At the Illuminati Films’ office, while I waited, I saw a plethora of wall-posters and frames of noteworthy Hollywood films and dialogues. There was a shelf dedicated to biographies and non-fiction novels. On the table were a few scripts and a stack of files. What caught my attention was a caricature toy of the famous Joker from The Dark Knight, perched on a table, carefully placed beside a giant LED TV. Soon, I was led to their home, just a couple of floors above. Their abode was tastefully done, adorned with interesting artifacts and relics from across the globe. Their palatial haven had the choicest of home décor, indeed, a true reflection of the regal couple’s personalities. I assumed a bunch of handlers hovering around and some protocol would follow. Far from that.
She may have a palpable starry aura and reputation for glamour, but behind this captivating, larger-than-life, glamorous entity is a brutally honest, real and upfront person. What you see is what you get, with her. She minces no words and speaks from the heart. In fact, she’s a lot like the characters she has essayed– feisty, frank, powerful, and full of life. If there’s a subject that interests her, you’ll have her complete attention. Or else, she is not very elaborative. But she’s quick to respond, expressive and animated. While she speaks, the glint in her eyes is arresting. The sparkly vibe around her is warm, likeable and infectious. There’s never a dull moment with KAREENA KAPOOR KHAN. On a balmy noon, in the confines of her fashionable royal residence, Pooja Sharma meets the gorgeous actress for a long conversation.
On the career front, you have taken an unconventional turn with Ki And Ka. What was your reason to choose the film? Were you at any point apprehensive of the concept?
When you work with R. Balki, you know it’s going to be different. It’s not going to be a run-of-the-mill kind of movie. And that is something I wanted to do, and was looking out to do. So I was very excited when he approached me. When I heard the script, at the interval point itself, I told him I am on board and am a part of the film.
What was working with Arjun Kapoor like? Did you feel awkward filming intimate scenes, considering he’s your junior?
No, because he’s also my friend. I’ve known him for the last 20 years. So I think we are friends first. Also, we are actors, and actors tend to play their parts on sets. We are both very professional and share a great relationship. So that helped the film and the kind of film it is.
What’s an admirable quality about the current crop of actors?
I think they are all really dedicated. They are quite into their work and ready to do anything for work. It’s a great attitude to have. Also, they come well prepared. They have good energies, that’s the most important factor.
Who do you find most promising of the lot? Tell us one name you’d like to work with.
I don’t know. I need to think, because I don’t see too many movies. I think Arjun and Ranveer Singh are great. From the girls, all of them are intelligent and bright. Alia (Bhatt), Shraddha (Kapoor)… all of them are so good in their own way. I’ve never really picked anybody that I want to work with particularly. I’ve worked with everybody. I wouldn’t like to name one person. For me, it all depends on the script, my part, and what kind of role it is. I should be excited enough to play that role.
Alia considers you her idol. She’s also part of your next, Udta Punjab. Do you find any similarity between you two, as far as style of acting is concerned? Viewers have pointed that out too… Do you find any traces of you in her?
We don’t have any scenes together. It’s a two-track story. I don’t think we have any similarities in terms of looks. She’s tiny and petite. And I am quite broad-built. So I don’t know where the similarities are. As far as acting is concerned, I haven’t seen any of her films, so I’d be the wrong person to judge. She’s a lovely person. I think everybody finds their own way. I think comparisons are wrong, because she will eventually find her own path.
But she definitely idolises you…
(Smiles) I am sure. That’s sweet of her.
Are you someone who would recommend names to filmmakers? Has that ever happened?
In my 16 years in the movies, it hasn’t happened. I don’t think recommendations really help. That’s quite dated. I think directors cast according to their script.
Ki and Ka is about a couple who exchanged roles and shattered societal stereotypes. How much of this is true in your marriage, and in what ways?
My husband is not a stay-at-home husband firstly. He isn’t sprucing up the meals (laughs). We are a working couple. We both are actors in the same house. But yes, we have broken a lot of barriers and the typical gender stereotype in a way, because this is the first marriage where the woman is also working as much as the man. I’ve been working since I have been living with Saif (Ali Khan). I don’t remember a time when I’ve not worked. So, we both work, and try to take time out to spend with each other, to be together. That’s the way this marriage works. Taking out time for each other is also important.
What major problems do you think couples in general face today, considering divorce rates are on the rise?
A. Every relationship, people should understand, is different. B. Nobody has the formula or there’s no magic potion to make this work or that work. That divorce rates are going up, and we hear of so many break ups, is just co-incidental. We are hearing about it in our industry, but there are a lot of divorces and separations in the world, just that no one has spoken about them. But to generalise it would be wrong, because every relationship and its problems are different. So to say this would be unfair, because I’m sure each one of them has tried to make it work, and maybe it hasn’t.
Talking of breaks-ups, star couples headed for spilts also include your brother Ranbir Kapoor and his girlfriend Katrina Kaif. Apparently, the reasons cited for their break up was the family’s interference and their non-support. Do you think the people and media are too intrusive in this case, as they have constantly been under the scanner?
