By Hindustan Times
Kareena Kapoor, on record at HT Café, talks about Kapoor khandaan, motherhood and inculcating a reading habit at 30.
Condolences for the tragedy in your family. Hope Saif is okay…
He’s much better, but losing a parent at any age is...
When we speak of Saif, of course, one can’t avoid reports on your marriage next year…
When we decide, and whenever the time is right, we’ll sit and talk. And then we will tell the media about it. Obviously, the time isn’t right, right now, because I’m busy with my schedules and he’s busy with Agent Vinod and Cocktail. Right now our focus is completely on our film careers.
You’ve been pretty open about the people you have dated in the past or are currently dating, which wasn’t the case with female actors back in the day. What’s really changed?
Love is an emotion that needs to be celebrated. It’s not something that needs to be hidden. I am from this generation, so of course the thinking is a little more modern than what it used to be. But it’s like me spending time with my family. It (personal life) has nothing to do with me working. They are two different aspects of my life. I don’t know how it can stop a woman from working. That’s too outdated a thought for me. If I’m in love, it’s to be told to everyone.
Kareena KapoorWhen audiences see a romantic couple on screen, for instance, when they see a Salman Khan who plays Salman in every film, wouldn’t they assume the girl he is with in the movie to be his actual love interest? Wouldn’t producers like to keep this myth alive?
I don’t think so. In 3 Idiots, there’s nothing between Aamir and me. I was in a relationship with Saif even then. But it’s gone on to become the biggest hit in Indian cinema. The same goes with Bodyguard. So, it hasn’t affected the collections. Either I’ve just been lucky or my honesty has paid off.
Things have truly changed in the past 10-odd years… One of the stories about you, which everyone has read about, is how your father was vehemently against you and your sister joining films. Were women not treated right in the film industry before? Was that why the Kapoor family would never send their daughters to work in films?
I want to set the record straight. Because it was made out to be that my father was very against it. Yes, the Kapoor khandaan (family) girls never really joined films. But my father is extremely relaxed. I don’t think he’s ever told Karisma or me to not join movies. He says, “If you want to go out there, you have to go out there and battle it out yourself.” I have worked in some great and some really horrible films. But he’s never questioned me. He said do what you want, but just don’t make me cringe.
What was the logic behind the diktat then?
Since we come from the first family of films, people just thought that, this is not the way that a Kapoor girl should be seen. It’s like a divide where the guys can be at the front and the girls have to be at the back. But I’m happy I’m setting the record straight, because it’s not the case with my parents at all.
They never had a problem?
Never. In fact my father is happy that his girls have taken the mantel ahead, till Ranbir (cousin Ranbir Kapoor) stepped in. Somewhere I see a twinkle in my father’s eye every time I call him to see a film or if he congratulates me for Madame Tussauds or when he calls me up to tell me he’s happy for Bodyguard. So obviously I’ve done him proud.
A lot of aspirants complain about nepotism in Bollywood. If only a few families and their kids get to become superstars, maybe better talents will never get an opportunity. What’s your take?
I completely disagree. There are many people from film families, but it’s not necessary that they be at the top of their game. It was not easy at all for Karisma, or for me.
How hard was it?
For Karisma? It was a 12-year struggle to prove that she’s a good actress. Of course I got a great (debut) film; JP Dutta (director) was kind enough to make us a huge launch vehicle (with debut film Refugee in 2000) with Abhishek (Abhishek Bachchan) in it. But it didn’t do that well. I had all the big filmmakers, but it was the small films that worked, like Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai (2001) and Ajnabee (2001). There’s no guarantee that if you’re working with a big director or you come from a film family, you’re going to do well.
It must’ve worked in your favour and Ranbir’s, given that the first time you must have faced the camera, you would’ve, kind of, already grown up around it.
Not necessary. Saif is a star kid, his mum (Sharmila Tagore) was an actress, but he never watched any of her movies. He never watched Hindi films.
