Kirti Kulhari was seen in Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors before Shaadisthan's release.
Kirti Kulhari. Photo courtesy: Hindustan Times.
Kirti Kulhari is one of the few Bollywood actresses who has been consciously taking up roles with meat and substance. The actress was recently seen in the direct-to-OTT release Shaadisthan on Disney+Hotstar.
The movie, which drives forward an important message of empowering humanity, earned negative feedback from viewers. Yet, an undeterred Kirti spoke to OTTplay and explained why her character Sasha deserved more love from critics and audiences.
Excerpts from the interview:
Are you like Sasha in real life? To what extent?
I’m a lot like Sasha. At least, I would like to believe that. I think she has been growing in me for a while now. After doing the film and knowing her even more intimately, I more often than not think of Sasha. She inspires me a lot. On a scale of 10, I was 5 like Sasha but now I’m more like 8.
When was the last time you behaved like her?
Almost every day. She’s so in-my-face since the last two weeks that I can’t even ignore her anymore. I’m a lot like Sasha without trying. She likes to tell the truth and won’t open her mouth if she doesn’t need to. She lives her life as ‘live and let live’ in a way that most people don’t get. She’s not trying to show people the way or be better at life. At no point, she is trying to weigh people down. It’s such a complex character and so, people don’t get to discover her completely. I wish people understood her through the film a little more.
What would you say Sasha is all about?
She’s a great human being. She’s somebody who doesn’t seek validation. In times of social media, people seek validation. Even otherwise, people behave in a way to seek others’ approval. She has the power of being herself. She’s also very sensitive. Sasha wants to reach out and help someone. She is affected by someone else’s pain.
Do you think there’s a scope of growth for Sasha’s character?
Yeah, that is why we have a series. In a 90-minute film, you do end up not showing enough of the character’s graph. I think she deserves a standalone film. I would’ve liked to see a lot more of her in terms of who she is. People were confused seeing her break down in a dargah. She’s so spiritual that the tears came out of joy.
What has the response for Shaadisthan been like?
It’s been very overwhelming. It’s a very small and special film with a soul. For people to connect in a film like this, revalidates my faith in making such choices. If there’s something that’s made with enough love and energy, it inevitably hits home. It’s very special to experience that with Shaadisthan. I’m getting a lot of messages for Arshi’s dialogue, “I wanna be you.” Some people told me they made their parents watch it, while some others say they needed to hear that right now. It’s just amazing how people connect to characters. Art is very subjective. There are common threads that people take home with them. The success of your project undoubtedly feels good but when it is also accompanied by what you’re trying to say, it means the most.
While the film is about empowering women, would you say Shaadisthan was the right title for it?
For me, the movie is about empowering everybody. The film is about Sasha, Arshi and Sanchi in between but it could have been three men too. I don’t think men in our country are spared either. So many boys are also being forced to marry and being married away without their will. The point of the film isn’t about marriage but freedom of choice.
Are you living a life of your choice? - the film questions that. While empowerment sounds exciting, it takes a lot to get out of the trap of conditioning and societal obligations. It is about making your path in small ways. It is probably the toughest choice to make. It comes with consequences. While everyone wants to be empowered, there are very few who walk that path. The path is also not laid with roses but thorns everywhere. When you walk that path, you just do as you feel. I cannot describe the feeling.
Have you faced such a situation where you were put down but wanted to break free and express yourself?
A lot of times. It’s always a fight, even if it might not be with swords all the time. Standing for what you believe in, doing the kind of work, making the choice, choosing to not get married at the age people think appropriate, choosing a career in acting - that was a big fight - marrying the person I wanted to marry. I’m from Rajasthan and I’ve spent a lot of time in my village around conditioning.
It’s funny because people won’t believe that when I was born, being the third girl, my grandmother actually fainted. They wanted a boy in place of a girl. The battle isn’t a one-time thing. Once you start understanding who you are and want to be, you are fighting something or the other every day. Today, many people message me and get inspired by the characters I play. The idea of it sounds very romantic but you have to make a choice. I’ve chosen to be authentic and listen to my heart.
Do you think we’re coming to a stage where people empathise with their fellow beings?
I would like to believe that things are changing. I know that people are trying to break free in their own way but it’s funny that we have to fight for something very basic.
Shaadisthan was one of the many films affected due to the pandemic. Your film was to release in theatres but ended up on an OTT platform. Are you happy with it?
I’m very happy. I don’t think Shaadisthan could have had a better release. While theatrical is an option for everybody, it becomes very expensive and tough to manage for smaller films. If it doesn’t do well for whatever reason, you have a stamp of a flop film. Considering everything, our film has found its audiences and vice-versa.
Did you have to shoot during the pandemic? What was that like?
I was finishing Criminal Justice while shooting for Shaadisthan in August. I accepted the COVID-19 situation and wasn’t fearful of it. I don’t think sitting at home is an option with our industry either.
What did you feel when you first received the script of Shaadisthan?
I found it interesting. Sasha always fascinated me. It was doubly exciting for me. I just thought I should be a part of the project. Slowly and steadily, things started falling in place and here we are today.
Sasha also reminded me of Katrina Kaif from Mere Brother Ki Dulhan. She was a rebel and a singer. Did you take inspiration from her character?
I’ve not seen the film and I don’t take references for my characters. I have to create Sasha as originally as I can. I work on things internally and create my own rebel. I don’t even feel the need.
What’s next for you?
I have Human with Shefali Shah. It will be out before the end of the year. I have Four More Shots season 3 and a couple of short films.
Where is Human going to release and when?
I’m not supposed to talk about that. You would hear an announcement in another week.