Her son Taimur Ali Khan is the apple of the paparazzi’s eyes. Tell her that and the Tiger Mom in her wakes up. She growls that she doesn’t like too much media attention being showered on her little munchkin. Praise her for her roles and she blushes pink and diverts the praise towards the director, stating she’s nothing but putty in the hands of the maker. She’s completed almost two decades in showbiz but still faces the day with a newbie’s enthusiasm. She’s been part of masala potboilers galore but has a healthy respect for middle-of-the-road cinema. She likes the fact that things are changing but is pragmatic enough to understand that the film industry will majorly remain a male domain for a few more years at least. But it gladdens her heart that she’s part of the change. She’s happy that even after marriage, even after pregnancy, she’s still considered hot property. She may not be the perfect size zero but she’s past caring about that, believing that sexy is a state of mind. She wants to keep pushing the envelope, keep expanding her repertoire, living life her own way without giving a damn. Excerpts from a freewheeling interview with the divalicious beauty…
Eighteen years and rocking. What does it take to be brand Kareena Kapoor Khan?
There has been no plan. Things have just happened organically. I’m a child of cinema. I’ve been watching films since the time, I opened my eyes. I belong here. Movies are my calling, something that I always wanted to do. So, everything has happened on its own. In a strange way, I’m not ambitious but extremely dedicated towards my profession.
You seem to possess a charisma that pulls the audience to the theatres…
I guess, I’ve been lucky to do some amazing films with amazing filmmakers. I’ve also learnt from my mistakes. I’ve said no to so many good films. But I’ve no regrets. I strongly wanted a personal life. And I’d like to say that audiences don’t go to see a star. They go to a theatre to see a good film. And they go to see a director’s film. The film is a director’s medium. The actor’s just a puppet. It’s nice to hear that the audiences rush to the theatres to see a particular star’s film. But that’s not true. One star can give a 30-crore opening on day one. The same one gives a one-crore opening for another kind of movie. So it’s not about the star but the movie that the audiences choose to see. Apart from Salman Khan – everyone goes to see his films – an actor is just an actor is just an actor.
But there’s something more that you bring…
What comes along with me is my self-confidence and self-belief. And my never-say-die attitude. That boosts my confidence. I’ve always worn my confidence on my sleeve right from my debut film Refugee. That attitude will always remain.
Where does this attitude stem from?
That’s something I was born with. My parents have instilled that in me. More so my mother’s instilled that fire in me. She said people might pull you down, things might go wrong but if your attitude is right, you’re bound to succeed.
What was it about Veere Di Wedding that made you want to be part of this film?
I’ve done movies with all the Khans. I’ve done movies with Anil Kapoor. I’ve done movies with newcomers like Arjun Kapoor… When I heard the script of Veere Di Wedding, I thought it would be cool to be part of a film, which has four girls but no hero. Not many mainstream actresses would have agreed to do this kind of a role. When you work with another girl, the attitude is that I should have the main role. But for me it wasn’t so. I wanted to be part of a fun story. I’d just given birth to Taimur. I didn’t want to go down the serious route. So, I did this fresh and young movie.
There was a bit of a delay before the film went on the floors…
I’m lucky that Rhea (Kapoor, producer) stood by me. She waited for me for one-and-a-half year. When I got pregnant, I called her and told her about it. I asked her to approach someone else for the role. But she said, ‘I want you because you’re good for Kalindi’s (Kareena’s character) part’. She suggested that the character could be shown pregnant. But the pregnancy insurance (against possible mishap while filming) couldn’t be procured. I insisted that she go ahead with someone else. Also, I’d need six-eight months to lose weight after delivery. But she said if you’re ready to come on the set, in whatever shape, I’m ready to wait for you. I give credit to Rhea for standing by me and believing that I could look this good. And for giving me the confidence to come back on the set with my child. She looked after Taimur so well when I was shooting in Delhi and worked according to my terms. She’s a producer with a spine. She stood by me. I love her. I hope this film does well and she goes on to make some cool films.
How was it working with the girl gang?
Absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better team than Sonam, Swara (Bhaskar) and Shikha (Talsania). Each character has shaped out so well. It was so much fun. I’m the senior most but the camaraderie we shared was great.
How different is it for Actresses now as compared to when you entered the industry?
Obviously a lot has changed. But even in the ’60s, my mother-in-law (Sharmila Tagore) chose such wonderful women-oriented roles as in Aradhana and Mausam. Today it’s also up to the actors to support unique films. I’m happy that a mainstream actress like me supported a film like Veere Di Wedding. A star would normally say, ‘I only want to work opposite a Khan or a young successful hero’. But I wanted to be part of this world. Also, today filmmakers are choosing brave and bold scripts. The language of the films has changed. The promos of Veere Di Wedding got such fantastic response because the dialogue sound real. It’s like how two friends would actually talk.
Having said that, it’s still a man’s world. Do you agree?
Yes. And it’ll always remain a male-centric industry. But actresses like Kangana (Ranaut), Vidya (Balan), Priyanka (Chopra) have been brave in their choices. I truly respect Vidya, Kangana and Priyanka. Right down to Tumhari Sulu, Vidya has been amazing. Also a mainstream actress like me, who has worked with Salman and Shah Rukh (Khan) all her life, worked with a younger actor Arjun Kapoor in Ki & Ka, became part of Udta Punjab knowing Shahid’s (Kapoor) and Alia’s (Bhatt) parts were main. These are signs of changing times.
