'I don't intend doing the David Dhawan kind
Scion of Hindi cinema's first family, also known as the Kapoor clan, Kareena has always been in the news. First as the svelte Karisma's podgy little sister, who vowed she would also enter the film industry and be a big star.
Then, when she actually fulfilled that promise. She lost weight by the kilos and transformed into a beauty with a peaches 'n' cream complexion. And signed on to debut with Hrithik Roshan in Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai.
Some time later, she was out of the film, accused of starry tantrums, misbehavior on the sets, an unbearable motherly influence in the form of Babita and a marked preference for what she thought were more prestigious projects.
Kareena wasn't really upset with the controversy. She already had another very exciting film in her kitty -- J P Dutta's Refugee, which would also launch the Bachchan heir, Abhishek. It was the role of a life and Kareena knew it. No controversies surrounded her in this film; she was on her best behaviour.
Despite rumours of her unprofessionalism, the industry has lapped her up -- some of the films she has signed up include Subhash Ghai's Yaadein, Karan Johar's Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham (both opposite Hrithik Roshan, Abbas-Mustan's Ajnabi opposite Bobby Deol, Vashu Bhagnani's Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai (which will launch Jeetendra's son, Tushar and Chori Chori (opposite Ajay Devgan).
In the interim, she made up with Hrithik, especially after Ghai stated he would, if necessary, prefer to drop her from Yaadein instead of the latter.
But Kareena does not have too much too worry about. Besides the impressive list of films, she has already made quite an impression in the tantalising promos of Refugee now on air. Even though Abhishek is the focus of the limelight in Refugee's press meets across the country and is expected to do well, Kareena may well prove to be the surprise package.
Sukanya Verma spoke to the budding actress -- Kareena claims to prefer that label to that of a star -- in the days preceding her launch in J P Dutta's Refugee.
Considering your background, do you think it was inevitable that you too would enter the industry?
Yeah, I think it was, because I have grown up in that atmosphere. My great grandfather (Prithviraj Kapoor), my grandfather (Raj Kapoor), my parents (Randhir Kapoor and Babita) and my sister (Karisma Kapoor)... everyone has been involved with films. So you can say it was inevitable. Besides, even when I was a kid, I only wanted to be an actress.
What motivated you to actually take the plunge?
Ever since I was a kid, I knew my sister was going to join the industry. I used to see her talking about films. Both of us would chat about it as well. In our family, women were not supposed to join the industry. I guess my sister broke the ice and I am following the tradition.
Didn't you go abroad to pursue your studies?
Yeah, I went to Harvard for a course in microcomputers and information technology. I did it for three months. Then I joined a drama school. That, too, was for a short while. I left studies because I knew I wanted to join the movies.
Who was the first one to know that you wanted to be an actress? What was the general reaction?
My mom, I think. I told her I was keen on joining the movies. She supported me all through it.
Was she surprised?
No, not at all. In fact, as kids, we always used to talk about it and say, "One day we will be in the movies." So she always knew.
Why didn't Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai work out? Do you regret not doing the film?
There was no fight as people are making it out to be. It was probably destined that I was not to be in the film. After all, it was a launch for his (Rakesh Roshan) son. The whole focus was on the boy. Now I am glad I didn't do the movie for reasons I don't want to enumerate. There was no fight as such. The media just made it into a bigger thing, that's why it was stretched. I am even working with Hrithik (Roshan) in two-three films.
Have you seen Kaho Naa...?
Yeah, yeah! I loved the film. I loved Hrithik in the film.
What is Refugee all about? What is your role the film?
Umm... I wouldn't like to talk much about the film, otherwise my director will get angry. Actually, I am not supposed to talk about the film. But, in brief, the film is a love story. It's not about the army, nor is it about war. It's nothing like what people are making it out to be.
I play a Pakistani girl who is in love with a refugee, someone who has no parents and doesn't know his caste. It is a pure love story and terrorists and other angles form the plot.
Refugee is a rather unconventional launch. What made you opt for it?
It is completely different role; it's not the stereotypical role of a college student. I have got a break that is a dream for me. Any other girl of my age will get such a role probably after five years of struggling. I have got it in my first film.
I have got a role that can help me prove I am an actress first. Anybody can dance and wear good clothes. It's no big deal. I don't want to be a dancing star. I want to be known as a powerful actress. I am glad I got this role because it is going to speak for itself.
I wouldn't call it an unconventional launch at all. After all, the film is also launching Amitabh Bachchan's son. J P Dutta has made a successful film like Border. He has also made a lot of unsuccessful films, but they were all critically acclaimed.
Refugee is commercial film. Its music is commercial. People may find it a little slow, but that doesn't make any difference. When they see the film, they will know it is commercial.
Were you nervous on the first day of the shoot?
No, not nervous. I was happy I had a good co-star. The director is like family to me. There was nothing on the sets that made me nervous.
What was the first scene you shot?
It was a romantic scene between Abhishek and me. We were very comfortable from day one because he is part of my family and a close friend of mine. The chemistry was there right from the word go.
What was working in your first film like?
It was tough. It was also a great learning experience because working with J P Dutta is like working with an institution. I am glad I had the opportunity to learn so much about acting from him. It has helped me as an actress and as a person. Through this film I have seen hardships that I've never seen before. He is a hard director to work with because he demands a lot. That demand has to be fulfilled because, eventually, it looks really good on screen.
