Kirti Kulhari finally knows what self-love feels like. The actor says it’s wholesome, comforting and has put the widest smile on her face. “All my life, I have looked for validation and love outside. For the first time, I have found it in me.” Kirti, who has been in the industry for over a decade, has juggled feature films, shorts and her OTT series but it is her long-standing show, Prime Video’s Four More Shots Please! which has been crucial to her evolution.
A show, seemingly about four upper class women living, losing and loving, finds a deeper meaning when juxtaposed against Kirti’s personal life: A woman coming off age, a marriage, a separation and the big, climatic liberation.
In an interview with indianexpress.com, Kirti opens up about being at ease with herself, how her former husband Saahil Sehgal pushed her to find her space with her character in Four More Shots Please! and dealing with questions about getting married again.
At this stage of your career, does the anxiety of a new release still linger?
Not as much. There is always a lot of excitement, but I consider myself very neutral. Even if I bag a good project, I don’t jump around that ‘Oh my God, this happened!’ I feel nice and that matters to me. There is a certain detachment, but there is a good happy feeling which guides me that I am on the right path.
Why don’t you jump around though?
I do that! But I have just become this person over the years… I don’t get too affected by things not going right or going right. That neutral space that I am in is a big achievement. To not go low with the lows or high with the highs. If someone can step back and look at the good, bad and ugly in an objective way, it is an achievement. I am a joyful person, but I am not necessarily upfront about my emotions.
Were you always this person?
I was not this person at all. I have spent my whole life being this super emotional person. I have managed to retain the sensitivity that I had, but I have let go the hyper emotional person that I used to be. It is an overall change that has happened in my life as a person. I used to be very emotional, to the extent that in school I’ve been told by my teachers that I need to stop using my emotions to get things done! I didn’t know what they meant by that. I have found a way to channelize that. Being emotional is not a problem, it can be if you don’t know how to deal with it, express it. I have learnt to acknowledge my emotions, not suppress them.
You signed Four More Shots Please in 2018. What was your headspace back then?
I thought of myself as a very serious actor. If my character demanded something, I was ok to push the envelope. I had gotten married in 2016 and I must say here that my ex-husband, Saahil, really supported me in this. He was not a guy who was insecure, who would be like, ‘No you can’t kiss on-screen or have an intimate scene’, which is quite rampant in our industry. I find it very regressive.
He really gave me that confidence and support, to go and do what I needed for the character. I was very ready for it. All the four girls had very different ways to look at the sex scenes. Some were more apprehensive than the others. For some it didn’t matter. I was in a state where I was comfortable with it– I was going in with my eyes open. That was an empowering moment for me as an actor and a person.
What has changed?
Over the last three four years, from then to today, of course my sex scenes on the show have gone down, but the thing is, this idea of sex that we are obsessed with has kind of become very normal in my head. There is no more a big deal about it. The idea of it doesn’t surprise or titillate me. There is no regression– it just is. These are very subconscious changes. But today I have normalised sex for myself, which is a huge achievement for me because otherwise it is considered such a big deal.
When I started off with the first season–it is a very glamourous show, the four girls have to look amazing, have great bodies–this was something I had never experienced before. I grew up a certain way, so I was never comfortable doing sex scenes. I didn’t know how to be sexy; I didn’t know how to be comfortable with what you are wearing, who you are…
My journey has been such that today when I see myself in season three–and how I am otherwise in my style quotient–it’s become so easy, which is based on the fact that I am now more comfortable with my body, comfortable with my own skin. Whatever my body is, I have owned all of it. It has been such a beautiful journey for me.
What are the ideas that have changed for you?
The idea that you need a man in your life to fulfil you, that you need to be of a certain body type. This journey has also been so strangely beautiful for me. When I started the show, I was married, now I have been separated for more than a year. I have come a full circle. I thank Saahil for empowering me in the way I needed back then. People tell me, ‘Oh you should look at getting married again’ and I am like, no. No one needs to if they don’t want to get married!
Are you still told that?
My parents were having a conversation and they told me, ‘Beta, we worry about you. What is your plan?’ I am like, ‘Guys, do you see my face? Have you ever seen me truly happier?’ I have made them question things– What matters to you more, that your child is happy or married? I am like, if you can’t see it, let me put it out there: I am in the most beautiful space that I have ever been. I don’t need a man to make me feel worthy.
All my life, I have looked for validation and love outside. For the first time, I have found it in me. Do you think I will let go of it, to again get into the rut of what the society thinks you should do? This self-love journey has been through the season of Four More Shots Please!. My character Anjana also has a similar track on the show, and it concludes with where she feels: ‘I am enough.’