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April 19, 2000

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'I don't differentiate between films'

Karisma Kapoor Karisma Kapoor's path to success has been a long one. It was not easy for her to live under the shadow of her famous kin, especially since they disapproved of her desire to become an actress. But that did not deter her from reaching her goal. Today, she is not just Raj Kapoor's granddaughter. She has a definite identity of her own.

From raunchy numbers to serious roles, Karisma has come a long way. She will not ignore the David Dhawans who helped her reach the top, but she she will also not turn down a Shyam Benegal.

She has, in her decade-old career, covered three distinct phases. The first saw her doing films like Raja Babu which won her acclaim as a dancer and attracted the requisite controversies. Then came Raja Hindustani, which won her both the Filmfare Award and recognition as an actress. At present, she is in the third phase, doing more serious roles and consolidating her position as an established actress.

On the sets of Khalid Mohammed's Fiza, she looked happy and lovely in a black salwar kameez. She completed her scene with ease before sitting down to talk with Sharmila Taliculam about her career and future. ExcerptsÖ

You have charted your career very well by working with different filmmakers like David Dhawan, Shyam Benegal and Kundan Shah.

I have never really used any strategy. I go by my instinct. I do whatever I feel I should do. I have never planned or manipulated anything in my career. Whatever has happened has taken a natural course. I just felt that I liked these stories and I wanted to be a part of it.

With Bobby Deol in Hum To Mohabbat Karega Your next release is Kundan Shah's Hum To Mohabbat Karega. What is the film about?

Itís like any other Kundan Shah film. Itís about a television reporter who has her own show, where they solve murder mysteries. There is this boy who is a big fan of hers and how he lies about a murder to get to her. That makes the backdrop of the movie. My role is very interesting. There is a lot of comedy and suspense. It has been fun doing the film.

Kundanji's comedy is very different from David Dhawan's comedy. Doing dramatic scenes does not make you a good actress, as people think. The most difficult aspect of acting is comedy and most dramatic actresses have not even attempted it. The timing and the spontaneity is important, you have to keep the scene alive because there is not much dialogue involved. You have to take small things and make them look funny, which is more difficult than just saying two pages of dialogues. I find comedy more challenging, more fun and I think people like to have a few laughs as well.

What was working with Kundan Shah like?

Itís been fun working with Kundanji because he is a wonderful person. His films have a lot of humorous dialogues. It's fun interacting with your co-star.

With Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Shah Rukh Khan in Dil To Pagal Hai Since you are doing so many films with different filmmakers, are you saying you are ready to take risks with your career?

Even Dil To Pagal Hai was a risk, considering most actresses refused to do the role. I took it up when Madhuri's success was at its peak. I have always taken risks. When I joined this industry, I wanted to make it. I wanted to prove myself as an actress and be at the top.

I am sure everybody dreams of reaching a certain height. Thankfully, it happened with me. My hard work paid off with Raja Hindustani. I wanted to win an award and I got one. Then I got the National Award for DTPH. I feel I have achieved what I wanted to.

Today people think since I have four hits like Biwi No 1, Haseena Maan Jaayegi, Hum Saath-Saath Hai and even Jaanwar to my credit, what else could I want? I feel that all this is an added bonus for me. It's like the icing on the cake. I have proved myself over the years. With me, itís never been that I gave a hit and I have become the rage like itís happening these days.

Do you think you have been lucky?

I have sustained my position for a very long time. I feel a hit and a flop don't really matter. I have given so many box office hits, how many more should I be giving? I hope you understand what I am trying to say. Now I want to do films where I get satisfaction as an actress.

In the beginning, I did films because I had to do everything. When you are young and starting out, you want to do everything. Then you realise itís quality that matters, not quantity. And, over time, you realise that in that quality, it should also satisfy you as an actress.

With Shyam Benegal on the sets of Zubeida Today, nothing is permanent in this industry. Every Friday things change. People's box office ratings are changing. I have proved to myself that I am at the top. Now I want to do films where I am creatively satisfied. Itís so wonderful that Zubeida happened to me at the right time in my career.

