Kalki Koechlin conferred “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters”
The French government bestowed the honour of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) on versatile actor Kalki Koechlin, who has contributed to enhancing Indo-French ties in cinema.
Mumbai, 22 June 2018
The honour comes in recognition of an actor engagé who has interpreted striking roles in the Indian film industry, experimented with various forms of films as well as shown an abiding commitment to important social issues. The latter includes gender equality and child abuse, which have found expression in her performance poetry and short films.
On behalf of the French government, H.E. Mr Alexandre Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India, conferred the distinction on Ms Koechlin, at a ceremony on Friday, 22nd June 2018 in Mumbai.
On this occasion, Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler said, “Ms Kalki Koechlin’s commitment to raising awareness on major social matters and her remarkable roles in the Indian film industry have earned her widespread recognition. Her example is one we wish to emulate to strengthen the links between the film industries of our two countries.”
C’est un grand honneur d’être là ce soir pour honorer, en Inde, une actrice française.
Votre histoire personnelle rend ce moment tout à fait spécial. Il est, et j’oserai dire que vous êtes aussi, l’un des plus beaux exemples de la relation actuelle entre les deux pays qui nous sont chers ici : la France et l’Inde.
Chère Kalki, vous êtes française, et aussi indienne comme le prouve cette cérémonie ce soir avec vos proches et votre famille rassemblés ici. Et pour cette raison, I shall continue in English.
We are here tonight not only to celebrate your contribution to what we call in French “Les arts et les Lettres” but also your many other talents (you can speak, as far as I am aware, four languages) and your personal commitment to many social issues, such as gender equality and child abuse. I will try here, without being too long, to illustrate why the French government is proud to confer upon you this distinction.
Kalki, you were born in Pondicherry to French parents, Joel Koechlin, who is here with us tonight and Françoise Armandie. You grew up first in Auroville, then in Kalatty near Ooty in Tamil Nadu.
While studying in Ooty, you were already involved in acting and writing, and you naturally went on to study drama and theatre. Less natural though, is that you went to the University of London!
There you worked for two years in the Theatre of Relativity, writing and acting for this theatre company, which included a French play, The Dispute from Mariveaux.
On your return to India, you went first to Bangalore, and then settled in Mumbai, where you started to work as a theatre actress with The Company Theatre.
I believe it was not easy for you as a French person – a foreigner and a woman – to get a foothold in the Indian film industry. Your first breakthrough came with Dev. D, for which you had to overcome your origins again - and learn a fourth language! You not only bagged the part but also garnered great success, going on to win the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Shortly after, you co-wrote your first screenplay, That Girl in Yellow Boots, in which you played a British woman who comes to India to locate her father. The film was screened at both the Toronto and Berlin film festivals to critical acclaim, and your performance was warmly applauded.
Your talent was then widely recognized by the industry, and you acted in two great box office successes: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. These films also got you nominated at the Filmfare Awards.
While working for successful commercial films, you also became increasingly involved in independent and more demanding films. You acted in Waiting and A Death in the Gunj. Your role in Margarita with a Straw, which was selected in various International Film Festivals around the world, then gained you international recognition and even won you many Best Actress Awards both in India and abroad.
You also stayed involved in theatre productions as it is something that you value as an actress, sharing emotions in front of a live audience, but also as a writer and a producer. You even went on to open your own theatre company, Little Productions, in 2015.
You have many upcoming projects in films, which we eagerly await.
You also continue to explore all possible media and forms: short films, poetry, documentary, TV programmes on travel, and web series. All these forms have enabled us to witness your talent, your personality, and also your strong convictions.
Indeed, you have been involved in raising awareness on many crucial social issues, such as health and education, women’s empowerment, child abuse, gender equality, LGBT rights, and the environment. You relentlessly voice your opinions be it in your interviews, for campaigns, or though short films or web series.
You are passionate about not only film and theatre, but also the many social issues still impacting our lives. I have been told that your passion can also been seen on Wednesday nights on a football field. And I do hope that during this year’s world cup, you have been redeeming yourself of having chosen London by supporting our French team!
You strike me as a courageous woman who has managed to fight and find her balance between two very strong identities, thanks to your talent and your values.
For all these reasons, we are extremely happy and proud to honor you tonight. Your example is one we wish to emulate to strengthen the links between our two countries and our two film industries. As you know, we facilitate more shootings of Indian films in France, more French films in India but we also wish to promote having more French programmes in Indian theatres, channels or platforms. We will also be facilitating the development of more Indo-French co-productions, and I am sure we have a lot of things to discuss and share in order to succeed.
I firmly believe that you have a great role to play in that regard because of your numerous gifts and of your personal history. I also believe that your talent, your passion and your commitment will soon take the International and French stage by storm.
Madame Kalki Koechlin, au nom de Madame la Ministre de la Culture et de la Communication et en vertu des pouvoirs qui me sont conférés, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Kalki Koechlin was born in Puducherry to French parents. She moved to Ooty, where she completed her education while engaging herself with acting and writing. Upon her return to India from England where she pursued drama at Goldsmiths, University of London, she worked extensively with The Company Theatre. Fluent in three languages – English, French and Tamil – she learnt Hindi for her first breakthrough movie, Dev. D. (2009) and won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. During the course of her acting career, she has starred in box office successes such as Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) as well as in more challenging productions such as Waiting (2015) and A Death in the Gunj (2016). That Girl in Yellow Boots (2010), which she co-wrote and acted in, was screened at both the Toronto and Berlin film festivals to critical acclaim while her performance was singled out for praise. Kalki’s rise to international recognition and fame came with her movie, Margarita with a Straw (2014), where she portrayed the character of a rebellious teenager suffering from cerebral palsy.
Besides bagging commendable roles in Indian films, she has also pursued theatre with equal passion, writing and producing several stage plays. In 2015, her directorial debut, Living Room, was staged at the Ranga Shankara Hall, Bangalore, by her own theatre company, Little Productions. Kalki is the recipient of several accolades for her stagecraft such as The Hindu’s “The MetroPlus Playwright Award”.
Identifying herself as a feminist, she has been vocal about gender pay gap and violence against women as well as championed the rights the LGBTQ community and raised awareness about child sexual abuse. Her theatrical monologue titled “wo-manologue” presented at a programme organised by Young FICCI Ladies Organisation was widely applauded.
The French government distinction Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) is conferred on “persons who have distinguished themselves by their creativity in the field of art, culture and literature or for their contribution to the influence of arts in France and throughout the world.” Some noted Indian recipients of this honour in the past include Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Shahrukh Khan, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Aishwarya Rai, Raghu Rai, Ebrahim Alkazi, Habib Tanveer, Upamanyu Chatterjee, and Wendell Rodricks.