Koel Purie at a book release© GettyImages

Koel Purie Rinchett On Being A Part Of ‘The Archies’ & More

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Nayare Ali

Koel Purie Rinchett’s laughter is infectious. It’s deep and hearty, just like the joie de vivre with which she lives her life. Perhaps her time in the French capital amplified her self-effacing humour, evident in her peppy Reels on Instagram. An exuberant individual who needs to keep creating to feel fulfilled, Koel’s now riding high on her latest project, English play Mummy’s Dead, Long Live Mummy!, which she wrote, produced and acted in.

“After two shows in March, we surprisingly had so many offers. I should say that with gratitude,” she laughs. “When I started writing this, I didn’t know it’d take the form of a play. I thought it’d be self-help book or one on motherhood.”

“I’ve written for television for years and also wrote a book recently (it’ll be published this summer). But the medium of theatre is so liberating; there are no constraints. One minute you are talking to God and the next, you’re playing table tennis. There are no rules. The play just wrote itself!”

Koel, who’s lived in Paris for the past five years, acted in her first English play in the city, Truth, Lies and Deception, in 2021.

“It was a mega success as there’s a large anglophone audience desperate for such entertainment. There’s this whole world that needs to be tapped into; there are people hungry for culture that relates to them and is in English. I’m doing television in France, creating and developing a lot of co-productions. Like Le Syndrome Indien for White Lion Films.”

While her choices may be limited in French cinema, the universe appears to be throwing interesting opportunities her way. Koel will soon be seen in Zoya Akthar’s adaptation of The Archies comics, in which she plays Alice Cooper.

“Borders have become so porous since Covid that people are thinking of me again. They called me for it, and I was happy to be a part of it. Though what’s surprising is that the new generation is not that familiar with The Archies. I don’t necessarily mean the people in the film, but the ones in the 16 to 25 age group.”

“The world that Zoya created is one of the most beautiful period films, as is evident with the poster. It’s set in the 1960s in a fictional Indian hill station. Irrespective of your knowledge of the comics, you will want to be a part of this world.”

As we deduced earlier, Koel has this compulsive need to keep working, “to create reasons to stay in Paris,” she explains.

“Now that I’m back to acting and a lot of projects are coming my way from India, I need to do something here to stay creatively occupied. Things that keep me in Paris. Or I’ll run back to India. Oh, goodbye, family!”

Family includes her French husband Laurent Rinchet, who’s into space strategy. The two had tied the knot in an intimate ceremony in Delhi in 2009. After having their first child, the actor took a sabbatical from work, though now she wonders whether the break had been a mistake, lamenting the lack of guidance back then.

“Since I was 21, I worked constantly for films and television and was ready to take a break in life. But looking back, it was one of the biggest mistakes I could have made. If you don’t have a plan on what you’d like to do after your maternity leave, it can get challenging.”

After the birth of her daughter, Koel lived in India for a few years and then traipsed off to Tokyo, where her husband was posted for a little over two years. Although soon bored as a “trailing wife,” she loved the time the Japanese government made her their tourism ambassador.

“It was the best job ever! I went around making videos with their team in places I would have never discovered in Japan otherwise!”

Decades into the industry, with some 25 films to her credit and her own share of struggles, Koel’s more grounded than ever today. Introspecting on her career, she says, “When I got into films, there was a clear divide between commercial and crossover cinema, unlike today, where the lines are blurred. While I had my own niche, I was determined to do mainstream films, put on a wig and run around trees. I was not pretty enough by conventional standards to be a Bollywood actress, as you had to look a certain way back in the 90s. So when someone told me that my face was more suitable to play a lawyer or a doctor, I perceived that as an insult instead of capitalising on my strength.”

She may hail from a prominent media family — she’s the daughter of media baron Aroon Purie — and lived in the lap of luxury, but Koel has had to fight her own share of battles.

“Everyone struggles in the industry. What an actor goes through in terms of rejection weekly is probably what most people go through in their lifetime. Yes, my struggle was not financial, but I wanted it all. I had a foot in the UK industry; I was doing full-fledged British films and television. But I was so busy trying to prove myself that I couldn’t maximise my achievements and celebrate myself back then.”

While her films may not have been hugely successful, Koel had found her calling as a television host with her show On the Couch with Koel that ran for eight long years.

“At 22, I produced Aaj Ki Naari for Doordarshan. It so happened that we had a new studio, and I decided to use those resources instead of going elsewhere. As for my other show, On the Couch with Koel, I ran this show for eight years, and by the end of the stint, I was meeting the same people repeatedly and having the same conversations over and over again. I was ready to pull my hair out and finally decided to end it. But now, there’s a whole new generation of actors, so it might be interesting to renew the show.”

Despite having access to the India Today Group run by her father, Koel is not involved in the family business. Given the loud debate around nepotism today, we ask her to share her views.

“My sister Kalli Purie and I had to work to even get a foot into the family business. After a while, I finally gave up and said I couldn’t keep proving myself. Kallie eventually became the only choice for the role. She had proved herself so much that it would have been silly to not give her due credit, the position and power she worked immensely hard for from the bottom up.”

Ask her about her plans for this year, and she rattles off, “touring for my play, launching my fiction book, producing William Dalrymple’s Kohinoor for television and learning to rest on my laurels and rid myself of my restlessness.”

And given how restless she is, this sure would be an achievement for her, this sure would be an achievement for her, should Koel master the art.