How did Zubeida happen?

When I got a call from Shyamji, I was so surprised that he wanted me to act in his film. I think itís a compliment for any actress because Shyamji has worked with the best actresses. He also complimented me when he spoke to a magazine and said I reminded him of Smita and Shabana when he started working with them. What more could I have asked for? My biggest achievement is that I am able to do commercial films and a Shyam Benegal film.

Everybody has hits and flops and good performances and bad performances, but to sustain the kind of position I have is a big thing. To get an opportunity to do a film with a maker of the calibre of Shyam Benegal, when I have a David Dhawan film and an Indra Kumar film and a Kundan Shah film on the floors, is a big achievement. My main agenda is to do films which satisfy me as a performer.

Do you play an older character in Zubeida?

Not at all. In fact, it is tailor made for me. The film starts with this girl being 14 and traces her life till her death in her late twenties. In that short period, whatever highs and lows that one can go through in one's entire life, this young girl experiences.

It's a wonderful character; it has so much depth and sensitivity. It is a difficult character to play. Itís very challenging and I am not saying it like the others do. Normally, so many actresses have done roles which range from young to old, but nobody has done a role which covers such a short period. To go through divorce, then childbirth and then meeting a prince and falling in love is the challenging twist in Zubeida.

Karisma Kapoor This is the biography of the writer of the film. Did you feel any pressure in trying to justify the role?

Yeah, it is his mother's biography. And the only pressure I had was that Shyamji should be happy with my performance. He says he is and he has paid me a great compliment. So it has been worth all the effort. I don't think Shyamji would cast anybody just for the sake of casting.

Fiza is another film, which is very different. It is not the regular heroine kind of role. I play the title role in both these films. Fiza is about an angry young woman. She is in search of her brother and itís a very emotional film. Very hard hitting.

One notices certain maturity in your acting since DTPH. How have you grown as an actress?

Today, anybody can sing and dance around trees. These days, everybody is looking good and wearing good clothes and singing good songs. So you have to do something different and you have to keep growing constantly. Eventually, I am here to act. I never needed the money or the glamour. My family provided that. I just want to satisfy the craving for acting. I love to act, to perform.

For the last 50 years, actresses have had to struggle to reach the top. Vyjayanthimala, Hema Malini, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Rekha, all the top actresses have had to struggle. But when you start from the top, then where do you go from there? There are only few top banners and then you have to start working with other people too. So that would be a comedown for them.

Are you moving towards a different genre of cinema, now that you are successful?

Normally, actresses who haven't made it in the commercial bracket or are old enough want to do such films. I really feel lucky that both donít apply to me and still I get these offers. I am happy that I can get the best of both worlds.

To be honest, I donít differentiate between films. Like this is an art film and this is a commercial film. For me, a film is a film. They can be either good or bad. I am an actress and I am here to act in a film. Then it could be a David Dhawan film, or a Shyam Benegal film or a Khalid Mohammed film.

Would you consider yourself lucky that makers like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani have jumped on to the commercial bandwagon?

Yeah, I consider myself very lucky because roles like Fiza or Zubeida donít come every day. But, if you see, I have done different roles apart from the regular ones. Like in DTPH, I did not play the conventional heroine's role. But people's minds and tastes are changing. The youth of today recognises a good performance.

Do you think you were appreciated in DTPH?

Honestly, I did feel that if I had it in me to do well in that role, and believe me I had the confidence, I thought people would notice me. And what better chance to prove myself than in a Yash Chopra film, opposite Madhuri Dixit and Shah Rukh Khan? You have to take risks and you have to do something different.

Different as in...?

With Aamir Khan in Raja Hindustani I have worked a lot on my looks. In Raja Hindustani, which released in '96 and DTPH, in Hero No 1 which released in '98 and Biwi No 1... in all of them my look has been different. From my hairstyle to my makeup and clothes. In Jaanwar, I was a simple girl who only wears kajal and a choti. In Dulhan Hum Le Jaayenge, I wore a short wig.