It was too beneath him to care?
He studied in Winchester, England, and he never really had a film background. But today he is considered one of the most versatile actors in our country. So, it’s not necessary that film kids get on to movie sets. Sometimes they’re just not interested.
But you were?
I think in the case of Ranbir and me, we were. At least I was, dancing to Sridevi and Madhuri’s (Madhuri Dixit) songs. I was waiting to join movies. I’ve just festered this dream since I’ve been…
What was the dream though?
It was just that I want to be…
Yeah, no… not famous, I just want to be known as a good actress, I just want to be a movie star!
You want to have a mob around you where ever you go?
Not a mob, I just want to be this glamourous movie star. And I want to act in every film made. I still want to.
You’ve said before, that you’ve done a lot of films that may regret having done. Tell us which?
I don’t think I could break the hearts of so many people who have worked on that film.
How about a particularly bizarre scene you may have regretted?
When I am on a movie set. I am actually doing exactly what the director’s asking me to do. It has to be somebody’s vision; can’t be mine, because I’m getting paid to act.
Was Kambakkht Ishq (2009) one of them?
They’d expect me to say that, but I think I got a lot from it.
A clock ticking in somebody’s body because it was left behind in surgery… C’mon.
I don’t know about the script, but people loved the look. It was one of the most glamourous looks seen on screen. The wardrobe was talked about. Nobody has ever been projected in that glamourous an avatar.
It had a song named after you. It went Bebo bebo… That’s another thing, most people, who have embarrassing pet names, like to keep it to themselves. You and your sister practically like being called Bebo and Lolo.
It’s just become this thing. It’s embarrassing, but I think Bebo is a sweet name.
How about Lolo?
Lolo’s funny. But we’re both now known like that. The technicians and light men call me that.
You are in your early 30s; top leading men in Bollywood are all in their late 40s. Where do you see yourself five years down, romancing Shah Rukh Khan, when he’ll be 50 plus?
I’m sure, because look at it, the industry is all about the Khans today. They rule the roost completely. There are no two ways about it. I’m sure I would want to constantly romance Shah Rukh on screen.
Even if he’s 50 plus?
I think so… he’s Shah Rukh. He is the eternal lover boy of the film industry. I can’t see anyone else do the kind of work that Shah Rukh has done. He’s the only one who has the courage and bravery to actually make this movie (RA.One).
As a female actor, does it bother you, or have you reconciled to the fact that it’ll always be about the Khans and the superstars, never as much about the leading ladies?
I’ve learnt to say that ‘okay at least after the Khans, I’m this recognised and that I am also part of these films’. It is a male-dominated industry, but I think in someway I have left a space where people do know. So certain things will always remain…
Do you see yourself after 15 years, maybe, doing roles like Meryl Streep?
I hope. I admire her so much. I would love to do a The Bridges Of Madison County (1995) when I’m 60, or The Devil Wears Prada (2006). And always sit at the Oscars and always return without it. To have the courage to do that is just superb. I love that, she’s always so pristine, smiling… she knows she’s the best. She has that look. I hope Indian cinema is changing, we say we are… but…
But then the Khans come and then Ready happens, and Bodyguard happens… and we’re back to square one… But I love the fact that I’m part of it. They’re the biggest hits in Indian cinema.
Most will agree, if I suggest, that Dev (2004) is perhaps one of your finest performances, purely for how intuitive it was. It was a very complex role of a real-life person. Where does that performance come from?
The only thing I absolutely enjoy doing as much as I do, is acting. I don’t expect every character to be like the one’s I’ve played in Omkara (2006), Dev, Jab We Met (2007) or Chameli (2004), or for that matter 3 Idiots. We fall in some, and if I don’t fall, I don’t think I’ll stand again.
Do you just go ahead and do it? Or do you think about it for hours, especially for roles like in Omkara?
I have never thought about a role ever in my life, ever. The minute I sit in the car after pack-up, I forget that I’ve shot all day. I completely forget that I am an actress.
