Bajrangi Bhaijaan is going to be one of Salman Khan’s best performances: Kareena Kapoor Khan

kareenaKareena Kapoor Khan wears her natural born stardom with lan. Comfortable in her skin, sitting atop an enviable line up of sought after films, she let her choices do the talking when murmurs of married heroine’ emerged last year. She is content and it shows! Here’s a no holds barred, entertaining conversation with the mature, beautiful star who has beat multiple clichs with style.

The last time I had met you for an interview, a lot had been written about why you weren’t agreeing to some films; and there was speculation around your career. Did that bother you and do you think waiting for the right films has been the right choice?
It didn’t bother me. Nothing bothers me or affects me as such. After a 15-year career, the fact is that, I played Anil Kapoor’s wife in Bewafaa’ and now I play Arjun Kapoor’s wife (smiles). I think for me that is a very big honor (big, bright smile).

People in the industry usually talk about an actresses’ shelf life being just 7 years or maximum 10 years. In 2016, it will be 16 years since I have been working. Yes there have been ups and downs but in a journey of 15-16 years, that’s bound to be there. Yes I did let go of films. Fact is that once I got married, I wanted to take that time to move into a new home, to travel & spend time with my husband. There are more important things at that point of time. Now that I am settled in that, I consciously chose to work with new directors. All the films that I am currently doing are with new directors.

So there’s Abhishek Chaubey (Udta Punjab), R Balki (Opposite Arjun Kapoor), Rajkummar Gupta & also Kabir Khan for Bajrangi Bhaijaan. How did you find working with new filmmakers who you aren’t very familiar with?
I want to work with these new filmmakers, because I have worked with every possible director in this country- from Mani Ratnam to Rohit Shetty!

I enjoyed working with Abhishek a lot. I loved it! I loved my part & I loved the whole milieu of the film. The whole atmosphere of Udta Punjab’ is different- the drug drama- I just loved its story. When people watch this film they will walk out of it and say, Oh my god, what a great story!

And of course’, there’s Daljeet Dosanjh that I think he’s wonderful! I am a big fan of his! And he is surprise package of the film as this is the first time a Sardar is playing a leading part in a Hindi film! (Laughs).

You shot for quite some time in Punjab for this film. What did you enjoy the most?
I enjoyed the food there! I was eating all the lovely khana, and the authentic Punjabi grub. He’s so sweet (refers to Daljeet Dosanjh) you know! He told me people do not believe me that I am starring opposite you, so can I please put up a photo on social media? I said of course you could! That is so endearing.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is being touted as a mainstream entertainer with heart. Did you choose this because the role also appealed to you? You’ve worked with Salman quite a few times so do we see a different onscreen relationship in this film?
My relationship with Salman in this film is definitely more evolved and mature. The kind of films Kabir makes always have a well-developed story. Its mainstream yes but it’s not got typical comedy or action. It’s got a deep story to tell that will excite people. The characters in the film are strong parts, whether it’s me or Nawaaz or the kid. According to me, it’s going to be one of Salman Khan’s best performances.

Kabeer Khan has again shot in remote, beautiful parts of India including Kashmir. Shooting in these spots & spending time with local people as well as your unit- was it fun?
Kabir has taken me to Kashmir to shoot for this film, and I have never shot in Kashmir my whole life! Which is great, because from the Kapoor Khandaan everybody has gone to shoot in Kashmir including Ranbir. Finally, when I shot there, it was very special. When we were there, we lived at the previous Oberoi Palace, which is now called the Lalit. And the waiters there have been working for the last 35-40 years who recognized me. They remembered that I used to go to Kashmir with my dad & my uncles! So it was quite a nostalgic experience.

While shooting for Bajrangi Bhaijaan Salman was balancing quite a few things- his court hearing in the hit and run case included. Since you are good friends, how did you think he tackled these pressures and challenges?
You know Salman is somebody who is just unbelievable as a person. He is emotional and yet strong (Pauses). The best thing about Salman Khan is that he is unfazed. That’s the right word for him. He is unfazed by his success, he is unfazed by his failure and he is unfazed by his superstardom. That’s what makes him the biggest, most successful superstar of our times. He doesn’t care that he is such a star. He is above his films. Entering with multiple bodyguards or just showing off clout is Not what defines a star. Somewhere I connect with him on that because I am like that too. I would want to do things on my own. I would want to walk my dog or do normal things. He is chilled out and for me, I really relate to that aspect of him.

