Kareena Kapoor began her career as an actress 15 years ago, making her debut alongside Abhishek Bachchan in Refugee. It was the ultimate pairing of star progeny.
The granddaughter of the legendary Raj Kapoor and a scion of the famed Kapoor dynasty, Kareena had acting in her blood and yet has always demonstrated the determination to achieve success on her own merit.
Starring alongside the biggest actors of her generation in commercial cinema and also winning critical acclaim for path-breaking performances, Kareena has achieved the rare feat of being a 'star actor' balancing box office success with professional credibility.
As she returns to the big screen alongside Salman Khan in Kabir Khan's Bajrangi Bhaijaan, in an exclusive interview with IBTimesUK, Kareena Kapoor contemplates her growth as an actress and her future in film. She also offers some very good advice for any recent newlyweds out there.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan tells the story of a lost child. Tell us about your role and why this film interested you?
"It's just such a different Salman Khan film. When you see a promo for a Salman Khan film first of course is the humour, the action, the type of mindless comedy, which people love. But this is the first time that I've seen Salman working in a film where in fact the story is talking even more than his performance, or the music. It's the story.
"My part is lovely, because I play a school teacher from Chandi Chowk. It starts off in Kurukshetra and ends up with how he ends up in Chandni Chowk with this little girl. And she kind of helps him to get to Pakistan and pushes him to take the right decisions. She's kind of like the voice of reason, because Pavan, his character is a little slow. He's scared. He's a 'Hanuman ka bhakt'. (devotee of the Hindu god Hanuman) He doesn't want to take any wrong decisions. He wouldn't want to do anything that upsets his family, but she kind of gives him a helping hand. And then of course there's how they fall in love and what exactly happens with that. I think the story is like I said. I don't think I have seen Salman do a film like this for at least a decade.
"I haven't worked with Kabir Khan before. I've worked with Salman in Bodyguard of course, which was wonderful. Kabir and I have known each other. He's worked with Saif in Phantom shoot and that's actually how we met. He said I have a role for you and he told me the idea of the story. And I said:" you know what. I don't care if it's a big part or a small part. I want to do it."
How has the dynamic between you and Salman changed since Bodyguard?
"Bodyguard was more of a romance between both of us. But this is a more human-based story. It's about characters who are involved at this particular time. Whether it's Nawaz's character or Rasika's character or mine. It's more dramatic. It's more real. Bodyguard had its filmi moments. This does as well, but in a very very real way. There's no song and dance and us breaking in to the scene. The romantic angle is very real."
What was it like to work with Kabir Khan for the first time and what did he bring out of you for this performance?
"I think Kabir is a director who is known for making the large blockbuster movies but he makes them very real. Sometimes you make these big pot boiler movies that actually don't much a very much sense. I've done a lot of them and I'm very proud to be a part of them as commercial successes are important and its also as it balances things up. Being a part of the big blockbusters has also been part of my repertoire. Kabir's films are larger than life but they always have a deeper meaning or message and that's what I like. Whether it was New York, or Ek Tha Tiger or Kabul Express he's always taken it to another level."
Can you give an insight for Salman Khan fans what he is like both as a co- artist and as a friend and why is it so special to be the female lead in a movie with Salman?
"He's the biggest and the greatest superstar of his generation. People love him because he's honest, he's real and he makes no bones about what he does. Even I have said it that everyone actor wants to work with Salman Khan and if anybody says that they don't, then its fine. But I don't think it's true because he is the greatest superstar. I don't want to work with him just because I'm excited it's Salman Khan, but because I deeply respect him. I respect his superstardom and people love to see the both of us together. We're here to entertain and yes I understand serious movies and performance orientated roles, but the fact is that if two superstars do come together it has a double value, so why not?"
"My relationship with Salman is not as an actor and an actress. Of course we respect each other's talent, but he treat's me like Lolo's sister. My sister and him they adore each other. When Arbaaz was producer for the first time I was there for Fevicol. The first time Mr Khan decides to run producer after 25 years I'm there again. So I think there's a connection with me and his family."
