By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | December 12, 2016

Falak might have been the character that got the nation sit up and take notice, but it was Kesar that actually set the screen on fire in Girish Malik’s Jal two-and-a-half years ago. Kirti Kulhari was quietly carving a niche for herself in Bollywood, shining in whatever role came her way. She first caught my attention in Rise of the Zombie. She had a few scenes but managed to make her presence felt with her arresting personality: she is completely ‘in the scene’ whenever she is on the screen.

Opening Doorz met up with the actress, who is still dazed by the success of Pink. A delight to meet in person (as much as she is as an artiste on screen), Kirti opens up to life, before and after Pink.

Excerpts:

Congratulations, you surely are now in the PINK of health! One thing has baffled me ever since I saw the movie; did you really take the money?
Ha ha ha ha… I’m surprised to see how so many people are still confused about this. For the nth time, ‘NO’, We did not take the money’.

When you signed on the film, did you feel that it would make such a major impact?
Well, I did expect it to be a very important and relevant film because of the subject and the way it was going to be handled but I don’t think any of us expected it to become what it did when we started off. Yes, a couple of months before the film was releasing, [I had not seen the film then] I remember telling Tapsee that “I have a feeling that Pink is going to be a rage.” [Smiles]

When you look back as a viewer watching the movie, what is the one emotion that runs through you?
Sadness. Empathy. Compassion and Rage!

Considering the subject was so intense, did you find the shoot draining?
Yes, it was and it always is when you are dealing with such important and intense subjects and trying to tell a story which is not just a film but a reality so close to your heart. It takes a toll on you emotionally, mentally and physically and leaves you drained. But the kind of actor I am, I have learnt to disconnect and not carry the burden of my character beyond my work space.

What was the reaction of your parents and close friends after they saw the movie?
As heart-touching and endearing as anybody else’s was; they all loved the film and are absolutely proud of me for being a part of it.

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Obviously, your phone would not have stopped ringing, what was the best message you received on the film and your performance?
Yes, the first one-and-a-half month post the release was a different experience altogether. It was absolutely overwhelming and exciting. There were all kinds of wonderful, sweet and emotional messages and I could feel the genuineness in all of them. All the messages and compliments I received are equally special to me. People address me as Falak now, and I love that.

Falak? No way! To me you will always be Kesar from Jal. That movie was a revelation of another facet of your persona—your ability to send temperatures soaring!
Ha ha ha ha… Well, the role was of this village tribal girl based in Kutch. She had to be fierce, aggressive, extremely beautiful in a very natural and raw way and very desirable [for two villages to fight over her] and a lot of other things. Yes, she was a very desirable character.

What was the brief from the director?
When one develops a character, there’s work done on every small and big aspect. Credit goes to my director, Girish Malik for having seen me as Kesar and bringing out, through the various scenes, certain very important qualities of the character.

There was a lot you conveyed with your eyes in this movie. Was it a part of the drill or is this how you naturally emote?
I don’t think there’s any drill or training in the world that can teach you to emote, especially through your eyes and that for me is the most important quality of an actor; you either have it or you don’t. I am very fortunate to have it. It has a lot to do with the kind of person I am—very sensitive, honest, transparent, emotional, empathetic and observant. People affect me, what happens around me, matters to me. The only drawback is, it is extremely difficult for me to lie—my eyes just give it away. [Smiles]

From Kesar in Jal to Gulaboo in Sooper Se Ooper: what was noticeable was your shift in culture shock. Your performance was to the ‘T’!
[Smiles] You have said it all. I don’t know if my performances fulfill people’s expectations or standards of a good performance all the time, but I do know that I put my heart and soul into the character I am playing and inspite of that, there is always space for making mistakes, scope to learn from them and opportunities to keep growing.

How did the interest in acting catch up?
When I was in college, I got a couple of offers for acting. I was too young to take it seriously but decided that when I was done with college, I would give acting a real shot. So once I was done with studies, I started my acting career with a lot of ads, followed by theatre and then went on to do my first film, Khichdi—The Movie.

Theatre! That explains the finer nuances in your acting…
Yes. I started doing theatre in 2007, with the Yatri Group and I am still very active in the theatre circuit. My last play ‘Ek Punjab Yeh Bhi’, directed by Danish Hussein was showcased at Prithvi Festival in 2015. Yes, you are right; most of what I know in terms of acting is learnt while doing theatre.

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Has the industry been kind to you; is it difficult to get a role commensurate to your talent?
People here are very wary of giving new talent a chance [It could be in any department]. Everyone waits for you make it big and then everybody will be there for you, but very few believe in you when nobody else does. It’s a very scared and insecure industry; we like to play it safe and not take any chances and that also shows in the kind of films we make. So yes, it has been tough to get the kind of roles and films I would have really wanted to be a part of. With Pink, I’m hoping that it becomes a little easier. [Smiles]

Do you feel talented actors get their due in this industry?
Very, very few, and usually quite late in their careers.

Is there anything more than being a good actor that one has to be in this industry to get good roles?
A star kid!

What are your future projects?
I’m starting shoot for Madhur Bhandarkar’s next called Indu Sarkar based during the emergency in 1975.

What according to you defines a good performance?
Any performance filled with simplicity and honest, genuine feelings of the performer will always touch the right chord with the audiences.

Also read: Neha Dhupia filtered

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