Apart from the performance, I think looking good is also important. Wearing a short outfit doesnít mean that you are glamorous or sexy. You have to grow in that as well. You owe that to your fans.

There are so many actresses who look the same in every movie. They look nice, but they look the same. And I am so glad that people do notice these things about me. I was sitting in a restaurant and somebody came up to me and complimented me for the way I look in Jaanwar. The kind of reaction I got for a film like Jaanwar is amazing. So these are also small achievements by themselves.

I will give you an example. DTPH was a rage for its exercise gear. Normally what would a heroine do? She would wear the gear for the next four or five films. Despite the fact that people liked me in those clothes, I didn't repeat myself in other films. In Haseena Maan Jaayegi, I have worn men's trousers and short tops and people appreciated and liked it.

Do you think of clothes and makeup and your overall look by yourself?

I do think of it myself and I do have my designers, my friends and my family who give suggestions and opinions. Itís good to have feedback from everyone.

You were going to do another film with Kundan Shah, Loveria?

Unfortunately, itís stalled. Itís complete, but I donít know whatís happening to it.

With Salman Khan in Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge One notices that many of the film-makers who work with you generally repeat you.

I donít see why you canít vibe well with someone if you are professional. That's when they want to take you again in their forthcoming films. It's not only the directors, itís also producers who have done two, three and sometimes four movies with me. I think I am one of the very few actresses, apart from Madhuri, who has been repeated by film-makers so often.

But you donít make personal relationships. You are very professional. How does that work?

I donít know. But I am very professional. I take my work as seriously as any profession. I love what I do and it is a very creative field. I feel that it ought to be that way because there are so many stakes. They are so high that you have to be professional today. You have to be disciplined.

How do you feel about your No 1 status?

In 1996, I was the No 1 actress because of Raja Hindustani. Kajol was nowhere around because she did not have any significant releases. Then, the next year, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai happened and people were chanting Kajol's name. I didnít have any release that year. Now, again, I am at the top. It feels great because you have worked so hard that you feel good about yourself. Eventually, though, these numbers donít matter.

Till yesterday, Shah Rukh Khan was called the Badshah of Bollywood and now there is someone else they are raving about. The fact is, I have proved myself and the audience knows that. I am glad I am in a position to pick and choose my roles. I think my fans like that. They are happy I am doing a Fiza and a Zubeida today, despite them loving me in David Dhawan films.

So your hard work has paid off finally?

Yes, today I feel all my hard work has paid off. Those barbs and brickbats made me a stronger person and helped me reach where I am. I have no regrets, no bad feelings or ill feelings towards anybody. I feel it is a part of life, part of being in the industry.

How do you feel about your sister Kareena vying for the same roles as you?

With sister Kareena She won't be doing that so soon, but later maybe. And it would be great. After all, she is my sister and I wish her all the best. I hope nobody is too harsh on her because she is my sister and they think she would have had it easy. But she is like any other newcomer. Itís not our fault that we or other star children are born into the family we come from.

The good thing is that she is doing something different. The movie she is acting in is not a regular heroine role. Like wearing a mini skirt and dancing around trees with one sad scene, one happy scene and one song. Though she wants to do the regular roles too, she is starting out with a different role. I hope people appreciate that.

But she is kept strictly under wrapsÖ

As of now. That's because her role is very different. I think she should be open to talking in a month or so.

What are you future plans?

I never had any plans. People used to ask me after DTPH, what next? Like I got the National Award too, so what would I want to do? And I only knew that I wanted to do something different. Luckily, it happened with Zubeida and Fiza.

Would you want to make a film for yourself?

That's a difficult question. I donít know. Maybe. The right subject has to come. Because, if I have to make a movie, it has to be really nice. I donít act in films for the awards I can get, I act because I want to. It gives me creative satisfaction. If the awards come, then itís great. Whatever the fate of the movies are, the fact is I have really enjoyed working in them. They are amazing roles for any actress. And I am lucky to get them.

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