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Kirti Kulhari addresses the rebel that coexist in her while speaking about her new film, Khichdi 2

A t2 chat with Kirti

Priyanka Roy  Published 24.11.23, 08:01 AM
Khichdi 2 marks 13 years in the film industry for Kirti Kulhari

Khichdi 2 marks 13 years in the film industry for Kirti Kulhari

Kirti Kulhari has clocked 13 years in acting. Recently seen in Khichdi 2, Kirti — who has stellar projects like Shaitan, Pink, Uri, Four More Shots Please! and Human to her credit — started her career in 2010 with Khichdi in 2010. A t2 chat with Kirti.

It’s been 13 years for you in the business. Does it feel like you started out just yesterday?


It does seem like yesterday, but when I get reminded that it’s been 13 years, it seems like a lifetime! Otherwise to me, it’s very fresh. I have been able to really do a lot in the last three-four years.

What was your first day in front of the camera like? Were you a bundle of nerves?

I am still a bundle of nerves. I am very glad that I still feel under confident, I still feel nervous every time I am doing something. The first couple of days on any project is quite nerve-wracking and it just makes me feel that I don’t take it for granted, I still take it as seriously as I did when I started out. So it actually grounds me.

I got my first modelling assignment in 2007. It was for an ad for Shanti Amla (oil). They put long hair on me and a big photographer, Suresh Natarajan, shot the ad. I was so nervous. I had to pose, I had to smile, I had to give the right package shot and I had no idea what the right package shot meant. But when the picture finally came out on the Shanti Amla package, I was like: ‘Not bad, dude!’

But the nervousness has been with me. It’s a good kind of a nervous energy, it eggs me on a little bit more and keeps me on my toes. I don’t take it for granted.

And over the years, I have learnt to accept the fact that I can have bad days on set. I am not supposed to be mind-blowing every single second of my life. Every scene that I shoot, every shot that I go into, there is a prayer inside me. Sometimes I think that what if I wake up one day and realise that I have lost my ability to emote? What if it just doesn’t come out?

I really feel like I have learned to believe that I am a medium, I am a channel and I pray every second of my shooting days that some magic happens to me. And I just open myself to that. So, it’s been a very interesting journey of just coming to realise that you need to do your thing with as much humility, with as much not taking it for granted.

The sequel to Khichdi released last week. That’s the film you started out with. Does it feel like a full circle?

It does. In a very strange way and romantic way, it seems like a full circle. I was a completely different person 13 years back. In Khichdi 2, I am playing the same character I played in Khichdi, but the person within me is on the other side of the spectrum now.

Shaitan and Khichdi actually happened at the same time. Shaitan is a film I am very proud of. There was a point where I had to choose between the two. And looking back, I think I would have chosen Shaitan because somewhere I felt that Shaitan is more my calling than Khichdi. But it so happened that Shaitan got pushed for another six months and so I could do both. I also made a film called Jal right after Shaitan where I played a village girl. That I could play such diverse characters even at that very young age when I just started acting was something I was always very proud of.

And then, of course, Pink completely changed the game for me, critically and emotionally. Suddenly, people knew of me. Indu Sarkar happened right after that. Unfortunately, the film didn’t do well at the box office, but I think I came into my own. I became the actor that I am. I finally realised that I am a very powerful actor. I just had to do everything on my own in that film. Of course, Uri and Mission Mangal happened. People loved me in Uri. Creatively, after that, Four More Shots Please! felt like something I had done and achieved It was a very different space, different genre, different TV that people got to see. Then CJ (Criminal Justice 2) happened and that was another level. I was scared to get into it because I was like: ‘How do you expect me to portray someone who has been through so much?!’ I didn’t want to get into that darkness. I navigated through it on a day-to-day basis for 40 days. And I would go in and out of my character between ‘action’ and ‘take’. That I could play a role like this and not be affected or impacted by it in a negative way at all became my victory. That made me feel good about myself.

Have you always been a spiritual person?

I have had a whole spiritual journey since 2009. That’s one thing that has stayed with me apart from acting. I have learned to really, really understand a lot of things about myself. I have learned to surrender to the universe, to life’s plans for me. I have learned to be at peace, be content, be grateful.

Gratitude is a big part of spirituality and of life. I am just in gratitude 24x7. I have had a long inward journey. It really made me the person I am today. That is something that I feel is true achievement. This is something that nobody can take away from me.

Is the makeover that you’ve had... the short hair, the septum ring, the general change in attitude a part of it? Has it liberated you in a way?

I think finally I reached a point where I stopped giving a f**. I say that not out of ego or anything else. Through this journey, I realised that I need to be me. And that me can be me by getting a bike for myself, going on a bike ride, getting a piercing, getting a tattoo, chopping off my hair.... These are just expressions of what I feel inside. Every day, I become more and more comfortable with myself.

Now it’s no more about the world validating me, and that includes the industry. I have been a part of the industry for a while now. And it has its set of stereotypes and conditioning and ideas of what a woman in this industry should look like, behave like and be like. I have, over the years, seen this for what it is.

Earlier, I didn’t have the courage or clarity to really know who I was. But I have both now. I woke up one day and said that I am going to cut my hair. It was instinctive and came from the heart. It comes from my soul and tells me to be myself.

When I cut my hair, I knew what the consequences were. I took an informed decision and did it. I am not impulsive...that’s the difference between coming from a matured space and a rebellious space. I’m not a rebel without a cause. I am a rebel operating from a very matured space. I do things differently. It comes from something so deep within me that I feel no reason to explain to anybody why I do what I do. That is what empowerment is. When you become your own person, when you live life from
moment to moment in small ways and big ways, on your own terms.

I have asked myself a lot of questions these last few years and so my questions to the world became lesser and lesser. Suddenly the fingers started pointing inside me. I started asking why does it affect me so much? I can’t control what happens outside, but the fact that it’s affecting me, there is something in me which is not strong enough, something in me which needs to be dealt with. And through this process, I reached a point where I have fallen in love with who I am. I have totally accepted myself. I respect myself like no one else does or no one else has to, you know? All this has just made me so free. Everything I do now is super liberating.

You have also turned producer. What propelled that?

As an actor and also as a creative person, I have always tried to mix things up. That’s what I live for. That’s why I am still here. I don’t think just being in this industry is something that you can do unless you love it, or unless you keep exploring. I am an artiste and I want to keep exploring, keep challenging, keep rediscovering myself, reinventing myself, and keep creating something that is fresh for me and for the audience to watch. The amount of work that is actually there in the industry right now, then I could be busy every single day of my life. But I don’t want to be. I have very different ambitions.

What is the most rebellious thing you have done? Tell

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