Kalki Koechlin turns director with an existential comedy

Kalki Koechlin is turning director with a play. And, for it, she has invited Death into her living room. “The play discusses what a person does when confronted by death. We all know that death is inevitable, yet we want to escape it. I wanted to talk about death without being too dark and serious. I have treated it as an existential comedy,” says Kalki when we meet her at her Andheri office.

Kalki Koechlin
Kalki Koechlin

The protagonist of her play is a Miss Havisham-like woman, Anna, living alone. Her life has run its course and Death arrives to take her. However, curious to know what life is about, Death takes the body of a dead person and starts living like a human in Anna’s house. This uninvited visitor creates ripples in Anna’s hitherto monotonous life and she finds a new zeal to live. She starts reflecting on her existence, picks up unfinished businesses, falls in love, and remembers old acquaintances — colour blobs start appearing on her musty grey existence, quite literally. Life comes to her in the form of death.

The fear of death makes her appreciate life. It takes her the whole duration of the play to finally come to terms with reality and realise that it is time to pack up.

“The irony is that Death becomes so smitten by life that he dilly-dallies to return to heaven with Anna’s soul,” says Kalki, who has peppered the play with Woody Allen’s brand of humour and existentialism.

The inspiration for this play came from Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit and a Japanese Manga where a kid chances upon the to-do list of Death and unknowingly scribbles some random names; these people suddenly begin to die.

“Similarly, in my play, Death starts losing control. As he takes the form of a human, the flaws of human nature start to creep into his character. He becomes absent-minded and starts neglecting his duty, much to the displeasure of his boss, the Almighty,” Kalki elaborates, who started writing the play with a two-page scene almost two years ago. “I wrote it and didn’t get back to it until a few months later, when I was unemployed and depressed,” she giggles.

The first draft was ready last year. “I read it to a few of my actor friends and plugged some gaps. We began rehearsing in May but the script kept evolving as the actors offered inputs,” says the 31-year-old, who alongside starring in critically acclaimed films like, Shaitan and Margarita With A Straw, has been a regular on stage and was recently seen in Hamlet, the Clown Prince and Colour Blind. However, the actor has kept herself glued to the director’s seat for this play, as she wanted to have an objective view and concentrate on her actors. On choosing a play to direct, and not a film, she laughs, “I am not ready to lose all my hair, money and sell my house yet!”

Where: Experimental Theatre, National Center for the Performing Arts, Sir Dorab Tata Road, Nariman Point
When: Nov 29, 3 pm and 7 pm 
Entry: Rs 200-Rs 400 Call: 66223724


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