Kriti Kharbanda: The pandemic helped me reinvent myself as an actor
Kriti Kharbanda reminisces her career, choices, and approach to acting while discussing her latest film, 14 Phere, which premiered on ZEE5 last week
Ever since her debut with the Telugu film, Boni, in 2009, Kriti Kharbanda has been juggling projects in multiple languages, and now is on her way to establishing a footing in Bollywood. The actor, who has appeared in over 28 films across four languages in a career spanning over a decade, says it took a while to fathom the profession’s coveted derivative: fame. “I was too young to understand what was happening around me when my first Kannada film, Chiru, got released in 2010. My mother and I were running a boutique back then, and we would casually go out. During one such family outing to a shopping mall, I remember being mobbed by a crowd. It was a strange experience,” she says, adding that when her next big blockbuster came in the form of Googly, co-starring Yash, public attention was easier to process. “Googly changed everything for me in the South; I went on to sign five massive projects. This time, I could comprehend the response. Social media had just begun to flourish, and it was a great tool to assess acceptance and reach.”
Kriti debuted in Bollywood with Raaz: Reboot in 2016, but recognition came only a year later. “While I knew we made a good film, I did not foresee the popularity of my character from Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana, Aarti Shukla, making people call me Aarti, instead of Kirti,” she says. The actor is not new to films focussed on weddings. Having starred in Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana and Veere Ki Wedding, the recently released 14 Phere is the actor’s third wedding-themed film. “Though it talks about marriage, it’s more than just a wedding film,” she says. “We have tried to explore how disparity in marriage principles between two generations affects children. When a parent expresses dissatisfaction over their kid's life decisions, it can result in children wondering why their choices are being doubted. This question is what sets 14 Phere apart from other wedding-based films,” says Kriti.
Kriti, who has had her share of success and failure, says she treats each film as her first. For many reasons, shooting for 14 Phere was a novel experience, says the Taish-actor. “This was the first time we were shooting in the pandemic period. During filming, I felt that I had reinvented myself as an actor. The eight-month long break allowed me to spend time understanding my character, Aditi,” she says. Talking about the homework she put in for the character and the story, she says, “Aditi’s arc spans over 10 years. It was essential for me to understand the life experiences that built her personality up for each stage, beginning from when she’s just 18."
Kriti, who has shared screen space with Vikrant Massey in the film, shares that having a great co-star eases her job. “When an actor gets appreciated for a good performance, half of the credit must go to the co-star. It’s crucial to have an actor who understands that they are an imperative part of even scenes in which they may not be present in the shot. I have been lucky to have found some really supportive co-stars so far. Also, I don’t hesitate to ask for help from my co-actor if I need it,” she says.
Throughout her career, Kriti has acted in several mainstream films, mostly in Telugu, Kannada, and Hindi. Can she discern a progression in the way female characters are written now, as opposed to, say, when she started? “It has evolved a lot. Writers are now coming up with characters that are integral to the script; stronger characters are being developed. Take, for instance, my character in 14 Phere, written by Manoj Kalwani; she is a real person. This could have easily been a male-dominant script, but Manoj understands a relationship is kept afloat by the equal dynamics,” says Kriti, adding that a coherent script is as important as a fleshed-out character. “There have been instances where I had to turn down films which, despite having fantastic characters, didn’t have a sound script. Filmmaking is all about teamwork; even superstars of the country, who can easily pull people to theatres with just their name, are clear about making entertaining films. People are investing their time to watch a film, and we owe them a worthwhile experience. If they want to see only me, they can do it on Instagram as well,” she says.
Kriti acknowledges that her film choices are dictated by a variety of factors. “People tell me that I’m too particular about my film preferences. I have worked very hard to get where I am at the moment—to get the agency to make my choices. I have bills to pay, and I did some films just to make some money. Today, however, I have the liberty to turn down films that don’t appeal to me. I’m extremely grateful for this,” signs off Kriti.