What did the involvement of Nawazuddin Siddiqui lend to this film?
"Nawaaz's track in the film is nothing to do with my track. Nawaz comes into the picture when Salman starts his travels so my part of the track is when he is in Chandi Chowk at the beginning of the film. But yes we do come together at the end of the film and Nawaaz is a wonderful actor and in fact, every film wwe have done together so far he hasn't done any scenes with me. He was there in Talaash but we had no scenes together and again in Bajrangi, but I think he lends a certain dignity because in a short span of time he is considered one of the most reputed actors so I think he gives a lot of dignity and credibility to the film."
Abhishek Bachchan tweeted a message marking 15 years since Refugee in which you both made your debuts and he described you as always his favourite. Is your first co-star extra special and what do you recall about shooting your first movie all those years ago?
"I think that the bond that I share with Abhishek, I don't think I can share that with anyone else. There was a certain rawness and nervous energy that we both went through and experienced together. I mean though we were both brats and we were nervous, by the end of it we were not thinking about it and we were getting along. We were literally like brother and sister, even though we were romancing each other. It was really weird. But I think Refugee will always be the biggest landmark of my career."
15 years on, and looking back how do you feel you've grown as an actor?
"As an actor I've always wanted to be known as a star actor, Yes I want to be a movie star and I want to be know as a good actor but I also wanted to enjoy my stardom, But I was ready to work for it. So I have enjoyed mixing things up, working in the commercial blockbusters at the same time as doing different films like Chameli and Omkara. I love being glamourous and I love doing item songs. But I have always wanted a balance between the two So its been a conscious decision that I will do this and that and mix up the two. Not just be typecast as doing only commercial films or only women-centric films. No. I want to work with all the Khans. I want to work with everybody. The journey has been actually quite amazing because I think God has been too kind."
You are the one actress who has worked with pretty much every male lead across two generations. Is there any one left you would like to work with?
"Yes, that's true. I've worked with Anil Kapoor and now I'm working with Arjun Kapoor. I don't know how that happens, Even Saif tells me I think it's quite remarkable how you've done that. I played Anil Kapoor's wife in Bewafaa and now I'm playing Arjun Kapoor's wife so I hope that with God's grace I will always work extremely hard to look great and feel great a s much as I can and who knows I might just be romancing any of the other young boys in the next few years."
There are offen comparisons drawn between you and Alia and she is thrilled to be compared to you how do you feel about being a role model for new young actor in the industry?
"I think that its always nice. In every generation they've pitted me against every actor and now I've become more relaxed about it. Earlier it would annoy me but now I'm fine with it. Also Alia is spectacular and she's wonderful. I don't know how annoying it is for her to be compared with me. To constantly go and have people say that. I don't know. But she's wonderful and were really good friends and we got to spend some time together during Udta Punjab. We didn't really shoot any scenes together in the film, but she was there so we had some lovely times."
You have several other great films coming up. What can you tell us about Udta Punjab?
"Udta Punjab. I think it's a brilliant film. I think it's going to be quite path breaking in its way. Again because of the story. I have a wonderful role. I play a doctor and she is the conscience and the backbone of the film and it's great because it's so different to Bajrangi Bhaijaan or the Brothers song. So you see me again in a completely different light. And of course after Bajrangi I go back to start Balki's film and I'm very excited about that because I think it's a very special part. It talks about being an independent working woman It's a modern love story that's quite original. I don't know how people will accept it but the role is wonderful, I'm really excited about it."
You've been very gracious to extend your good wishes to Shahid Kapoor on his impending marriage. What advice would you give any newlyweds for a happy married life?
"All I can say is I recommend marriage. I think I'm looking better after my marriage than I was earlier. I'm feeling better and its about making things work. Anything requires work. You have to work at it whether its your career or your job. You have to enjoy whatever you're doing, Most people are unhappy because a) they don't enjoy their job or b) they are unhappy in their marriage. So if you are happy in what you do life just flies by."
Bajrangi Bhaijaan is now in cinemas.