Early life and background
Kalki Koechlin was born in Pondicherry, India, on 10 January 1984 to French parents, Joel Koechlin and Françoise Armandie, who came to India from Angers, France. She is a descendant of Maurice Koechlin, a French structural engineer who played an important role in the design and construction of the Eiffel Tower. Koechlin's parents are devotees of Sri Aurobindo, and she spent a significant amount of her early childhood in Auroville. The family later settled in Kallatty, a village near Ooty in Tamil Nadu, where Koechlin's father established a business designing hang-gliders and ultralight aircraft.
Koechlin with her mother Françoise Armandie in 2016
Koechlin was brought up in a strict environment in Ooty where she spoke English, Tamil, and French. Her parents divorced when she was fifteen; her father moved to Bangalore and remarried, while Koechlin continued living with her mother. She has described the time that she spent at Kalatty between the ages of 5 and 8, before her parents' divorce, as her "happiest". Koechlin has a half-brother from her mother's previous marriage, and a half-brother from her father's subsequent marriage.
Koechlin studied at Hebron School, a boarding school in Ooty, where she was involved in acting and writing. She has admitted to being shy and quiet as a child. Koechlin aspired to study psychiatry and become a criminal psychologist. After completing her schooling at the age of 18, she moved to London and studied drama and theatre at Goldsmiths, University of London. There, she worked for two years with the theatre company Theatre of Relativity, writing The Rise of the Wild Hunt and performing in plays such as David Hare's The Blue Room and Marivaux's The Dispute. She worked as a waitress on weekends.
After completing her studies, Koechlin moved back to India and lived with her maternal half-brother in Bangalore. Unable to find work there, she moved to Mumbai, where she worked with theatre directors and with Atul Kumar and Ajay Krishnan, the founders of a Mumbai-based theatre company called "The Company Theatre". They were looking for actors for a theatrical festival, Contacting the World, to be held in Liverpool.