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Do I think Salmans advice has been important?
Yes,its been invaluable. Hes had a very strong basic sense of the working of the film industry,so yes,I think its been invaluable. But its quite similar to Anushka Sharma and all other YRF protégés having Adi (Aditya Chopra) advise them
I do feel that I have made some safe choices,but I dont regret it because they were necessary at that time. Right or wrong
Seated in her plush suburban apartment as she instructs the house-help in crisp,chaste Hindi,Katrina Kaif seems firmly in command of her life. With a row of hits behind her and some impressive projects in the kitty-Dhoom 3 with Aamir Khan,Bang Bang opposite Hrithik Roshan and director Kabir Khans next with Saif Ali Khan,the statuesque beauty is much in demand,the competition notwithstanding.
Presently in news for her small role in Bombay Talkies (a young boy wants to be Sheila and dance like her),Kaif is clearly stepping into a new phase of her career. For starters,she has just got out of a gruelling action sequence in Dhoom 3 which caused her severe bruising across her legs. She looks fighting fit and is raring to get into the action mode.
Follow you dreams is what she says in an television interview (in the film) . With a slew of hits about 20 in a career spanning nine years,Kaif of course has not just followed her dream but is living it! In a lengthy conversation with Screen,she puts into perspective her enviable success, learning curve and why she will never stop offering suggestions. Heres why:
You were all of 17 when you came to Mumbai to pursue a modelling career,so did you find the city and country intimidating?
When you grow up in different countries,moving around every month,there is nothing very daunting about it. And when you are 17,nothing in the world scares you. You are just roaming the world and wherever you feel happy and wanted,you hang around there. I have always been travelling so I am good with new places,plunging into new situations and I was very happy here. Besides being Indian by heritage,I always felt a sense of belonging. I have never really been scared by things.
In Bombay Talkies,you say follow your dreams,what was your journey like when following some of your own?
(Laughs) Those were scripted lines. I was modelling and I had set certain targets in modelling in terms of the big campaigns I wanted to do which I thought would make me happy. And when it kind of happened,I felt that I had reached my goal. I am very restless that way,once I have set goals,my mind starts wandering towards new challenges. And also when you have friends in the film industry,you do get offers. Most models get offers here and it seemed like a natural progression. Ram Gopal Varma had offered me Sarkar and Davidji (Dhawan) had offered me Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya,both of which I acted in.
Were you disappointed with Boom,your debut film? Did that not make a career in Bollywood seem even more daunting?
I didnt feel anything when Boom didnt work because I was 17 and at that time,it wasnt a thought out decision. It was in English so I was like,whatever. There was no sense of anything. I wasnt even ready or trying to be anything at that point of time. As a model I was working very hard and training and then when I had reached a certain place,I was like,let me see what I can do.
How did you go about learning Hindi?
I had a tutor,so the first thing I learnt was to read Devnagri script. I would never want to be in a position where in case I would not have to ask for help (to read my lines). And slowly with classes and on-sets experience,you start getting a greater comfort level.
As a newcomer and one who was not well versed with the language,was being on the sets intimidating?
Initially on the sets of Humko Deewana Kar Gaye I was a little intimidated not because of the film industry per se,but I was 18. Akshay (Kumar) was so big and tall,everyone seemed scary,the hours were long and I was just overwhelmed. I was like,this is hard!
But even that got over in a few days and I was happy-happy,bouncy bouncy. I think the whole journey was fun. Sure it was little awkward in the beginning. For instance,there is a song sequence and you are completely out of your depth. You dont know what you are doing! But thats also the fun in life,trying out things,realising you are bad and then getting better. Teaching yourself, improving… I think thats the fun part of the journey.
How much of your success would you attribute to destiny?
I think its a lot about your destiny. I am a religious person and I think God does have a plan for you,but beyond that it is about how driven you are. I am very driven. Ek Tha Tiger with Salman (Khan) and me was a huge success even though everyone was saying it wouldnt work,Yashjis film was also a dream. It was very important for me to be a part of a Yash Chopra film,but I still feel that theres something that needs to be done. Like doing something a little different all over again. Its not like now you have done this,so youve achieved everything. At least not for me. I feel theres a lot more that I can do and I must do.
How much credit would you give to Salmans guidance,especially in the early years of your career?
I cant speak for other people but at the end of the day,your work has to credit you and it has to take you forward,but personally do I think Salmans advice has been important? Yes,I think its been invaluable. Hes had a very strong basic sense of the working of the film industry,so thats helpful. But its quite similar to Anushka Sharma and all other YRF protégés having Adi (Aditya Chopra) advise them. In my case having Salman and his circle to give me advice was definitely very useful and very important.
And yet you have always had your own opinions and have never been shy of voicing them…
Movie-making is a collaborative effort,so an actor has to bring alive the character and you need the director to guide what you are doing. You have to give suggestions and the director will reject or accept,but from my experience,I have found that most successful partnerships usually come when the director and actor have a very good dialogue. There is no sense of Just do what you are told.
