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LOVE LINKS – The Sisterhood of ‘Firgun’ Ft. Tillotama Shome & Kalki Koechlin

The Gucci x Runway Square anthology ‘LOVE LINKS’ puts a spotlight on lesser known, yet enduring bonds shared by known faces. This is the story of Tillotama Shome and Kalki Koechlin.

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The world knows them as doyens of their art, creative extraordinaires, and cultural icons. But beyond that, in an industry that is constantly pitting women against each other, Kalki Koechlin and Tillotma Shome have nurtured a friendship of honesty, respect, and immense love. Their bond is that of sisterhood, of being each other’s emotional safety net, even disagreements and differences but also of learning and growing together. From the pomp and glamour of the sets to the caravan lifestyle of the stage to being each other’s rock, Kalki and Tillotama’s relationship has traversed professional work events, sharing a stage, heart-to-hearts over whiskey to now being entertainers to Kalki’s little one, Sappho. Of their sisterhood Tillotama says, “What a powerful, nourishing force the solidarity of women can be!”

As an ode to love, and a celebration of Gucci’s first-ever fine jewelry collection launch in India – Link To Love, we explore the many different bonds shared amongst and as friends, father and daughter, artists, collaborators, or with our own selves through Runway Square X Gucci LOVE LINKS Anthology wherein we tell five beautiful stories to honour these connections. We live multiple lives in a lifetime, but love was, is, and always will be there – and that’s why this anthology puts a spotlight on the lesser-known, yet enduring connections shared by these known faces. And this is the story of Tillotama Shome and Kalki Koechlin.

RSQ:  What was your first meeting like?

Tillotama: It was one of those work events, I think. I saw an actor with her guard up very high and I was dealing with my own insecurities, and that was that.
Kalki: No idea. My memory is worse than Tilly’s. I do remember having some good conversations during the shoot of Shanghai.

RSQ: How did the friendship grow from there?

T: I started to get to know Kulks much later when we started shooting for ‘A Death in the Gunj’. Some whiskey and tears later she opened up about matters of the heart and it’s been all heart since. We did Rajat Kapoor’s play ‘Macbeth’ which made us travel together for months in caravan style. And over time, the friendship went beyond the work that got us together.
K: It took many years of bumping into each other and working together.

RSQ: ‘Sisters’ are a term that is linked with family, majorly. How and when did you come to realize that you share a bond of sisterhood and not just two very good friends?

T: Sisters/Sisterhood go beyond the traditional notion of genetics. The idea of what a family looks like is also so vastly diverse. Like a bunch of us girls organically came together and became a part of a group called Firgun (means “the genuine, unselfish delight or pride in the accomplishment of another” in Hebrew; an emotion for which there is no word in English) – and this very fitting Hebrew word was found by Kalki for us all. I hadn’t been part of such a group before, as I generally avoid ‘groups’. But our meetings made me realize in my gut the need for sisterhoods. What a powerful, nourishing force the solidarity of women can be!
K: For me, it was when I saw Tilly getting ready for something fancy, can’t remember if it was a shoot or event, but she opened a trunk of sarees, went to one tiny mirror in her bathroom, and got ready in a few minutes. I know I do the same, spend the least possible amount of time on these things. But there were landmarks to our growing friendships, like the time I had a breakdown in the van while shooting for ‘A Death in the Gunj’ and she came in and gave me a cuddle and a good pep talk. Or, the time when she couldn’t get her cue right in Macbeth and came and let it all out after a rehearsal.

RSQ: You are contemporaries in the industry. Does your work/ the industry ever get in the way of your relationship?

T: No, it has never come in the way because we have been so honest with each other. If someone is going through a lean phase, we are acutely aware of it. We are open about feeling insecure, jealous, afraid… Everyone knows the feeling because everyone has been there.
K: Not really, although she said when she first met me she thought I was basically a b****, I know she said in a nice way; my guards were up. I think I just didn’t really have space for friends because I was in a consuming relationship at that point. We all learn. I learnt the value of sisters only in my thirties.

Tillotama Shome + Kalki Runway Square x Gucci Love Links
Tillotama Shome and Kalki Koechlin, dressed in Gucci Overture collection and Link To Love Jewelry.

RSQ: Sisters love and support each other in equal measures as they fight and critique each other. Is that the case with you as well? Do you agree with each other on most things, or do you also share differences?

