It may come as a surprise but talking about yourself is not as easy as you might think. No doubt all of us can natter to our friends or family and we’re never short of things to say. But I’m talking of a formal interview where you are the subject of the discussion. That’s when it can be difficult to be either convincing or charming.
The problem is not simply one of nerves. Nor is it merely an outcome of the environment in which the interview is concluded. Of course these things matter but I’m referring to a bigger problem. How does one present oneself to a stranger in a way that is positive but also truthful, candid but without giving away secrets and yet
engaging and revealing and still not breach your privacy?
I feel it’s a knack some people have but many do not. No doubt you can be taught how to attempt to do it and a few succeed. But even at their best they sound or look tutored. Only a few are naturals. They do it without thinking or even trying. When they speak about themselves you not only feel you’ve understood them but come to like and even admire them.
Katrina Kaif is one such person. Last week she was my guest at the India Today Conclave and everyone was riveted by the natural and winning aplomb, honesty and charm but also the reserve and carefulness with which she answered my questions.
When I questioned her about Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, Katrina did not seem to hold back, shy away or evade. The words just flowed out of her mouth. But she wasn’t always answering the question or, at least, carefully not revealing what I had tried to pry. On occasion she had sound and eloquent reasons for not doing so. On others she said as much as she was happy to before leading me to another, but equally absorbing, aspect of the subject.
On some occasions Katrina actually used the truth as a charming foil to stop a second question. Here’s an example: “When Vogue magazine asked you what you would want to be if you weren’t an actress what made you say ‘Lord Protector of England’?” Her answer was short, simple and truthful. “I wasn’t being serious”, but then she added “you have to admit it’s a gorgeous sounding job!” Not just me, Oliver Cromwell would also agree!
The overall impression Katrina created was that she always answered my questions and, because at times hers were long answers, she had also covered them fully. But often the truth was different. There were occasions when beguilingly, yet always intelligently and never defensively, she side-stepped several issues. This is a trick politicians need to learn. When they evade they do it so obviously they’re always caught out!
Now, I won’t deny that a beautiful woman has a huge advantage convincing the audience she’s adequately answered the question she’s been asked. But looks cannot provide cover for long. A discerning audience wants more. Katrina intuitively sensed that and her answers to awkward, or even intrusive, questions reflected her instinct not to smile and simply evade but find a way of answering without revealing secrets she wished to protect. She was constantly thinking and well aware of the image she was crafting for herself.