You have worked with some of the finest actors,directors and technicians. So,are there any trade secrets you have learnt?
I have worked with really good people,so with everyone I have observed and picked up little things. Like Akshays work ethic. He was the first one to talk to me about how someone has to approach the industry,the hours,the preparation. With Akshay I had a great sense of comfort and mutual respect,so everything came very effortlessly and naturally. It was the same with the team of New York; I was very comfortable with everyone.
I remember Anil Kapoor teaching me the importance of focussing before a shot. During Welcome,I was playing around in a corner,he was like,What are you doing? I said I was playing and he was like,I wouldnt,if I were you! So little things like that. Or for instance,Salman is spontaneous which tells you that dont take it too seriously also. Just be attentive and find something.
And what about your more recent co-stars,Aamir Khan,Hrithik Roshan and Shah Rukh Khan?
Aamir is a very easy person to work with. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that he is very approachable. Hes not judging me. I keep on giving suggestions and they are always rejected. But theres a nice sense of fun about it because he respects all fellow actors. Hes not complicated at all. And hes got a good mind.
Hrithik is all belief in what hes doing. As an actor when you are standing in front of the other person,somehow,you can see if that person has it figured out or not. The camera may or may not pick it up,but a co-star will. Hrithik is very unmovable in a shot. When hes giving a shot,its a life and death kind of situation for him. I find him a very great actor.
And Shah Rukh is a thorough gentleman. Hes nice and kind and professional and hes been known for that. I think he is as involved with his co-stars scenes as with his own and is very helpful in that way. Hes a team player.
You are known to be very sensitive,so what kind of work environment brings out the best in you?
Being uninhibited with my directors,feeling love from them,feeling that they trust me helps. Like it was with Yashji or Prakashji (Jha). Hes very kind and was never like,You might not be able to do this.
What comes in the way is if I dont feel very happy and nurtured and loved on the film set,then I wont be able to do my best. Acting is a very delicate thing. You have to be all out there in front of the camera,so you have to feel very secure and confident. And if you dont feel that,its a disaster.
Having achieved so much,do you still feel there is room for improvement?
Regardless of the success and failure of a film,I have a very clear-cut idea of exactly what has been achieved or not achieved with a particular film. I am very critical and self aware,I should say. I know exactly what I have or have not achieved even if the movie is a hit. So having said that,yes,even though I have been very fortunate,that most of my movies have done well,when I am going to sleep at night or sitting by myself during the day,I know in my heart,what I have,or havent achieved. Its not like I sit on a cloud and say,It doesnt matter or I dont care.
I also feel that you must stand by a film because no matter what,you have done it. Unless something has gone drastically wrong,you must never put your hands up and say,Oh,this didnt go right or That didnt go right.
Katrina,your earlier choices were more commercial in nature,so with success,will you be more experimental?
Film-making is not an exact science,sometimes you have to make the best of what you have and make it work. But sure,there is a change of perspective. Whether it was Akshay,Salman or Vipul Shah,I was learning and understanding from people that I was working with. I do feel that I have made some safe choices,but I dont regret it because they were necessary at that time. Right or wrong. Now with the way things are going,I could pursue some work for personal satisfaction and hopefully,that will come. Also,I cant stand those kind of pretentious projects where things are done just to appear different. But if I see something genuine,then I also want to step up and take the challenge. Hopefully that will happen.
Your sister Isabelle is following your footsteps -did you have any plans to launch her?
My sister is doing an English film,but I am not launching her. Its not the main role but the film is an interesting one and shes quite happy about it. She was doing an acting course in New York before this.
Did you ever consider signing up for an acting course yourself?
I really think it would be fun. I did go for a few of her classes when I was visiting her in New York. I got what they were saying it was making sense,but I thought I already got that by being on the sets. Having said that,its like exercise the more you do it,the easier it gets. Muscle memory kind of. The more I do the dance steps,the easier,more natural I find it; acting is also like that .
After achieving so much,what are the newer challenges that you would like to take on? Also,any film that you would certainly like to work in?
I have this overt desire in my head that I want to be great at something. I know its very generic and it sounds like I want to be Alexander (the Great),but I want to be really good at something. It could be a comedy,a serious film,a love story,anything. I want to really experience like an intense process with the director where you have to do research,or get into character,where you spend time with the material that you have.
I probably should not be saying this,but I really want to do a remake of Seeta Aur Geeta.
As someone who is widely emulated what would you say to those who want to be like you?
I did read one quote somewhere which meant that I realise that my goal and the outcome of my goal was not going to be equivalent to my happiness. I think basically we all talk about achievements and for some people,it will be the most important thing in their lives,but it is equally important to be aware of what gives you happiness. If it is being successful and achieving goals,then that is going to drive you through life. If you arent like that and something else gives you happiness,then accept that too. You have to be aware of who you are.