She has an insatiable desire to grow and evolve as an actress but has steadfastly stuck to the commercial genre. No wonder, she’s at the peak of her career besides being a dream for filmmakers to work with. Here’s Kareena Kapoor discussing her next release Heroine and more with Vajir Singh
How important is Heroine to you?
It’s a very important film as it is very close to my heart. Madhur (Bhandarkar) came to me first, then he went away and then he came to me again. So I feel it was in my destiny to be part of the film. Since I was a child, in fact since I was in my mother’s womb, I knew I wanted to become a Heroine. So I can say with confidence that Heroine was just for me. Since the film is about the life of an actress and a superstar, I can connect with it and empathise with it very well. The insecurities, the competition, all that Madhur has shown… I think I can relate to that.
Why did it take so long for the film to roll?
When Madhur offered me the role earlier, I was very busy with Bodyguard, RA.One, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Talaash and Agent Vinod. All these movies were being shot. So my dates were booked for a year and a half. I asked him to wait for me for two years but he said the script was ready and he couldn’t wait that long. He said he couldn’t remain idle for two years. He said, ‘I will take someone else and will do another film with you.’ But that didn’t happen. Finally, when he came back, RA.One and Bodyguard had just released and I was free. Anyway, I always wanted to do this film.
Were you aware that, more than you doing the film, talk would revolve around you replacing Aishwarya Rai Bachchan?
That’s OK. Lots of people replace each other. Others have replaced me in films I couldn’t do. And I believe ki har ek film ki destiny hoti hai ki use kaun karega. Somewhere down the line, Madhur and I have always wanted to work together. From Chandni Bar, Fashion, Corporate…he’s offered me so many films.But this film had to happen.
Why didn’t you want to do Fashion or Corporate?
At that point in my career, I wasn’t sure of doing a performance-oriented film. I was not sure whether I should do films like those. I was scared and I was also busy. During Fashion, I was busy with Golmaal Returns. And both films released together.
Why were you afraid?
After all, you did Chameli and Dev at the beginning of your career.That’s when I decided that I wanted to do more commercial films. It was obvious that I wanted all my movies to do well, so I opted for commercial films like Golmaal Returns. Now, I am at a stage where I would like to do a film like Heroine, which is fulfilling for me as an actor and, at the same time, commercial. I mean, with songs and everything, it’s full-on commercial. I think it’s Madhur’s best work to date.
Having literally been a ‘heroine’ for so many years, did you offer any inputs when Madhur Bhandarkar came to you with the script?
No, I didn’t suggest anything yet the story is so real. Madhur has portrayed certain things that will surprise many people. Actors ke life mein this does happen. And he has shown insights into Bollywood. He has not shied away from reality.
You have friends and family in the film industry. Is there anything in the film that may not go down well with them?
I know Madhur sensationalises his films but ultimately it’s the box office numbers that matter. And if it’s a hit, then koi poochta nahi. I don’t care about anything. I am very selfish about my films. I want all my films to do well. This is a challenging film because it’s not an expose but the story of a girl.
Does your character in the film mirror your life?
Mahi is very volatile. She is very funky. And aise log hote hain. From the very first shot, it is clear that she is slightly off. On the contrary, I am very balanced and straightforward and not like Mahi, who doesn’t spare a thought for the future. She only lives in the present. She wants instant success and instant love. There are girls like that, and I think that’s the beauty of this character. By the end of the film, you will feel choked with emotion.
It’s almost a decade since you made your debut. Being a heroine, what changes have you seen?
I think we give a lot of importance to a heroine’s life, and yet we ask, ‘Heroine-oriented films chalti hain kya?’ Of course, it is a male-dominated industry. And ‘70s and ‘80s mein, bhi aisa tha. It was all about Bachchanji at that time. Now it’s Shah Rukh and Salman Khan. But there were also actresses like Sharmilaji, Hemaji, Sridevi, Kajol and Karisma. Sharmilaji worked with Rajesh Khanna in Amar Prem but it was her film. Ditto for Aradhana. Toh aisi baat nahi hai ki heroines are not equal.It’s all about being talented. If you’re talented, how can gender demoralise you?
Isn’t it more challenging to be an actress than an actor?
In terms of performance, yes. Actors don’t want to take risks as they fear that commercialism chali jayegi.
Are you saying that heroes are more insecure?
(Laughs) Men are always insecure. I am very happy that I did this film, and regardless of whether it’s a super-hit or a blockbuster, I will never ever regret working in this film. When people watch the film, every girl will want to do a film like Heroine. Nobody wants to be a doll. It gets tiring.
Was it easy to play this character as you have known the director for a long time?
Madhur has been great. I didn’t know Madhur closely before Heroine, only professionally. But on the first day of the shoot, we simply clicked. He is impulsive like me. He’s always, like, ‘Chalo chalo shooting karni hai.’ Even when we are doing an emotional scene, he is, like, ‘Kuch kar, kuch jalwa dikha yaar, jhandu kar and Jai Maharashtra.’ He has turned me into a proper Maharastrian. Saif says that to me. If you’re working with Madhur, you have to talk like that. He is a very nice guy and very earthy. He knows what it is like to struggle. After all, he rose from being an absolute nobody to a National Award-winning director. I like people like that. I don’t like people who have not struggled at all.
Going forward, will you do more performance-oriented movies or…
(Cuts in) I will always do commercial films. And actors perform even in commercial films. But from now on, I would want to play different-different characters, a perfect mixture. You know, beech mein ek romcom aa gayi toh I will always do it. Like, I am doing Punit’s (Malhotra) film for Karan Johar. KJo is like family. For me, Dharma Productions ki film jo bhi ho, there will be certain expectations. It will be a good film and I will look beautiful in it. It is always safe and who says ‘no’ to Karan? Then I’m doing Prakash Jha’s Satyagrah with Ajay Devgn, who is having the best time of his career right now, and usme there will be performance too. There will be powerful scenes between Ajay, Mr Bachchan and myself. So I will always try to balance things. I am also doing an item number in Dabangg. It’s all about balance.
Do you think some filmmakers pass you up as they assume you might get married and ‘settle down’?
(Laughs) Arrey yaar, this marriage thing has become a national joke! I will not stop acting, and my best is yet to come, starting with Heroine. Saif and I have been living together for the last five years and people come to the house to meet me and him. He is very relaxed. He’s always wondering why people are over-reacting to this.