Her love for acting and incredible stories has helped her sustain in the entertainment industry for over a decade, believes actor Kirti Kulhari. Kulhari made her debut in 2010 with the comedy ”Khichdi: The Movie” but had a breakthrough a year later with Bejoy Nambiar’s crime-thriller ”Shaitaan”.
The actor then went on to garner widespread acclaim with her National Award-winning drama ”Pink”, which translated into big-budget ensembles like ”Uri: The Surgical Strike’‘ and ”Mission Mangal’‘.
She also ventured into the digital space with the International Emmy Award-nominated Prime Video hit series ”Four More Shots Please!” in 2019.
”The reason why I am still here after a decade is that I truly love acting. I love being a part of incredible stories. If acting was just another thing, I would not have done it, it is not a job for me. It has helped me grow as a person with every character I have chosen. It has changed my perspective, broken my conditioning, and made me question things around me,” Kulhari told PTI in an interview.
The actor said her journey in films has not only been ”fulfilling” but also incredibly enriching.
”I don’t think I ever sat down and had a conscious discussion about consent before ‘Pink’ despite being aware of it. No one talked about it. Same with a show like ‘Four More Shots’, which is packaged as a fun, comedy series but talks about so many important things.
”Just doing the kind of roles I do has given me a voice, turned me into someone who is becoming more courageous and bolder in terms of expressing what I feel. I can’t separate acting from my life anymore. It is so beautifully intertwined,” she added.
Kulhari, born and brought up in Mumbai, said she didn’t grow up dreaming to be an actor. No one in her family was connected to art and appearing in films was ”not even an option”, she added.
But at the age of 17, Kulhari got a call from the Films Division of India for a woman-oriented film. It was a Sushant Misra movie, which never saw light of the day. Kulhari took that offer ”just to see how it goes”, she said.
According to the 36-year-old actor, the process of being in front of the camera changed her completely.
”It opened my eyes to a world I had not known before. The film got made but it never came out. I wanted to give acting a proper try after that as it felt right, there was a calling from within. I finished my post-graduation and asked my parents to give me two years to pursue acting in 2007,” she added.
The actor began with TV commercials and quickly became a known face in the ad world. But Kulhari didn’t want to get complacent, so she enrolled herself in an acting workshop by ”Paatal Lok” actor Neeraj Kabi, she said. She followed it up with more workshops with the theatre group Yatri Theatre and filmmaker-playwright Om Katare.
”I knew I wanted to act in films, so for two years, I just learnt the craft. I was serious about acting. The purity of intentions that I had with me when I started out is what has brought me this far. I have never messed with that core. ”I haven’t got lost in the idea of fame or its trapping, to do something for the sake of it. I was always only focused on bettering my skills as an actor, which is how I have come so far,” she added.
In 2016, Kulhari found her biggest success in ”Pink”, which also featured Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu and Andrea Tariang.
”I became an overnight actor. Everyone took notice of me. It felt like all the hard work that I had done silently over the years had paid off,” she added.
”Pink” gave Kulhari the confidence to headline films, as she signed projects like the Madhur Bhandarkar-directed ”Indu Sarkar” and Irrfan Khan-starrer ”Blackmail”. But both the films didn’t do well at the box office.
”I experienced a lull after these films didn’t do as well as they were expected to. I had to figure where I was heading. Then ‘Four More Shots‘ came my way. I had apprehension, but I was open. That changed the game for me,” she added.
The series, which chronicles the stories of four women, gave Kulhari a wide reach.
”The show changed things for me. It also released around ‘Uri‘ and ‘Mission Mangal‘, so my credibility as an actor just kept growing,” she added.
The actor has since featured in three series, Netflix’s ”Bard of Blood’‘, and Hotstar Specials ”Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors” and ”Human”.
”I owe a lot to OTT for giving me my due, giving me a chance to showcase what I can do as an actor,” she added.
Kulhari will be next seen in the dark comedy thriller movie ”Nayeka”, which marks her debut as a producer.