Kalki Koechlin was born to French parents in a small village in Pondicherry. Her parents had come to India as hippies in the 1970s and settled there after they fell in love with the country. Her parents are devotees of Sri Aurobindo.
Kalki was studying in Ooty when her parents insisted that she attend university. She studied drama and theatre at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she also worked with a theater company called Theatre of Relativity for two years. She performed in various plays, including David Hare's "The Blue Room," Marivaux's "The Dispute," and a devised play called "The Rise of the Wild Hunt" during her two-year stint with the theater group.
Kalki later decided to move to Mumbai to try her luck in Indian cinema. She was doing modeling assignments for television commercials before being shortlisted for the role of Chandramukhi (Chanda) in Dev D (2009). Kalki, who can speak Tamil, English, and French, had to learn Hindi to prepare for her role in Dev D (2009). She was apprehensive about how people would judge her after seeing her in the role.
She won The Hindu's 2009 MetroPlus Playwright Award, along with Prashant Prakash, for their co-authored entry "Skeleton Woman." Kalki also acted in the play "Hair" directed by Ajay Krishnan.