There were times when you were written off. But you bounced back stronger…
Coming from a strong family where my mother has always supported me, it made it easier. In this profession one needs to learn to be a fighter. There’s no other choice. There’s no other way out.
What helped you fight back each time?
My self confidence. And the fact that I love my work, my profession so much. I was working through my pregnancy. Then five and a half months after my delivery, I began working on Veere Di Wedding. I took Taimur to Delhi for the shoot. I’m lucky to have an understanding husband who said, ‘I appreciate the fact that you want to continue your dream’. That’s the most important thing in a marriage.
Does marriage change the way the industry looks at actresses?
People have finally understood that marriage is just a culmination of love. Earlier, the industry could never understand the fact that a woman can get married, have children and still work. But now it’s getting more and more accepted. Actresses like Vidya Balan, Anushka Sharma, now Sonam and myself for that matter, all top order actresses, are constantly on the move. Finally, marriage has come down to what it is, culmination of love between two people, who want to spend their life together. It’s not the end of an era. It’s not the end for a woman. And it’s definitely not the end of a career. It’s just the beginning of a beautiful journey.
How easy or difficult was it for you to get back to work after having Taimur?
I had support from my family. I had a lot of help. I had support from my sister (Karisma Kapoor) and of course most importantly, Saif. He comes from a family where his mother was working, his sister is working. It was easy for him to understand that I would take Taimur with me if I had to for a shoot. Absolutely 100 marks to Anil Kapoor and Rhea for being such fantastic producers. Taimur was so well looked after. I’ll always consider them as family. I couldn’t have asked for a better film to do after Taimur. And Taimur, of course, settled so beautifully in Delhi while I shot. He’s a happy trooper. Touchwood!
He’s already won millions of fans and is a rage online.
I don’t like that at all, neither does Saif. As parents we are scared. I’d want my son to grow up as normally as possible. Saif’s even more particular about this. He wants Taimur to grow up, away from the eye of the paparazzi and the film scenario. Because Saif himself didn’t grow up in a film atmosphere, although his mother was an actress. His father (the late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi) as we know, belonged to the cricketing world. But in today’s time it’s tough. But I do wish he didn’t get photographed as much.
Taimur seems to be enjoying all the attention. He’s even responding to the paps now.
(Laughs) No, I think he’s just wondering what they’re doing, why they’re calling his name! He’s quite bright and aware as a child. But I’m worried. I don’t want him to get used to this kind of attention. I’m protective like any mother would be.
How did you balance the pressures of motherhood, getting back into shape and facing the camera…
(Laughs) Getting ready for the camera is something I don’t need to do. I was ready the minute I was born. We women somehow know how to multitask. I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’m balancing it well. My time with my child is my time. I don’t need to flaunt it on Instagram. I don’t need to flaunt it in front of the media. Like I don’t need to carry my child at the airport to prove how much I love him. My husband too believes it’s not needed. By carrying the child in my arms I don’t need to prove that I’m a hands-on mother. Even if I have two hours with Saif, Taimur and myself in the bedroom, it’s the quality of time and wanting to be together that matters, rather than the quantity of time we spend. I come from that school of parenting.
Were there moments where you feared a breakdown- staying up nights and reporting to work the next day, or leaving behind Taimur when he was unwell…?
Of course! These things are part and parcel of motherhood. It’s also a bit of a downer. But that’s the joy of being a mother. The late nights, being there for your child, I don’t view these as pain. I was mentally ready for it. I look at the joy that it brings. That’s the best feeling.
What is the one major change that motherhood has brought about?
Being a mother has made me realise that the biggest responsibility is to be a mother. I’ve been a responsible daughter. I’ve been a responsible wife. I hope and pray that I’m a responsible mother to Taimur as well. The journey has just begun. It is a lifelong one. My mother is 70 and her journey as a mother is still on. Yes, there’s this huge responsibility of passing on to Taimur the values I imbibed from my mother. Like saying yes and no at the right time. This is the most important thing a parent must know. So, that’s the biggest responsibility on my shoulders.
A woman is sexy in every phase, every stage… agree?
Of course! A woman can look beautiful and sexy even through her pregnancy. It’s the state of mind, it’s the way you look at life, the way you look at yourself. You don’t have to have the perfect 10 body to look sexy or beautiful. I guess, I looked the best when I was pregnant.
What is it that excites you where work is concerned?
I’m hearing a lot of scripts, even from new directors. I’m finding it difficult to say yes to anything and everything. I wonder if it’s worth leaving Taimur for. But I aim at doing one or at the most two films a year. I’ve liked a script, which the concerned production house will soon announce. It’ll go on floors by the end of the year. One film at a time for me. Also, Saif and I have to balance it out. Like I did Veere Di Wedding and now he’s shooting for Navdeep Singh’s film and then his web series in September. After that I’ll do a movie and he’ll probably give more time to Taimur. We plan out what’s the best we can do for Taimur in terms of time as well.