Kalki Koechlin describes her decade-long journey in Bollywood as “mercurial”; navigating through ups and downs and looking for calm in the unstable industry.
Having made her debut with Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D in 2009, the actor went on to star in several acclaimed films, from Shaitaan, Margarita With A Straw, Waiting to the recent Gully Boy.
“These ten years have been mercurial, lots of ups and downs. I don’t think there has been a stable moment. It’s all or nothing. There were years I had five releases and there were years I had none,” Kalki told PTI.
The actor says with time the mediums for an artiste have grown and she is making the most of it.
“I’m now doing web, podcast, theatre and films. There seems to be a lot on the platter. At the end of the day, I am not so concerned about the medium. I’m concerned about the content and what kind of challenges I can bring for myself.
“There’s so much stereotyping that happens that you’ve to really be like ‘ok, can I do this in a different way?'”
A part of the challenge was when she was offered the second season of Netflix India Original Sacred Games.
The show came her way when she was going through some changes in her personal life and was in the middle of dubbing for one of her other web series.
Having seen and liked the first season, directed by Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, Kalki felt “pressured” when she got an audition call.
“I did the audition but didn’t get a callback for three weeks. I thought it’s gone, I didn’t get it. Then I got one call, saying one more audition. When you don’t get a call back, you’re like ‘hmm ok’ and then when you do, there’s no feedback as well.
“They just want to see it again so you don’t know what that means. I wore a different saree for the second audition, I think that worked. It was one of those typical ashram saree, organic one and I think that did it.”
On the show, the 35-year-old actor will be seen playing Batya Abelman, an apprentice of Guruji, played by Pankaj Tripathi. To understand her character, Kalki had several rounds of discussions with Kashyap who directs portions featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Ganesh Gaitonde and Neeraj Ghaywan, who helms the present day track of Saif Ali Khan’s Sartaj Singh.
But on set, Kalki observed her co-star Tripathi to pick up the nuances. She says, “I was following Pankaj and he didn’t know. I used to literally copy his walk behind him, his gestures. Luckily when I was shooting that portion, I didn’t have much to do, I am just there in the background, so I used to watch him a lot. He tells all these stories so I used to listen to his stories and try to imbibe some of it. Batya is his apprentice also, so there was this need… I didn’t want to copy him but be completely influenced by him.”
Kalki describes her character as someone who’s complicated, very sincere in her belief system but added “one can never escape their past”.
“Here is a person who seems to have overcome her difficult past, seems pretty calm but somewhere simmering, there’s her past which comes.”
Her character is set in both the worlds, the past of Nawazuddin’s flamboyant gangster Gaitonde and the present of Saif’s honest cop Sartaj.
Working with two different directors for the tracks only added to Kalki’s performance.
“They were appropriate personalities for the tracks. Anurag has this spontaneous, on the spot thing going on. Gaitonde portions are all very chaotic. There’s a lot of craziness and drama happening.
“Neeraj is a calculated, calm person who likes to plan everything. Sartaj is like that too, he plays by the rules. In that sense, it was useful. Batya also goes from being this chaotic rebel to this very calm person.”
For season two, Varun Grover returns as the lead writer and is joined by three new writers, Dhruv Narang, Pooja Varma and Nihit Bhave.
The show starts streaming from August 15.