This year, we’ve had successes in Piku & Tanu Weds Manu Returns & NH10. You are bound to be asked as to why you aren’t doing a heroine centric film. How do you react to that, considering that you’ve picked unusual films at the beginning of your career?
(Smiles) I have done a Jab We Met’ or a Chameli’. But you know, honestly, I believe that content is king. And whatever is good content that will work. If it’s an entertaining film, it will do well. Apparently, Tanu Weds Manu Returns & Piku are both very entertaining films. That just goes on to show that entertainment will always succeed.

Of course, when I have a great script I immediately agree to do it. When I heard Balki’s film, at the interval point itself, I told him I am doing it. I don’t even want to hear the entire narration before I agree. I heard it though as I was curious to know how it pans out (smiles). But the girl has a great role & I agreed to do it.

So you work towards choosing a good film and not always a woman centric film or a star vehicle. What is your priority in choosing a film now?
Well, my priority always has been to maintain a balance between commercial cinema and slightly off films. Commercial masala films are in my DNA.

(Determined expression) Working with the Khans should not be looked down upon. I don’t believe in that. It’s not a crime. In every generation, a male superstar has worked well with a female superstar- whether it was Rekha working with Mr Bachchan, or Sridevi working with Anil Kapoor, or Madhuri working with Anil Kapoor. All the top line actors have always worked with each other. So there’s nothing wrong with that.

At the same time, I will always try to do different kind of films too. That’s why I wanted to do Udta Punjab’. I did Chameli’ when I was 22 and everybody told me not to do it. I will balance it out and I am not going to be a one-dimensional actor. And the big budget blockbuster films (pauses), I love it yaar! What’s wrong with that; why should anybody be penalized? Everybody wants to work with Salman Khan.

People say that Salman Khan wants to work with actresses who are half his age. But yes I am 34-years-old and am married, and am proud to be still working.

Considering you have this dream marriage, Shahid Kapoor is getting married. What would you say to him on settling down?
I think it’s the perfect time for him because you know he is going through a great time professionally and has made some really brave choices. I haven’t seen Haider’ but my sister saw the film and said he was wonderful in it. I met him at Yashraj Studios as were both performing at the Femina Miss India awards and we chatted for some time. I got this vibe from him; he said he was very happy. He had told me about his marriage even before the media got to know and I think it’s right for him.

(Smiles) Marriage is amazing. Look at me, its done wonders (laughs). When you marry you celebrate your love, and you enjoy it and you want to make the WORLD a part of it!

Arjun Kapoor & your film with Balki is a love story right? Are you looking forward to working with an upcoming young star?
The film is based on conversations & it’s very different. I love it! I love the fact that I can work with a superstar like Salman Khan & an upcoming star like Arjun in the same year. I think I will enjoy shooting for it too. Arjun is perfect for the role & he is very charming. He’s got intensity in person and when that shows up, I think that will take him places as an actor.

Finally, you’ve got your hands full with films as does Aishwarya & Kajol is also working with Shah Rukh Khan again. Clearly, the married heroine tag doesn’t apply anymore. Do you think your sister Karishma though didn’t have it easy when she tried to return to films?
Of course, Ash & Kajol are also mothers. I have been married only two and a half years. But I don’t think I took a break, for Saif & I were living together before we got married and I continued working. For us, we don’t even discuss leaving acting. He knows that this is my work & my passion. I am very proud to be a working, married, independent woman. Maybe I have made some nice choices after being married.

As for Karishma, the time when she worked was different. Today she has two kids and still looks her best. But this trend of married actresses working has altered now; it was different during her heydays.

Kareena Kapoor Khan slips seamlessly into her two roles. One is that of the Begum of Pataudi, where she is all smiles, supervising whether everyone at the lunch table is looked after.

