Interview: Kareena Kapoor

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

imageMumbai, Feb 21 (IANS) From a prostitute in "Chameli" to a Muslim riot victim in "Dev", to a comedy role in "Hulchal", Kareena Kapoor seems to have emerged more confident than ever.

She might have started 2005 with a sari-clad role in 'Bewafa", but Kareena's all confidence about her screen presence. "The audience is with me," she claims in an interview to IANS.

"I'm the only major actress who's a part of the younger generation and yet playing mature roles," the youngest scion of the Kapoor family says, despite a career laden with flops and controversies.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: What do you have in store for 2005?

A: Amazing, amazing roles. To begin with there's Dharamesh Darshan's "Bewafaa". Dharamesh's "Raja Hindustani" had changed the course of my sister's career. I think he has done even more amazing a work with me. I think "Bewafaa" will be my "Raja Hindustani". I'm totally transformed in the film. Incidentally, I wear only saris in "Bewafaa" and Priyadarshan's new film. One can be a youth icon in a sari.

The film is very contemporary in feel. It's been beautifully shot in Canada and though it does address itself to issues such as the sanctity of marriage and family, it isn't an old-fashioned film. I've never done a role like my Anjali in "Bewafaa". It's a complete Hindi cinema, the heroine's role is an entire gamut of emotions. If I may say so, I've risen to the occasion.

Q: Your last release "Hulchal" moves very far away from your other 2004 releases like "Chameli", "Dev" and "Fida" which went beyond the conventional.

A: I realise that. But I couldn't keep doing unconventional parts alone.

The year started with a bang for me. "Chameli" may not have been a big hit. But it took me five steps forward in my career.

I played a prostitute in "Chameli", a Muslim riots victim in "Dev", an urban working girl in "Yuva", a villain in "Fida" and now, I've done comedy in "Hulchal". I don't think any actress ever had the chance to display such a range in one year.

And you have to admit the openings of all my films have been good. The rest depends on the script.

I don't want to be slotted in one genre. I'm proud to be a mainstream actress. "Hulchal" gives me a glam-doll role that I think I carry off as well as the totally de-glamorized "Dev". Just give me a challenging role, and see what I do.

Even running around trees can be exciting. It depends on the trees and the company. If in Priyadarshan's "Hulchal" I'm stereotypical, then in the director's next film, where I co-star with Salman Khan for the first time, I play a very serious doctor without any makeup.

I always knew "Hulchal" would work. It had all the ingredients to sweep the audiences off their feet. In the last few months a lot of serious films had come. The comedy in Hulchal came as a relief. Audiences are finally getting to see some fun stuff. And I certainly want to provide the fun along with something more substantial.

Q: But aren't Hindi's glamorous heroines supposed to dance around trees?

A: That's for those who like to play safe, the ones who think five songs and three item numbers in a big banner film are proof of being successful. I don't have the top banners with me.

But I'm looking for the right roles with all kinds of talented filmmakers - from Govind Nihalani, Sudhir Mishra and Shyam Benegal on one end to Abbas-Mustan, Ken Ghosh and Satish Kaushik on the other.

In these films audiences get to see my potential. I don't want to do only candyfloss roles.

Q: At 24, how do you succeed in playing such varied characters so spontaneously?

A: Well, I don't read the newspaper every morning. But when I played the riot victim in "Dev", I could feel the character's pain.

Frankly, I don't agonise over my characters. But when the camera is switched on I just do what comes naturally to me.

It's just...come on! I suppose I'm blessed.

I won't allow myself to be typecast, that's for sure. I want to do only films that would help me grow as an actress.

When I agreed to do "Hulchal", people said Priyadarshan's comedies are very macho. But I wanted to work with him. I want to work with every talented director.

My roles next year display the same range as the ones this year. Shyam Benegal has offered me a film. I'm still reading the script. The year starts with me playing mother to two children and wife to Anil Kapoor in "Bewafaa". Soon after, I'll be seen as a college student.

Q: Doesn't it bother you that playing a mother, prostitute or a vamp can erode your popularity among the youth?

A: Not at all. The audience is with me. They know every role of mine is trying to pass on some message or the other. So many college students SMS me. They want to know what my next role would be.

I'm definitely going to keep the young audience in my mind while accepting roles.

I'm the only major actress who's a part of the younger generation and yet play mature roles.

Q: People accuse you of being money-minded?

A: Money does matter a lot. No one is here to do charity. I'm true to my work. But money is as important to me as any professional. I feel my talent and hard work deserve to be compensated for.

I can never be careless or indifferent on screen. I suppose filmmakers pay me my price because they think I'm worth it. Of course offbeat directors can't afford my commercial price so I'm flexible with them.

Q: Akshaye Khanna, your co-star in "Hulchal" admires you.

It's mutual. I've known him for 15 years. It takes one talented actor to recognise another.

I feel Akshaye Khanna is immensely talented. When he made his debut, he was such hot property. I saw his first film "Himalayaputra" about ten times. I want to see so much more of him on screen.

People like our combination in "Hulchal". I guess it takes two to tango.

Q: Were you hurt when people wrote your chemistry with Shahid Kapur in "Fida" wasn't right?

A: No. Because our roles were such. I don't think we went wrong. I played such a negative character. We weren't supposed to be compatible at all. The film didn't work. But I don't regret doing "Fida". I enjoyed playing the villain. Now Priyanka Chopra has played the villain while I play the positive role in "Aitraaz". I enjoyed playing the typical protective wife as much as I enjoyed playing the wanton woman in "Fida".

Every man wants a faithful wife like me in "Aitraaz". Not too many men trust their wives these days.

Q: Did you have fun doing "Hulchal"?

A: Oh yes! Working with Akshaye Khanna and Arshad Warsi was fun. Their comic timing was perfect.

I believe comedy is the hardest genre of cinema specially for an actress. Their comic timing helped me immensely.

People have noticed a similarity in the way my sister and I do comic scenes. I'm glad. We're after all, sisters.

Q: How do you respond to being labeled the flop queen?

A: Oh all major actresses from Sridevi to Madhuri Dixit to my sister Karisma have given flops.

My hits are mine. Whether it was "Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai" where no one thought I could give a hit with director Satish Kaushik or "Ajnabee" where my co-stars were Akshay Kumar and Bobby Deol, I did it on my own.

Even in Karan Johar's "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham", my character was appreciated for its own steam.

There isn't a single Khan in "Hulchal". It just goes to show I don't need to depend on other factors. Ultimately no one makes a film succeed. Only the script runs.

Q: You're one of the rare actresses today who flaunts her love for her man, Shahid Kapur in you case, so openly.

A: You've put it perfectly. I celebrate love. In our films the lead pair celebrates love by dancing around trees. But in real life, actresses don't have the dignity to own up a relationship with a man.

Don't we actresses have the right to love? I'm happy with both my career and my relationship. I've a great support system in my family and friends. I don't think any girl can ask for anything more.

For those who think love is a hindrance to their career, there's news - I'm doing my best work now when I'm in love. My work demands a lot of my time. But I do take time out for love. We understand each other well. Shahid and I share so much together. If he reads an interesting book, he makes me read it.

What's life without love, yaar? It's so lonely at the top. I'm so lucky to share my successes and failures with someone.