Karisma Kapoor on Movies, Motherhood & Saif
It’s been a while since Karisma Kapoor’s name featured in a film’s credits. The actor, who became synoymous with David Dhawan comedies in the ’90s, graduating to more mature roles towards the latter part of her career, was on top of her trade when she surprised everyone with her decision to marry businessman Sanjay Kapur and move to Delhi eight years ago.
Now, she’s back in B-town, and nothing much seems to have changed. A sophisticated version of her old self, she can give many younger actors a run for their money. It’s evident in her vivacity that she is excited to return to a world she is familiar with and a world she clearly loves.
No icebreaker needed, we dive right into a conversation. After years of speculation, gossip and rumours about a comeback (a word she hates), Karisma will be seen on the big screen again. She recently signed Vikram Bhatt’s Dangerous Ishq, in which she plays five characters, who belong to five eras, including the politically tumultuous ’80s.
Initially reluctant to confirm the reports, Karisma finally relents, revealing the movie is about past-life regression. “It’s something that people are curious about, and this is the role I had been waiting for.” The actor believes Dangerous Ishq is the progression of her career, refusing to call it a comeback film or the start of her second innings in Bollywood.“I was lucky to be able to play a gamut of roles across various genres. I wanted to take my work to the next level and this character I am preparing for, is just perfect,” Karisma says. While refusing to confirm if she is indeed training for action sequences, she hints that it has been hard. “It is my nature to strive to do my best. This does tend to take a toll on you.” As someone who has a reputation for being a perfectionist, Karisma confirms she’s quite the multitasker. “Maybe I wasn’t doing a film, but over the last few years I have been working! I have endorsed many brands, which involves a fair amount of hard work, and I’ve also been a judge on TV shows like Nach Baliye and Aaja Maahi Vay,” she says.
As I mention her comeback film and her return from retirement and motherhood, Karisma is clearly exasperated. “I want to abolish tags like ‘comeback’ and ‘retirement’ that are used to define every married female actor. What is the big deal?
In Hollywood, every top actor takes a break, has children, and gets back to work. Julia Roberts took a break after both her pregnancies. Look at Gwyneth Paltrow and my favourite, Kate Winslet. No one ever says, ‘Oh, she’s making a comeback.’ To my mind, I just went on maternity leave and reported back to work.”
Careful not to use the word retire, I ask Karisma about leaving Bollywood when she was at the top. While she rose to fame doing a string of hit slapstick comedies, the latter part of her career was both commercially and critically successful with films like Fiza, Zubeida and Shakti.
“I started working when I was 16 and I had done so much work that I just needed to take a break! It was totally my decision; I wanted to concentrate on having a baby, bringing up my children. These things were very important to me. I didn’t want to miss out on them. Now, I have had children and I have given them attention. They are at an age, where they have school and classes, so I can devote time to work.”
Now that she’s decided to take up work again, I ask if Karisma would be open to doing the kind of comedy films and potboilers she did back in the day ‘Saajan Chale Sasural, Biwi No. l, Coolie No. 1. “Why not?” she asks. “Those David Dhawan films were the most fun. I don’t think that style of cinema will ever go away. Look at recent hit films like Ready, Wanted and the Golmaal series.”
Back to the present, Karisma says she’s open to taking on a variety of roles and doesn’t think age will be a factor. “Times are different now, Bollywood has changed and the biggest thing is that audiences have changed ‘ they don’t care if you are married with kids. If you can act, they will accept you.”
I ask her to name a few present day female actors she admires, and she predictably mentions Kareena. After a little coaxing, however, she adds, “Katrina is really beautiful and Priyanka is a good actor.”
While we are discussing Kareena’s contemporaries, as if on cue, Sonam Kapoor makes a noisy entry into the vanity van. Karisma leaps up to hug her, they share something in hushed whispers and Sonam exits ‘ Sonam’s name is not added to the list of her current day favourites, though.
The discussion shifts to the two good-looking Kapoors ruling the roost. “Acting talent and success has gone from generation to generation (among the Kapoors) and I think I have passed the baton on to Kareena and Ranbir. They’re doing a phenomenal job. Ranbir does a good job of picking the right scripts. I would definitely consider starring alongside him, if there is a script that will need us to play brother and sister, or just friends,” she says.
Karisma speaks about Kareena with sisterly pride. “Kareena has such a great body of work. She has always been fearless, whereas I was always very correct. It’s amazing how that worked for me, while this attitude worked for her. She always had the courage of her own convictions'”
Talking about Kareena’s relationship with Saif Ali Khan, Karisma says, “When we acted together (Sooraj Barjatiya’s Hum Saath Saath Hain), we shared a good rapport. At the time, I could never have imagined that this would happen. Initially, it was a bit strange but it was easy to accept, since we had got along as co-stars.” Elaborating on Saif, who’s a close family friend, Karisma says, “Saif has very good manners, which is a very attractive quality in a man. Also, he is very well-read. You can have a conversation with him about many things, not just films.”
She may be reluctant to name her favourites today, but Karisma’s adulation of Sridevi was a popular ’90s Bollywood story. The senior actor even appeared on the episode of a Bollywood TV show that was an ode to Karisma’s life and career ‘ a rare show of support by a female actor in a cut-throat profession. Later, Sridevi was seen at Karisma’s wedding. “I have been her biggest admirer and always will be.” Now that the actor’s favourite star is back to work, I wonder how Karisma feels. “I am so happy she’s doing a movie and I am glad we’re doing it simultaneously,” she says.
Winding up, I ask Karisma to name a few of her favourite movies, “There are so many! I can’t name them all… but, of course, all RK films.” It is also difficult for her, she justifies, because she’s grown up in the movie business, and films have always been an intrinsic part of her life. “My mother was at my dad’s shoot the day I was born ‘ in fact she was at the set just a few hours earlier,” she says. Karisma Kapoor is proof that there’s just no ducking your genes.
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