She ensures the pasta and the chicken are being served at the right temperature. When the minions disappear, taking the food trolley behind them, you encounter the quintessential Bollywood superstar. Pat, she gives you trade figures and facts, cocks an eyebrow stylishly and says, “Would you like some green tea or should we roll?” This is how our conversation played out…

Bajrangi Bhaijaan with Salman Khan is ready for release. Give us your thoughts on being his heroine a third time around.
You know that, I have seen Salman as a nine-year-old when Lolo (Karisma) shot movies with him. He was as warm then, as he is now. The one big difference is that in my journey as his heroine from Kyon Ki… to Bajrangi Bhaijaan (BB), I have seen his stardom go through the roof. Currently, he is India’s biggest superstar but that’s rhetoric. The nice thing about BB is that besides it having a romantic track that revolves around the two of us, it is a human drama that has depth and will connect immediately. It is the story of Bajrangi who helps a little girl unite with her family across the border. As his love interest, I pitch in to do my best.

Are you flattered that Salman chose to sign you for his very first production?
Of course, I’m thrilled. Just imagine ” this is the very first Salman Khan Films (SKF) and I’m his leading lady. I have a special relationship with his family. His sister Alvira Agnihotri made her first movie Bodyguard with me. And now, I’m the first heroine of SKF. I maintain that Salman is the biggest superstar currently and any heroine who says she is not dying to do a film with him is lying through her teeth. Come on yaar, how is it even possible?

How was it shooting in Kashmir for Bajrangi?
There was a sense of deja vu when I landed in Srinagar. My entire khandaan ” daddy, uncles and grand-uncles have shot many films in Kashmir. It was my first shoot. We were staying at Hotel Lalit, which was Oberoi Grand back in the day. And there were a couple of old hotel staff members who remembered me as a child visiting my parents at their shoot. There were emotional moments. When I walked around the hotel, I felt as if I was walking down memory lane.

Movies apart, aren’t you and Saif planning on having children?
Of course, we plan to start a family but that thought is furthermost from our minds right now. It doesn’t even come up for discussion at home. We are both enjoying our relationship; we are immersed in our careers. I’m greedy for everything, including motherhood. However, I don’t have any answers to when that is about to happen.

Shahid is getting married…
Yes of course, I’m aware of that. In fact, he mentioned it to me nearly three months ago, when we met backstage for the Femina Miss India Awards. My best wishes are with him. He’s on a winning spree with Haider. So professionally and personally, he is in a happy place.

Saif has green-lighted a film with Shahid. What are your thoughts on it?
I’m happy that Saif and Shahid are doing Rangoon with Vishal Bhardwaj, one of my favourite makers. Saif has his own strengths as an actor, as does Shahid as a dancer and an actor. They are both impressive in their own way.

Saif seems to be thinking a lot more about what his next lot of films should be.
Why Saif alone, every actor takes time to introspect. Sometimes we let others around us make decisions for us on the kind of films we should do. Sometimes we make wrong choices ourselves. If the gamble doesn’t pay off, we recoil. Saif is very clear that from now on, he will only do cinema that he believes in. He wants to do films that he feels he is best suited for.

With Saif being in semi-holiday mode for the last few months, you guys have been able to take several vacations. True?
From the start of our relationship, we have always been doing this. Both of us believe in working hard, but we have never compromised on our ‘us’ time. Isn’t that the idea of being in a relationship? As husband and wife, our aim is to spend quality time with one another. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a greedy girl. I want to do the best of films, but I also want to spend as much time with my husband as possible.

The tan you have acquired from the Maldives vacation is still very much there. Tell us something more on the time spent there with Soha, Kunal and Ibrahim?
A lot of pictures of our holiday were on the net. But besides sun-bathing, I also did some good reading. Incidentally, I have read nine books in the last six weeks. Thanks to Saif I have become a voracious reader.

Any regrets of not doing Dil Dhadakne Do?
I never look back in regret. Some films are just not meant to be. However, I must say that I want to work with Zoya Akhtar. She is lovely person. I enjoy her company. She also makes films that I can identify with totally as a viewer and as an actor.

Heroine-oriented films seem to be the order of the day. Agree?
I think content-based cinema has always worked. Jab We Met had a strong part for the woman as did Amar Prem. They were not classified as women-centric films, but they wouldn’t have worked had the woman character not been so central. In a film like Omkara, the title role belonged to Ajay Devgn. But my character of Desdemona is crucial to the plot. For that matter, even Saif had a pivotal role in that film. Back in the day, I even had a good role in Asoka. Shah Rukh was Asoka but my role had an edge too. Cinema is not to be viewed as male-centric and female-centric. It is to be seen as strong content v/s weak content.

No film with Saif on the anvil…
Nothing so far. We will consider it if someone offers us something substantial.


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