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Kalki Koechlin on ‘Bhram’: ‘It’s More of a Psychological Thriller Than a Horror Story’

The actor on her new role, forest shoots in Shimla and the duality of ‘Bhram’

Jessica Xalxo Oct 26, 2019

Playing Alisha Khanna in ‘Bhram’ was quite complex and technical for Kalki Koechlin

Kalki Koechlin essays the role of a haunted novelist, Alisha Khanna, in Zee5’s Bhram. The psychological-thriller series follows a woman who discovers some startling truths after surviving an accident. “You know, we had to really go through the entire script and mark it out for ourselves,” says the actor about playing Khanna who is diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the eight-episode series. 

Koechlin describes her preparation for the role as quite complex and technical. “Alisha (Khanna) has been through an accident in which she’s the only survivor and her husband and child have died. She’s unable to confront what happened to her and certain memories and places trigger her, reminding her of the accident,” the actor reveals. Director Sangeeth Sivan and Koechlin would settle down with the script to mark out the places where her character would experience memory loss and hallucinations as well as the scenes in which she would recollect small details. 

The script (written by K. Hari Kumar whose novel — The Other Side Of Her Bhram is based on) was a major draw to the series for the actor.  “You can never tell if this is just a psychological mind game, or whether it is paranormal activity. It can be explained both ways,” says Koechlin. She observed a duality in Bhram that she couldn’t quite ignore but holds steadfast to the former take. “It’s more of a psychological thriller than a horror story,” she says.

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Koechlin is no stranger to unconventional and challenging roles. Over the years, we’ve seen her play it all — from a cult’s second-in-command in Sacred Games (2019) to a teenager with cerebral palsy in Margarita with a Straw (2014) to a socio-political activist in Shanghai (2012). She seems to audiences like a chameleon, slipping into roles like they’re second skin. But this shape shifting does take its toll. She says about filming Bhram, “I value peace and happiness [now] because during the shoot, I was in a dark space. Coming out of it felt almost like a release.”

Shooting for Bhram was an enriching but arduous experience for the 35-year-old actor who filmed the series while pregnant. Pivotal scenes take place in the forests of Shimla and most of them were shot at night. “It was monsoon. So, it would start raining suddenly and there was a lot of mist, rain and mud, making those climax scenes pretty tough,” says Koechlin. 

The timeline of the series is set both in the past and the present with a mysterious connection looming ominously between a dead teenage girl and Koechlin’s Khanna. Maintaining a veil of suspense, the actor doesn’t delve into detail, but says, “You’re not figuring out and she’s not figuring out what that connection is — until right at the very end.” 

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The cast of Bhram features a host of both known (Sanjay Suri, Bhumika Chawla, Eijaz Khan, Vikram Kochhar) and new actors (Anjali Tatrari, Gehna Sippy, Garima Kaushal, Susavit Sinha) and Koechlin thinks viewers should keep an eye out for the younger lot whose teenage arcs are “really interesting.” As the story oscillates between the past and present, viewers just might be in for many revelations in Bhram.

Stream Bhram here.