The actor talks about her underrated turns, her latest film, ‘Good Newwz’, and looks back on 19 years in Hindi cinema
In her 19th year as a leading lady, with a filmography of almost 60 films, Kareena Kapoor Khan added show host with Dance India Dance 7 and continued as host of radio talk show What Women Want. She rounds off the year with the comedy Good Newwz, about a mix up in the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic, where the samples of two couples with the same name get interchanged. The 39-year-old actor also finished shooting for Angrezi Medium and started shooting for Laal Singh Chaddha, the Indian remake of Forrest Gump, in which she steps into the part of Jenny, played by Robin Wright in the original. From Nazneen in Refugee to Poo in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham..., Dolly in Omkara and Preet in Udta Punjab, Kapoor Khan has gone from poster girl for size zero to a working mother challenging Bollywood stereotypes. Edited excerpts from an interview:
After two decades in the film industry, are you still open to auditioning or reading for a part?
Actually the first time I auditioned for a part was when I read scenes for Laal Singh Chaddha. I was, of course, keen on working with Aamir Khan again (after 3 Idiots and Talaash). He is a genius mind in the film fraternity and it is always special to work with him. Plus, Forrest Gump is such an iconic film, with a strong love story. For these reasons I was open to auditioning for the part.
Like Aamir Khan, you too have succeeded in staying relevant, from your debut in ‘Refugee’ (2000) to now. Did you work on that consciously?
Yes. It has been a conscious decision to keep reinventing myself and to work hard, which is how people continue to love and respect you. I don’t want to live in a starry bubble. I live a normal life and this is evidenced by the decisions I made, such as getting married at the peak of my career, even though people were advising against it, or having Taimur when I was still working. These are the bigger and more important decisions and that’s how I want to live.
Would you describe yourself as ambitious?
Yes, but ambition comes in different forms. In my case, I am hungry for good parts. I am hungry to better myself. I don’t want to run in the race. My ambition is not fuelled by competition. Over the last 20 years, I have run the race four-five times over. I am more interested in finding one-two good parts every year and exploring interesting characters. I am excited to work with talented actors, like Aamir and Ranveer Singh.
Work is very important to me but I only want to do one or two films a year. Next year the focus will be on Laal Singh Chaddha and Takht. The rest of the time I want to look after my son. Saif (Ali Khan) is the same. He is obsessed with his son and we are equal partners when it comes to parenting and being with Taimur.
Is there any specific kind of film or part you are craving?
I have done my fair share of romances, comedies and dramas. So what I am looking for is a really good thriller. I have not done one since Talaash (2012). With Takht, I already have a costume drama coming up and I am looking forward to working with Karan (Johar) again, 20 years after Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.... A lot has happened in that time. We are both very different now as director and as actor.
What do you think of the younger stars working today?
I think the younger actors are quite brave in their decisions and the audience is also embracing their different films and work on various platforms. I think Alia (Bhatt) is stunning. She is so good. It’s great to see her work and her choices. For example, I did Chameli at 21 and she too did Highway so early on in her career. Ranbir (Kapoor) and Ranveer are stupendous.
Is your next release, ‘Good Newwz’, about assisted pregnancy and IVF or is it simply a comedy of errors?
It’s a comedy of errors. We are not making a documentary on IVF. It’s an entertaining film, but it also gives weightage and respect to the emotion of a couple trying to have children.
Of the 60 or so films you have done, are there any parts you feel are underrated?
I think Mira from Mani Ratnam’s Yuva (2004), because it is quite difficult to play a normal girl and make her relatable, and Mahi in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine. But, overall, I have no regrets.
You call yourself an instinctive actor. Does that mean you don’t do any homework?
I am instinctive, but I am also very prepared, to the extent that I even know my co-star’s lines. I was shooting for Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and (director) Shakun Batra had changed a few words in Imran Khan’s dialogue. When I told Shakun that I had noticed he had made that change, he was surprised that I was so well-prepared. He said, you have conned the world. I may have a laugh on set but that does not mean I don’t take my work seriously.
I think the first and most important step is to know your lines and the milieu so you can really get into the nuances of the performance. The next step is to experiment and figure out how it looks on camera. I also rely a lot on my director because ultimately he or she is the one delivering the baby and giving instructions to push.
How difficult is it to maintain a work-life balance?
It is not easy. You have to put in a lot of effort. I am very practical and firm about my availability. My manager is informed about the dates when I am unavailable and the time that is dedicated to my family or my travels. I am also very invested in my son. There is no rulebook on parenting. Every mother’s journey is their own, so I am learning with him, and doing my best. I am a good yogi. I can stand on one leg and I can maintain balance.
Good Newwz releases on 27 December.
Udita Jhunjhunwala is a Mumbai-based writer, film critic and festival programmer.