Bollywood actor Kalki Koechlin was in Pakistan in January this year, and it was Khamosh Pani director Sabiha Sumar's documentary project that brought her here. Titled Azmaish - Trials of Life, the film examines the sociocultural landscapes of the Pak-India region.
So why did Sumar rope in Kalki for the project? It's a question that puzzled the actor herself when Sumar first proposed teaming up for it, she told Rajeev Masand in a video interview.
Sabiha puts our curiosity to rest in the same interview when she talks about the genesis of the film at length.
"Actually, the idea came to me when I started looking at changes in India, and very large-scale changes are taking place in Pakistan as well. I wanted to explore both countries and catch what is going on," she began.
"But it's not really nice for me to do that in India, or an Indian to do that in Pakistan. And it's good for someone from India to learn about Pakistan and for me to learn about India. It's like a journey that I wanted to take on with someone who's as curious as I am. So I invited Kalki to come on board and I think she's the perfect person."
She adds, "Bollywood has a lot of curiosity about Pakistan, and that is very clear from the scenes that Bollywood wants to shoot in Pakistan and isn't able to, so ends up cheating them in India. So I thought wouldn't it be interesting to bring a Bollywood actress to Pakistan and take her to the deserts, take her to the mountains, take her to the cities, take her to the villages, and really show that we can do this, that she can learn things in Pakistan and I can learn things [in India]."
Kalki admits that she "was amazed by the reception I got. People treated me like a rel guest. When they found out I was from India, they were really happy."
Her favourite day in the shoot in Pakistan was the time they staged a fashion shoot at a truck stop. "People talked very openly about what they felt. There was no animosity. We had chai with the Pathan drivers there. I had a great time."
"In India, the documentary is exploring similar things, asking similar questions. There's a lot of vox pops, with people on the streets, in small dhabas, rich people, students, middle class professionals, just to get their sense of where their country is headed and what they can do to change that. What are their dreams? What are their aspirations? And that's what's very interesting: ordinary people talk the same language no matter where there are."
The documentary's India shoot is currently in progress.