis and My Left Foot. I also YouTubed people with CP, from comedian Josh Blue to actress Maysoon Zayid.
I stayed in the wheelchair, in character, throughout—so that the physicality would be something organic, not something I was thinking about
all the time.
I never thought about people with disabilities partying and having fun. So silly of me to assume that. Clearly they are like anyone else, with the same needs.
I thought I was very comfortable with my body. But having to go nude is a totally different thing. You have about 10 people in the room watching you, and you have to repeat the scene over and over. It was a vulnerable place to be.
Shonali wears her heart on her sleeve; she’s an open book. Without her inputs, Laila would not be the character she is.
There’ll be people who’ll be shocked with the film but there will also be those who’ll find it interesting.
I’ve just signed a film called Waiting by Anu Menon, with Nasseruddin Shah. Then there’s Soni Rizdan’s film, Love Affair.
Margarita, With a Straw is scheduled to release in February 2015.
Beyond acting: I’d like to direct a play.
Director watch: I want to work with Vishal Bharadwaj. He’s amazing.
Last film: I really enjoyed Haider.
Fave genre: I love all genres. Comedy is the most challenging as it requires incredible timing. I also love biopics.
Style statement: Mercurial!
— Surya Praphulla Kumar