(This interview by Anna MM Vetticad first appeared in The New Indian Express on September 25, 2011.)
HEADLINE: “I can’t keep doing performance-oriented roles like Jab We Met”
HEADLINE: “Having something substantial in a Salman Khan film – that hasn’t happened to any actress in the last five years!”
Kareena Kapoor’s friends say that her famed lack of diplomacy has been tempered by her relationship with Saif. Fortunately her frankness remains intact, as Consulting Editor Anna M.M. Vetticad found during this interview:
How did you get involved in Bodyguard?
When Salman saw the original film, I think the first thing that he told his sister was, if we’re making this movie I want Kareena to play this character. When I watched the original Malayalam film I loved the girl’s role. Having something substantial in a Salman Khan film – that hasn’t happened to any actress in the last five years!
So it’s important to you that your role should be substantial?
Absolutely. Golmaal 3 had so many male characters but I was very sure that the female lead has to be the focus. After a decade in the industry, the most important thing for me is that I must have an equal role to the male in my movies.
Is it easy to find substantial roles as an actress?
Not when you constantly focus on the fact that you want performance-oriented roles. And I don’t mean to sound stand-offish or cocky but the fact is that you’re offered work on the basis of your talent, because ultimately you have to act, you know.
Have you interpreted your role differently from the way Nayantara did in the Malayalam Bodyguard?
The Malayalam film was made for the south Indian palate. We’ve tweaked it for northern audiences.
What is the difference between the southern and northern palate?
People here like to see action with a bit of the typical Salman comedy. All that has to be incorporated into a Salman film. The treatment of our films is different to what the south does. Though I feel some of the south Indian scripts are fantastic, they’re ahead of their times, especially Malayalam. They’re better than our Bollywood films.
You watch a lot of Malayalam cinema?
I don’t, but I’ve seen a few films of Priyan (Priyadarshan) and Siddique has told me about films he’s written. Their ideas are ahead, they’re forthright. It’s more interesting than what we guys come up with.
How was the response to the Hindi Bodyguard in southern India?
No Indian film has had the kind of collections that Bodyguard has had in south India.
No Indian film or no Hindi film?
I mean no Hindi film has got the collections that Bodyguard has got in certain places in south India.
Have you ever been offered roles in southern films?
Yes. But I have a thing that when I don’t understand the language, I don’t think I’ll be able to perform my character. So I’ve constantly stayed away from languages that I don’t understand.
The position of women in Bollywood was better in the black and white days than it has been since the 1970s. Are we returning to a phase when heroines will have more longevity than in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s?
I think so. It’s also on the basis of talent and how you look. Yes there is a longer innings for women of this generation for sure.
After a long time we’ve had someone like Aishwarya who did not slow down on her career post-marriage. Since the 1990s it’s been assumed that if an actress got married she’d slow down for 5/10 years, then maybe come back. Do you think Aishwarya’s career track has opened doors for younger heroines like you?
I completely come from this school of thought, the Meryl Streep school where your talent will take you places. If you can work for 25 years and still do Bridges of Madison County and The Devil Wears Prada, then why not? I hope our cinema will be like that some day.
Has your attitude towards marriage changed? I remember you once saying in an interview, “I won’t be one of those actresses who gets married and still continues acting” and “what’s the point of getting married if you do that?”
When I am married I want to give more time to family and to the person I love. I think I can manage. I mean I’m the only actress in the last decade who has balanced her professional and personal life. I’ve managed beautifully till now, touchwood. I am absolutely proud of the fact that I clearly do have a life apart from films. I sleep, breathe, eat films when I am on set, but I enjoy a life apart from this. My passion is films, but I am also passionate about love, so I balance both and I want to continue doing so forever.
You think you are the only actress of your generation who has managed to balance her personal and professional life?
Not everybody is open about a relationship. I don’t know of any actress who has ever said, I am going out and I do have a personal life, the way me and Saif are. For some strange reason nobody likes to be as public as we’ve been. For me love is a celebration and I would want everyone to know when I am in love because there is nothing wrong in it.
Salman is on a high right now, but Shah Rukh has not had a release for 19 months and in between he did a TV show that didn’t do well. Any concerns on that front?
These things keep changing from Friday to Friday. Somebody’s film will work on a particular Friday and somebody else’s will not, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are superstars.
Why didn’t you accept Heroine when you were first approached for it?
I was busy.
Was it not because you couldn’t agree on the money?
I didn’t reach that stage. I was shooting five movies together, so it was impossible to do the movie at that point.
Did it have anything to do with disagreements over the script?
Not at all.
You were approached again after Aishwarya was dropped from it. She’s Abhishek’s wife and Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter-in-law. Since there’s a very small pool of talent in the industry, do actors need to worry about such things?
I said yes to the movie on the basis of the script. What happened is not my concern. I hope actors sign movies on the basis of their script – that’s what I do. There are movies that I haven’t done that somebody else has done, how does that matter? We’re here to do our work, not to hold hands and sing in the park.
But there’s a difference between Heroine and films that you have not done which others have accepted in the past. The parting of ways with Aishwarya was very public and unpleasant. Are you not worried that your acceptance of this role will affect your relationship with Aishwarya, Abhishek or Amitabh Bachchan?
I don’t see it in that light at all. It’s quite shocking that people would think that. They have their own life, and the Kapoors have the deepest and utmost regard and respect for the Bachchans and vice versa, so this is not something that has crossed my mind for a minute.
Is a film like Jab We Met more creatively satisfying than a Bodyguard?
Yeah, of course but we must balance every kind of film. It just so happened that Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir, Saif all happened to want me in their movies in one particular year. And I can’t keep doing performance-oriented roles like Jab We Met. I must balance the small films, the big films, do a mix of everything.
Is it infuriating that when films fare brilliantly at the box office, the industry and the country as a whole tend to credit the success primarily to the hero?
India and our industry in particular are male dominated, but with me there’s always been an exception. Bodyguard, for instance, will always be a Salman Khan-Kareena Kapoor film because the girl had such a strong character. It wasn’t just that I was showing up in the songs. I would never want to do that.
(Anna M.M. Vetticad is on Twitter as @annavetticad)
Related link: Kareena Kapoor profile
Photograph courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/BBThisEid
Note: This photograph was not sourced from The New Indian Express