There used to be a time when actor Kalki Koechlin found herself struggling with the idea of who she was, and what she was expected to be. "I was often asked, ‘why I was different, bold and unconventional’. Even today, I get to hear this often. It’s been a constant cloud that has been following me throughout life," she says, between giggles.
Pic Couresy/ Shivaji 'Storm' Sen
But, does that work her up? Not anymore. Koechlin says she is more comfortable in her skin now. And that’s because she believes she is "normal", as much as the world would not think her to be. "There are a thousand different types of normals," she explains. "In our world, and in the way society functions, normal is a sort of way we behave in public, which is different from the way we behave in our personal life. That to me, is very difficult. I have never understood why we need to do that."
Koechlin will explore this idea at upcoming Mumbai Local event, Undefining Normal: Finding My Character, Finding Myself, where she will speak about playing Laila, a young woman with cerebral palsy, in the 2014 film, Magarita With A Straw.
"I was terrified," she says, when filmmaker Shonali Bose first approached her to play the lead. When you are confronted with the idea of a character with a disability, you assume it is going to be challenging, mentions Koechlin. "But, they are just like all of us."
"When we talk about disability, we either glorify the person and their achievements, or portray them as being sweet and perfect. What I loved about my character was that she was just another imperfect, confused and bratty teenager, and that this was just another ordinary story," she says.
Playing Laila, in a way, transformed Koechlin, and made her look at herself ‘differently’.
"I used to be awkward around people with disabilities," she says, but that was because of the lack of understanding of this difference.
"Today, I’d like to believe, I am normal, and so is everyone else. But, that depends on what your definition of normal is. To me, if you are not spontaneous, crazy and unpredictable, then you aren’t really normal. Everybody has a hundred different thoughts running through their minds, but from a young age, most of us are taught to not express them. Being normal is acknowledging your vulnerability, your weaknesses, and the fact, that you are never going to stop learning," she says.
That also makes ‘being normal’ a tricky affair, says the actress.
"And yes, if you look closely at every single person, every one is different, and has a pretty unique personality."
Koechlin feels that the only way, you can celebrate these differences, is to live by example.
"The more I experience life in public, I find more and more reasons to live by example, rather than criticise somebody for who they are or what they are not. I think it is far cooler to inspire people to become someone you’d like to have around you."
WHERE: Maharashtra Mitra Mandal (MCubed) Library, Princess Building, Near Bandra Gymkhana, Bandra (West)
WHEN: July 2, 5 PM
TO REGISTER: 9833344173