Kareena Kapoor Khan just hit an elegant 18th year in the film industry and somehow, it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago when she impressed with her confident turn in Refugee.
“Kareena Kapoor is to the camera born…” was how film glossies had described her debut. It was true. Two things set the actress apart from the crowd since her salad days—her confidence and an individualistic streak which reflected in her work.
Starting out with an earthy role in a film about a human story across the Indo-Pak border instead of Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, which she was supposed to be a part of, the actress always liked to mix it up in the work department. The former allowed scope to showcase her potential as an actress whereas the latter, a love story followed the template of the glamorous heroine. Not surprisingly, Kapoor Khan has gone on to be a part of both memorable and forgettable movies and yet the audience still can’t get enough of her. The success of her recent outing Veere Di Wedding is proof of her longstanding popularity despite the arrival of newer talent on the scene.
A born performer, her career choice did not surprise anyone in her family or friend circle. After all, she was acting long before she faced the cameras.
“My first performance was just dancing to Madhuri (Dixit) and Sridevi’s songs in front of the mirror. Whether it was Ek do teen or whether it was Kaate nahin from Mr India. It was always my performance in front of the audience, which was my mother and father! Whoever was ready to see me I would take off. So I was performing since when I was eight years old,” she recalls with a smile.
I can’t help but ask if her parents are happy the way she turned out and she laughs, adding, “Well, I don’t know back then but now I think they are happy. They have every reason to be happy considering the fact that she has carved a rather successful career. Additionally, unlike women in her family, her work life continued unperturbed even after marriage. If anything, she has been striking a healthy work-life balance right through marriage and motherhood.
What is interesting about Kapoor Khan’s journey through filmi wonderland is that she barely allows herself to be burdened by the expectations of the world at large. Her recent reactions to the debate over feminism which got her a lot of flak on social media is one such. She says, “I don’t like to be tagged. I mean why does it have to be like that? Like this film (Veere Di Wedding) says it’s not a chick flick. If it’s an all-boys movie, it is a bromance. I don’t like these words. Of course, feminism is a legit word. I just said I don’t believe in these kinds of words/tags but I do believe in equality. There are thousands of versions of feminism out there. I am a person who believes in equality. I like to be known as Kareena Kapoor but I am also Kareena Kapoor Khan, I am also Mrs Saif Ali Khan. So if people want to take it in a wrong spirit, it is up to them.”
That her spouse buys into the idea of equality in marriage only helps matters. Speaking of hubby Saif Ali Khan’s influence, she says, “There are many things that he adds to my personality and my life. I think the main thing is that he doesn’t take away my life from me. He has allowed me to be exactly the way I am. He has allowed me to live the life the way I want. It is a very big thing when a man can add to your life rather than subtract and take it away.”
Among other things, he allows her to be a bit of a workaholic! Kapoor Khan admits she can barely relax. “That’s just the way I am. I can’t be at one place and put up my feet,” she fesses up.
Her transition to motherhood, she says was not very different. “I finished Ki & Ka (it released in March 2016) and then I found out I am pregnant. I gave birth in December and I was on set in June (2017). Right through my pregnancy, I was shooting in all shapes and sizes. I shot for every possible brand and suddenly when my tummy was really big, then I was only giving close-up shots. At eight and a half months pregnant, I was like out and about. I wanted to go on with my normal life. It just all happened so fast. I don’t think I was a day at home.”
No wonder then that she lost all the pregnancy weight rapidly, just in the nick of time for the shoot of Veere Di Wedding. However, the girl who made size zero the buzzword in India is hardly enamoured of a particular size unless it’s for a particular role. She would much rather encourage girls and women to be fit and healthy. “I always say one should be just fit and healthy and size has nothing to do with being very fit. It is about how comfortable you are and how happy you are,” cautions the actress.
However, she too finds herself at the receiving end of all kinds of advice post the arrival of baby Taimur in her life especially on how to bring up the baby. “Everybody becomes a doctor, everybody becomes a mother and everyone wants to give their advice which is lovely. I listen to everyone, but nobody can give you advice on being a parent because you have to just experience it yourself. It is something that I have to go through each day. Every day is different. Every morning there is something new to learn. It is pretty much my own journey and I am pretty much doing it my own way,” says the actress with a smile.
We move on to the subject of Taimur, the wonder baby who has the media in a thrall ever since the couple introduced him to the world and announced his name. It was Saif Ali Khan who picked out a name, which went on to create quite a flutter. Speaking of the choice of an exotic baby name for their son, she says, “He (Saif) loves history. He is a fan of Mongol Taimur about whom he had read a lot as a child. He also had a neighbour whose name was Taimur. He was very fascinated with him and used to play with him a lot. That name kind of stayed with him. I think that along with that the fact that name means Iron. When he told me that and I read up on it. I was like if it’s a boy then I would think of him nothing less than an Ironman and I would want him to face his life like that.”
An interesting trivia here – her own name Kareena has been inspired by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s book Anna Karenina. “My mom was reading that book and she just loved the name and she decided on Kareena. My father was fine. It’s a Russian name. My grandfather loved Russia and he used to always go there and (so) in an instant, everyone gave the go-ahead.”
Our conversation has digressed a bit from work-related stuff but it’s evident that between mommy duties and projects lined up in Mumbai—Karan Johar’s Takht and a radio show—unlike colleague Priyanka Chopra she has not yet set her sights on Hollywood.
“I am a huge admirer of Priyanka (Chopra) and I think she is just fantastic and brilliant in what’s she has achieved in her life. But I don’t have that drive and I don’t think I have that kind of ambition. I mean I know exactly what I enjoy doing. I think everyone’s mindset and drive is so different. My son is very small right now and I can do just this much. So I am happy with what’s on my plate,” she replies candidly.
In this instance, Hollywood’s loss certainly is Bollywood’s gain.
Priyanka Sinha Jha is a senior journalist, author and digital media specialist.