You don’t think ‘maybe I could have done that scene better’ or obsess about something? Is it that easy to compartmentalise?
I’ve mastered the art of doing that. I don’t know what it’s like to prepare for a role. I’m on the set learning the lines. I’m like ‘okay, so I’m this girl from Bhatinda’, and I don’t know a word of Punjabi. I’ll learn it.
What according to you was your worst performance in a film?
I haven’t given any such performance. I’ve liked myself in all my movies.
That’s like believing your own myth… you can’t be perfect?
No, I’m not perfect. I am just happy with myself.
You don’t want to think about it and move on to your next film?
When a film is done, I’m on to the next. Everyone is asking me about Heroine. And Madhur (director Madhur Bhandarkar) said “I think we should do a lot of readings” and I said “no, just guide me, hold my hand through the shoot, just don’t talk to me about it after pack-up.”
That’s unnerving for the director?
I keep telling him not to worry. It’s not like I’m going to not give my best shot, especially for a role like this.
Another thing that separates you from your contemporaries is being perceived as a fashion icon. You are also writing a book on that aspect. Do you again go about it instinctively?
I’ve been lucky. Whatever I wear should be comfortable, people find that relatable. I’m not over-the-top. It’s nice to be in clothes that you could wear everyday. That’s my style.
You’re launching a fashion line?
There are talks, but there’s no time. That will take a lot of my energy, so we’ve delayed that for a year. I’m doing too much work. I shot five films this year.
Now the question on marriage again. You’ve held out for long enough, but no more I guess. What led you into this institution in the first place?
It’s not something that I’m planning. I believe, like I said, if you’re in love, it’s a public promise; as is marriage.
So is living-in…
In Indian society, marriage is more important than love or emotion. It’s a stamp. It’s not a big deal for me. For me there is no difference between love, living-in, marriage.
Children might be the most obvious reason to get married?
Yeah, but I can’t even think about that. I still feel I’m too much of a child. I’ve so much to learn before thinking about that. It’s not on my radar.
As an actress, do you also feel the pressure to deliver bigger hits than the last as superstars do?
It’s important. Especially if I have been part of 3 Idiots and Bodyguard. And Golmaal 3 (2010) is at number five on the list. RA.One has the potential to come up right there. So I can maybe get five more days off in Switzerland and enjoy my holiday. What am I getting anyway? The producers are making R 100 – R 200 crores.
What do you do with your money? What do you spend it on?
Nothing, food, I love food.
You have a villa in Switzerland?
No, I don’t, but I want one. I hope to have one some day, maybe if RA.One, like I said, becomes the biggest hit ever, then let’s see, maybe. It’s still all a plan.
Does it piss you off that you can’t have a normal life, like we do?
It’s better than keeping a bodyguard. I don’t have one, because I don’t want someone hovering around me all the time, while I’m in the car listening to my conversation.
You’ve also seen fame up close, given the family that you belong to. So it’s not new to you. You wanted this at some level?
Of course. I know the pitfalls and perks that come with it.
You get pissed off too with the pitfalls of fame? For example an MMS that a city tabloid ran few years back?
I do, but I think I’ve become better. Now I don’t think anything unnerves me.
Before you joined films, you spent a while at Harvard, and in Mumbai’s Government Law College…
And when I saw the books, I ran! I think those books actually made me realise that I just want to dance and act and do that.
Were you trying to discover yourself or you had to study because everybody does? You went to Mithibai also, right?
I think I was a good student. But I didn’t have that interest. Maybe that’s why in the future, Samaira and Kian have to grow up and choose education over films. I’m constantly telling Karisma, not to encourage them. Now I feel like I have lost out. I should have studied and read a little more. But it’s never too late. I’ve started cultivating a reading habit. Saif reads two books a night. So slowly, slowly I get to 10 pages a day, from actually having no interest in reading, so it’s not bad.