I don’t know. I guess it’s the day and age of so much media, internet and stuff like that, it’s difficult. Everybody has a comment, everybody is discussing, everybody has forums, blogging, tweeting, something is happening. Everybody wants their voice and their opinions to be heard. But nobody will ever know the truth. People will speculate all their lives, and then get bored of that too. It should be taken with a pinch of salt, according to me.
Being family, does it infuriate you, considering so much has been written about them and the family? Don’t you lose your cool?
No, we are from a film family, so we are used to it. We know exactly how this operates. I think I’m a pro now! Oblivion is bliss, I just pretend like the person hasn’t asked me anything. I don’t care. Anyway, people are going to write and speculate. Some of it will be true, some will be false. There comes a time where you try to live above that and let everything pass. At least, I live like that.
What, according to you, are the factors that trigger a relationship hitting rock bottom, in today’s day and age?
I don’t know. Anything actually, even the smallest of things can get on your nerves. If you decide that you don’t love that person anymore, then nothing can change. You can’t make somebody love you. That has to happen from within.
And why should couples watch Ki And Ka? What’s in it for couples to take back home?
That men and women are the same. And in the current day and age, to say that women only have to sit at home, that’s wrong. The fact is that gender doesn’t really matter, it doesn’t really matter what you are doing, and who’s bringing home the money. The whole idea is that if you love and respect each other and are mutually compatible, nothing else matters.
What do you think is the pre-requisite of a healthy relationship, and important essentials to sustain one, from your personal experience?
I think, respect and love. Love is what drives everything. If there’s no love, there’s no marriage. And if there’s no love, you don’t respect the other person. Respect is very important. The day you lose respect for one another, the relationship is doomed. Love and respect go hand in hand, like sugar and spice.
And, of course, spending time together, as you said.
Oh yes. Work should not take over your whole life. I don’t understand how people say they don’t have time for love, because there is always time for love. There’s work and then there’s love, it works together, in tandem. It’s about the choices you make. It’s my choice if I decide to get married, or do or not do a particular movie. Spending time together is a choice that the woman and man make together.
What is that one attribute you lack that you’d like to imbibe from Saif or already have, and vice-versa?
I think he’s a lot more grounded, because of me. And that, the woman of the house should do. He should come home to someone who’s understanding, grounded, calm and composed. I’ve learnt how to live life because of him. Until 10 years ago, it was about the industry. There’s another part of my brain that has opened up. I’ve learnt to actually live and believe that it’s not about films all the time. He’s of the belief that you enjoy your work, do it with conviction, and respect your work and love it. But learn to breathe in other ways also. There are other dimensions to one’s personality.
What did you guys bond over?
We have similar likes, dislikes and tastes, and enjoy similar things in life. There’s something in our DNA that we both connected. There is sweet and sour, it’s like chalk and cheese, and sometimes it’s the best thing. But not many people know that we’re actually quite similar in a lot of ways. We have this calming effect on each other. I know how to calm him down and he knows how to calm me down.
Do you plan to start a family anytime soon?
Of course, I look forward to motherhood. I’ve been an actor, a star, a wife and I will be a mother. I am a woman who wants everything, the complete journey. But I don’t believe in sabbaticals and hiatus, and these big words that the media uses. People thought when I got married, I won’t work, but I have been working, and I will work all my life.
Because acting is in your genes.
Yes, it’s in my genes. I don’t understand why you can’t continue to work the way you did, if you’re a married woman or mother, or if you are in a relationship; and why it should affect your career. I don’t know why people make such a big deal about it, saying, ‘Oh, she’s married now’. It’s rubbish, nonsense. It’s so jaded and dated.
Does insecurity or jealousy creep in between two successful people, that need to outdo each other? And is it more difficult between two actors?
I am not a star and actor in my house. The minute I walk in through the door and my husband is at home, it’s me and him, and I am his wife. And I like it that way. The minute I am on sets, I am a professional, or when I’m working, giving an interview, then I become the individual I am. At home, we don’t discuss work. Saif won’t ask me what film I am doing. I don’t think in nine years since he’s known me, he has ever asked me that. I have to tell him that I’m doing this film, or to see my promo. There’s no discussion. And I never ask him who he is working with, which film, which actress he is working with. I don’t care! As long as he comes home! He does his job, he has to do it. But we don’t discuss it unless I ask him for advice. Our conversations are not movie-driven. The whole day anyway, actors discuss movies, the entire day we have meetings. Now when he comes home and if we discuss films again, I will collapse under that pressure. I don’t understand how people say they are constantly discussing movies. I find it very insular. When you don’t meet people from other fields you stagnate, your brains stagnate. You start thinking in a particular way.
Is it also because of Saif that you’ve started viewing life from a different perspective?
Completely! All credit to him. But it’s also because I’m a bit like that. I don’t like socialising too much in the same circles. Sometimes it’s great, but you can’t base your whole life around that. I am one actor who has always said that. We are not here to socialise with everybody. Everybody is here to do their job and give their best. Going to parties is not my cup of tea. I’ve never done it and I am not going to do it now.
Are you vocal about your concerns on creative matters in a film, especially if you’re not on the same page as the director? Would you voice your opinion?
No. The director is the captain of the ship. If the ship sinks, we are all sinking with it.
