It’s been two days since Kalki Koechlin’s lyrical performance piece, The Printing Machine, found its way onto YouTube. Online news portals will have you believe that the video has gone ‘viral’, a term used so casually now. But has it really? A mere four lakh views on YouTube in 2016, and a scattered viewership on Facebook and Twitter hardly puts this piece in that category. It’s a video that deserves mandatory viewing; probably a place in our school and college curriculum, and space on our page ones. (Read: Watch video: Kalki Koechlin pens poem on ‘brutality of our culture’)
Kalki Koechlin’s poem on women, exaggerated notions of beauty, standards of conduct set by society, and the various brutalities against them, will make you uncomfortable in your seat. What really jolts the viewer, however, is her unapologetic take on how newspapers and glossies portray women and sensationalise news on crimes against them. “Chrr tak tak takka dakka tak chhree,” says Kalki, imitating the sound of the printing machine, through the act. “Chrrr chrrr chrrring a village dangling of two girls, like pin up dolls, upon a tree,” goes the next line. (Also read: Disability needs visibility in India: Kalki Koechlin)
The 2012 Delhi gang rape, the case of two girls found hanging in Badaun in 2014, a starving Irom Sharmila, foreign tourists raped, the rising number of acid attacks, menstruating women being stopped at places of worship, and the hypocritical take of society on how men and women ought to be in a society find ample space in The Printing Machine. (Read: Kalki Koechlin’s ‘It’s Your Fault’ satirical video on rape goes viral)
Then again, who’s surprised that Kalki Koechlin would make us feel that kick in the stomach with her views or come up with such a scathing, satirical, thinking poem that makes the term ‘feminism’ a part of our dinner conversation? She has done this in the past too. In 2014, another satirical piece by Koechlin, It’s Your Fault, in collaboration with All India Bakchod, spoke of rape, and how women are often held responsible for it.
Last year, she made a brief appearance in a webseries, Man’s World, which is on gender inequality. In fact, The Printing Machine too is an old poem by her, which she performed in Mumbai in 2014, and sadly never went ‘viral.’
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In 2009, she made a bold debut as Chanda with Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D. In 2015, she basked in the glory of playing Laila, a girl with cerebral palsy discovering herself and her sexuality in Margarita With A Straw. In between, she explored a range of characters, each more layered than the other, each breaking the Bollywood actress stereotype, each creating a niche for her and enabling space for others.
Kalki Koechlin is the actor, the poet, the performer and the feminist we desperately need.