Kolkata-based actor Ekavali Khanna is on a roll. The trailer of her next international project, American filmmaker Rohit Karn Batra’s gangster drama, Line of Descent, was recently released at the European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival. The cast includes seasoned actors such as Prem Chopra, Abhay Deol, Ronit Roy, Neeraj Kabi, and Hollywood actor Brendan Fraser.
Her first international project—What Will People Say—was Norway’s official entry to the Oscars, and she has two more projects—Indo-American and Indo-German—in her kitty. Talking about Line of Descent, she reminisces how the casting directors got in touch with her. “I was told that it is a gangster film. My first apprehension was where I would fit in, because in gangster dramas, women have a small part to play. But when I read the script, I realised that my character was well-written. The film is not just about the mafia,” says Khanna.
She found it exciting and challenging to play a role like this. Parts of the film were shot in Los Angeles, and Khanna says it was an enriching experience to work with an all-American crew. All praise for her director Batra, she adds, “He is an extremely passionate and determined filmmaker. He was very clear on what he wanted from the characters.”
Khanna adds that working on such international projects gives her an opportunity to collaborate with people from a different country and also learn how a parallel industry works. “I have a lot of admiration for the way they approach their work. The best thing to learn from them is discipline. The cast and crew are extremely punctual and organised. Filming is a breeze,” she smiles.
From playing a docile homemaker in Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain to a regressive Pakistani woman who is trapped in her belief system in What Will People Say, or a socialite who has a quirky personality in Veere Di Wedding, or a model and writer in Bioscopewala, Khanna has clearly stayed clear of being typecast. “People tell me I have a versatile face, and it works for me,” she says.
Khanna’s other films in post-production stages include Chote Nawab where she plays a Catholic woman married into a Nawab’s family; Yaar Jigri where she will be seen as a cougar; and Anaam where she plays a doctor who supports abortion—and she will also be seen as an IAS officer in Aadhar; and a woman in a terrorist camp in Dark Light.
These films, of course, come with their set of challenges; be it regional or national or international, only the degree may vary. “I have mostly worked in Indie cinema where budget is a big constraint, and naturally it comes with its own set of challenges. But cinema is synonymous with passion and so we put our best foot forward, and work around those challenges, and everything falls into place,” Khanna smiles.
She’s happy to be doing the kind of work that is coming her way. She thanks the writers who are not restricting women in late 30s and early 40s to conventional roles, but are writing interesting parts for them. “The only thing that I look forward to is a well-written role in a well-conceived script,” Khanna says, adding, “I yearn to play Sufi singer Reshma and also Kishori Amonkar in their biopic someday.”