But wouldn’t you want to save the sinking ship?
No, it’s not possible. Because filmmaking is a director’s medium. It’s his personality on screen. Ki And Ka is Balki’s personality. Quirky, fun, out-of-the-box, a maverick, cool kind of movie, because he’s like that. That’s his nature. Karan Johar’s films are flamboyant because that’s his personality. Rohit Shetty’s films are the way they are, because he is testosterone on another level. So, it’s all about the director, and I am a director’s actor. Mould me the way you want. It’s not my job and it’s not my place. If you are an actor, you’ve signed on to the director’s vision and you have to follow that vision. Don’t try and change and become like the screen-writer and script doctor. I am not into all that. Kaam karo aur jao.
You’ve achieved dizzying heights of success in your career. Today, after so many years in the business, does failure still affect you?
I don’t think I take my success itself too seriously. So, I don’t take failure too seriously either. It’s life. If there’s happiness, there’s sadness. If there’s life, there’s death. If there’s success, there’s failure. That’s the ratio yaar. It’s the law of averages.
So how long does it take you to get over failure? Too long?
I am an emotional person. I’m very emotional! I do get affected by a lot of things, people, the environment around me, everything affects me. Because basically I’m all heart, that’s the kind of person I am. It takes me a while, but I get over it.
One has heard that you’re a good judge of character.
I am very instinctive, because I’m instinctive as an actor too. So I can tell how the person is. You know who you will take a liking to instantly, or who you won’t jell with, in the first meeting itself.
You’ve chosen to be part of male-centric movies like Singham Returns and Bajrangi Bhaijaan in the recent past. Did you ever have second thoughts about being part of these films, in terms of your role?
No, I don’t think so. I do all kinds of films. I’ve never said that I only want to do films where I am the hero. I’m a true-blue commercial movie star. I will work with every possible actor. I will do every possible film that I like. If I like Salman Khan, I will do Bajrangi Bhaijaan, but I will also do Ki And Ka. I’ll do an Udta Punjab just as I will do a Singham Returns. I’ve done the Golmaal series with Rohit Shetty, where I was the hero of the film in Golmaal 3. I’ll also do a Singham. I know it’s a male-centric, high-on-testosterone film. That’s just the way I am. I’ve balanced the commercial and the other world, I’ve always done that.
You’ve been castigated for your choices, considering your abilities and acting potential. One fan had even written an open letter criticising your choices of roles and expressed his wish to see you do more substantial cinema and author-backed roles? Have you considered his request?
It’s a personal opinion and everybody has an opinion. Everyone will advise, saying ‘Do this film or take that up’. But eventually, I do what I want, and I always will. If people are following a wave or trend, I’m fine. I don’t care.
Do you think actors are a narcissistic breed?
I think yes, sadly. But I am not.
What’s the greatest insecurity of an actor?
That you know they are going to have any lines on their faces. But again, I don’t feel that way. I love the lines on faces.
What are the mistakes that actors make that can cost them in the long run?
I think every actor these days is very influenced by the youth. Someone who is 50 is trying to act 25, because everybody is bothered that they are going to age. But they can’t fight nature na? Be your age and behave your age. Nothing wrong with it.
On Koffee with Karan, when actors were quizzed about what they thought would be an alternate career choice for you, many said you would make a suitable newspaper or magazine columnist. Like Twinkle Khanna has earned praise and popularity as a columnist. Would you take it up and be able to justify it?
I might be able to justify it. But I don’t know about the pressure of writing every week…
Do you think you’ll be able to pull it off?
Am I that interesting a person? I really don’t know. You have to have a lot of wit. Twinkle is amazing. I really enjoy reading her articles. Her book is also too good. It comes to her naturally.
Why aren’t you on social media? Why do you refrain from signing up?
I can’t be posting pictures every hour of my feet or my flight. I will die (laughs). I’ll feel like I am living with too many people.
However, Ibrahim is quite popular on Instagram. What’s your equation with Ibrahim and Sara (Saif’s children from Amrita Singh)? Do they also plan to become actors?
Ibrahim is only 14, studying for his tenth grade. His father will murder him if he doesn’t get good grades. I think that’s his only stress right now. He is extremely good-looking and charming. He’s the best of both Amrita and Saif, both the kids. What’s lovely about them is that both are also concentrating on academics, which is very important. Social media and films and all are great, maybe they do that after two or three or five years. But I think the parents are now pushing them to focus on their studies, which is imperative.
Do boys gossip more than girls?
I think so. It’s believed to be just a girl thing na, the notion that women gossip.
Whose fashion sensibilities do you admire from the girls?
Sonam (Kapoor) ka naam toh lena padega na. I don’t think anyone else (smiles).
Besides acting, what else keeps you occupied? What are you interests and indulgences?
I like spending time with my family and friends. I take out time for them. I enjoy reading. I like being at home, my home is so gorgeous that I don’t need to go out. It’s always like I’m reading at home, watching TV shows. And of course, travelling! Anytime, I’d like to get out of the city.
Are you the back-packer kinds?
No. I am not a back-packer. I travel in luxury.
Image Courtesy: Provided by Magna