T: Of course, we critique each other, especially when it comes to our work. Finally, a space where one can openly speak about what they really thought about a film whether it has you in it or your friend. And as far as our differences, I think too much and I feel Kalki is more spontaneous, without the affliction of analysis paralysis.
K: Yeah, we don’t always agree, I think we felt that sometimes, like during the ‘MeToo’ movement we both felt differently about certain things and spoke about how we handled a certain situation. I think many times it’s secondhand news that makes for confusion though and if two people are straight up with each other (and we were), these differences can be respected and accepted.

RSQ: What’s the most cherished memory you have of each other?

T: I remember this moment when I was sitting in Kalki’s car and she showed me this drawing that she made on a big piece of paper. A drawing that captured the upheaval within her during her pregnancy. I remember at that moment feeling so lucky to have this woman in my life. Of course, seeing Guy and her with Sappho in the clinic was indescribable.
K: Sitting in traffic on the way to Bandra in a cab, and discussing somebody else’s love life? I don’t know, there’s no ‘most cherished memory’; there’s a series of little conversations and experiences we share that have accumulated over the years to trust and love each other.

RSQ: What are your hangouts like?

K: Sunset, smoke (pre baby, of course), talking about insecurities, or sharing news good and bad, or period problems or watching in amusement our partners not being able to understand each other’s accents.

RSQ: According to you, what are some of Tillotama/Kalki’s best qualities as a sister/friend?

T: She makes the big decisions with such ease and makes it look so effortless. Shooting, newborn infant, breast pump at work and yet, all smiles. She is inspiring! I also love how she, with her long legs, can curl up like a cat and go to sleep just about anywhere, even on a tiny flight seat.
K: Tilly is always double-checking her conscience; she really thinks about the choices she makes. And that makes me want to pull up my socks. Also, her diligent work on Hindi, on prepping for a role is inspiring and frankly, makes me a little jealous.

RSQ: Do you help her with work-related advice or do you keep those conversations at bay?

T: We talk about work very openly. Share the issues at hand, seek advice. We have spoken openly about how much we are getting paid. If we feel someone is being taken for a ride, we won’t hide behind the silence of indifference. The silence between women, an absence of a community that shares information, enables the patriarchal system to perpetuate its unfair practices.
K: Yes, sometimes we discuss things. I wouldn’t call it advise so much as a sounding board.

RSQ: What relationship does Sappho share with her?

T: It’s pure magic to see Kalki with Sappho. She makes it look like a fairy tale; it is all very French, musical, hippie, and easy.
K: She’s fascinated with this enthusiastic Bengali who jumps around her. Tilly dedicates immense energy into entertaining Sappho.

RSQ: Have you ever had disagreements? How do you work through them?

T: Have we? We must have, but nothing sticks. Must have been insignificant. Actually, all disagreements become insignificant when you respect the person in front of you.
K: Yes, we have. We talk it through.

RSQ: What is your favorite quality of her as an actor?

T: She keeps doing things, growing, not sitting still. If she is not shooting for a film, the poet in her will write and perform really smart pieces which are not just ‘cool’ and honest, but primarily really well written. She also just wrote a book about her pregnancy.
K: Her diligence. Not just when she had got a role to prepare for but in the long months, maybe even the years that she has waited for work, she is always honing her craft.

RSQ: Which is her best work, according to you?

T: She has been sublime in all her plays with Rehaan Engineer and I love the spoken word piece called Printing Machine.
K: She is pretty damn brilliant in ‘Sir’.

Tillotama Shome + Kalki Runway Square x Gucci Love Links
Tillotama Shome and Kalki Koechlin, dressed in Gucci Overture collection and Link To Love Jewelry.


Editor + Creative Director: Charu Gaur
Photographer + Videographer + Art Director: Pretika Menon
Stylist: Ekta Rajani
Junior Editor + Creative Assistant: Karishma Gulyani
Make-up + Hair + Manicure: Jean-Claude Biguine India
Text: Shubhanjana Das
Styling Assistant: Swity Shinde
Photography Assistant + Photo Editor: Karan Sarnaik
Music: JBABE / Third Culture
Set Designer:  Jangu Sethna
Production House: Anomaly Production Pvt. Ltd.
Artworks: Shaista Syed / Kitsuné India

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