The brief given by her director was quite simple - 'Look ugly'. However, it was nothing short of a nightmare to actually realise the filmmaker's vision.
"Dibakar wanted me to look ugly and vulnerable. The first thing that he did was chop my hair and make it really short. Then he gave me these clothes that were really grungy with jagged T-shirts and all. I wasn't allowed to look very comfortable or feminine."
"The idea was to bring on certain vulnerability and awkwardness to my character. There is not an ounce of glamour that I bring in 'Shanghai'. Dibakar said that I had to be ugly, but adorable. Now that was a strange mix I had to bring on screen," Kalki told in an interview.
Though she has played troubled characters in films like 'Shaitan', 'That Girl in Yellow Boots' as well as 'Dev D', 'Shanghai' turned out to be a different experience as she had to enact the part of a complete outsider.
"Dibakar is presenting me as someone who is not an accepted person; she is an outsider. So basically everybody stares at her and people just think that she doesn't belong to their world," says Kalki.
Dibakar encourgaed the actress to change her looks by giving the examples of Emraan Hashmi and Abhay Deol who have gone through a similar transformation for their roles.
"Abhay is such a cool person in real life but here is shown as a stoic middle aged suited-booted character. Emraan has this paunch and blackened his teeth, which is a complete opposite of his romantic image. We were convinced by Dibakar's thought process and decided to take the plunge," she says.
Kalki says the most difficult part of this change was to see her hair get chopped off. "Time and again people ask whether Dibakar brings actors out of their comfort zone. Well, here was my moment of getting into that discomfort zone the minute my hair was cut. I used to be so depressed on waking up in the morning. I thought I looked like a complete idiot."
The self-pity helped her enact her lines in front of the camera well, says Kalki, who is fighting for justice in the movie. "'Shanghai' is a gritty dramatic affair with a conspiracy theory in the background. There is a definite suspense to the tale with the game of politics involved. I am playing someone who wants to uncover the truth. Her journey is to go out and uncover the mystery behind this conspiracy," she says.
With a strong plot like this, Kalki is confident that the film will get great response at the box office upon its release. "Today, audience is ready for such films. We have already seen 'Kahaani', 'Paan Singh Tomar', 'Vicky Donor' and 'Ishaqzaade' doing good. 2012 is the year of small films and 'Shanghai' would be a welcome addition to that," she says. Also starring Farooq Sheikh, Prosenjit Chatterjee and Supriya Pathak in principal roles, 'Shanghai' releases on June 8.