J P Dutta is known to be a strict disciplinarian...
He is that but, for this film, he changed completely as he was working with two young people. It is amazing, he is not the same guy.
How would you rate Abhishek Bachchan in the film?
As an actor he is better, at least I find him a thousand fold better... His father was the best, but he is going to be better than the best. I am sure about it. As a person he is wonderful, he is one of my closest friends.
Can you tell us an interesting incident that happened during the shooting for Refugee?
A lot of people have asked me this. There wasn't anything outstandingly interesting; something or the other was happening every day. We worked as a team. There was no discrimination in the unit. We were all like one big family. Every moment, every second of the film was to be cherished. There was no exact incident.
You've become a star even before the release of your debut film. Is it overwhelming?
I don't feel overwhelmed. I don't want people to think that I have a star status. It is just that I have such a long lineage behind me. My sister is a big star today. It is because of her that I am getting this importance. People haven't seen me perform on the big screen. I am glad they are treating me like this and giving me star status because I know I will be able to live upto it.
That sounds very confident.
(Smiles) Yeah, I am very sure of my performance.
People are already comparing you with Karisma. Don't you think that's unfair?
It is unfair; people haven't seen me on the screen yet. Right now, though, I don't mind if they say it. Refugee has not hit the theatres yet. As soon as it does, people will know that Karisma and Kareena are poles apart. You cannot spot a single similarity between us on the screen.
Could you elaborate on that?
We are poles apart because... her break was different. She started with a different launch and I am starting with a different launch. It has taken her a lot of time to prove herself as an actress. As persons too, we are different.
I am what I am as a person on screen, at least in Refugee. I am not a good dancer because I don't enjoy dancing. In fact, I hate dancing, so that is one major difference between the two of us. She is a great dancer. I don't intend doing the David Dhawan kind of films as I don't identify that kind of cinema at all.
Has your family seen the film?
Nobody has seen a frame of Refugee. But now, since I am dubbing for the film, they are getting to see scenes of it. But no one has seen the full film. J P Dutta has not show it to anyone.
What kind of reaction are you anticipating?
I don't know. I hope they like whatever I've done, I hope they like my work. Let's see.
Would you have preferred to be launched by your dad?
No, I think my dad couldn't have done what J P Dutta has done for me. He has done it a thousand times more for me. You will be able to see it in the film. He has really given me a great role, portrayed me as a dream come true. Looks wise, as an actress, I have followed whatever he has said. He has helped me give a power-packed performance. With my father, I would have probably taken things for granted. In a way, it's good that my father has not launched me.
Would you like to work with Karisma in any film?
At some point of time, probably. But not right now, it is too early. I have just started. Maybe two-three years from now.
What are your expectations from Refugee?
I want the film to be a very big success. Obviously, everyone says that. Even if the film is a failure and doesn't do well, I am ready for it. I know I will speak from the film. I don't know about anybody else, I am not interested. My role and I should be appreciated in the film, that's what is important.
What other films do you have in the pipeline?
There is Abbas-Mustan's Ajnabi with Bobby Deol.
Is it a remake of Consenting Adults?
Yes, it is a remake. It's a very exciting film and it will be a change for the viewers this year. It will probably be released in December. I play Bobby's wife. We are a young couple. It is a different story. It is a thriller.
Abbas-Mustan's films have a lot of excitement which keep you at the edge of the seat till the end. This is going to be one of those kind of films. Then I am doing Subhash Ghai's Yaadein with Hrithik Roshan and Karan Johar's film Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham with Hrithik again. I am doing a film with Jeetendra's son. It will be Tushar's launch film.
Which will be your next release after Refugee?
Who are the actors who have inspired you?
I have always admired Nargisji and Meena Kumari. They are my idols. I want to and hope to be like them. I hope to bring back the old times with Refugee. As you can see in the promos on television, the film is in the old school style. It is not the typical young crowd thing that everyone is doing. From the old times, Nargisji and Meena Kumari are the ultimate for me.
Of today's stars, I only admire Kajol and my sister. My sister, for her dedication and hard work. And Kajol, because I think she is a brilliant actress.
Among actors, I would say Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. I think they are just too good. I have enjoyed watching all of Amitji's films. And Shah Rukh is great. I will be working with him in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.
How do you chill out?
I like to read. I like to swim. I am a compulsive swimmer because that's the only way I can maintain myself. Although I haven't done it for the past one month, I'll get back to it. I go out a lot, at least five times in a week. I like to meet my friends, either at each other's houses or for dinner. I used to party a lot, but I don't get much time now. I don't like to have late nights, so I've cut down on all that.
Where did you do your schooling?
I was in Jamnabai when I was in Bombay. Then I went to Welham Girl's Boarding School at Dehradun. After school, I returned to Bombay and went to Mithibai College to do my commerce because we used to live in Lokhandwala then. I didn't want to actually attend lectures and I thought that was the only college that wasn't particular.
In between my eleventh and twelfth, I went to Harvard for one summer. I finished my twelfth and joined films. I wasn't inclined towards academics, though I am into reading and I wanted to be a lawyer. I read a lot of law books and I hope to pursue my studies in that direction some day.
If you were granted a wish, what would you ask for?
I would wish to be on the moon. That is my dream. I want to go to the moon someday (smiles).