Kareena: ''If people feel I make faces, to hell with them!''

Kareena KapoorThere is something about the ‘Kapoor power girls’. Fearless at war, and passionate at work, they are the unswerving torch-bearers of their starry legacy. Bebo, while basking in the prime of stardom, has learnt the ropes rather early in life. At tender 23, she’s already doing a not-so-commercial film that others in her league would give a wide berth to. Opposite a non-commercial hero, (Rahul Bose), she showed immense courage for an actress with a glam-doll image to take the different route, towards a closer-to-reality role in ‘Chameli’. And her two-scene appearance in...
...J.P Dutta’s magnum opus war-flick ‘LoC’, which she did as a gesture of benevolence and extreme reverence for him, reflects an unsullied quality that seeps in her bloodline. Just for all this she deserves accolades. But Kareena is not ready to rest on past laurels. As she tells Madhureeta Mukherjee in this free-wheeling interview.

From the cute, bubble-gum image in films like ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ & ‘Main Prem Ki Deewani’ to the stark reality of ‘Chameli’, hasn’t it been quite a radical image-makeover for you?
“Yes it’s quite a drastic change, but if I don’t do diverse roles I won’t qualify as a true actress. An actress of high calibre like Rekha ji had done ‘Umrao Jaan’ much later in her career; but then she incomparable, a class apart. For an actress of my age, with my pre-set, on-screen image, I had to do a lot of thinking before giving my go-ahead for the role of ‘Chameli’. In fact, at first when the role was offered to me, I declined the offer; I couldn’t see myself playing the role of a commercial sex-worker. After much thought, I decided that it was worth giving it a shot.”

For an actress of your age, agreeing to play the role of a commercial sex-worker must have been quite a tough decision to make. Didn’t you have any second-thoughts about it? An actress like Rekha also did ‘Umrao Jaan’, but at a much later stage in her career.
“‘Chameli’ is not on the lines of ‘Umrao Jaan’ and well, Rekhaji is a class apart. I can’t begin to compare myself to her; I’m just a mere struggler trying to leave my mark here. Yes, at first, I was apprehensive to sign on ‘Chameli’, so I blatantly refused it. The offer came back to me a second time and then I came around and accepted the film.”

You come from one of the best-known families in the industry; having led such a protected life and never having been exposed to the harsh realities of life, how did you prepare for the role of a ‘Commercial Sex-Worker’ in ‘Chameli’?
“I did meet a few people from this trade and I drove past the red-light areas at night to see the kind of clothes these women wear, the way they dress, their mannerisms and how they carry themselves. My role as ‘Chameli’ made me realise one thing – sex workers should not be treated differently, they shouldn’t be made to feel like outcasts. They are as human as you and me; they have the same emotions like any other woman. Destiny has made them commercial-sex-workers and me an actress, that’s the only difference. They sleep around to make a living, I get paid to act and entertain, and journalists like you get paid to write. It’s a job for them, as much as it is for us.”

You’ve worked with Shah Rukh, Hrithik and some of the best commercial hunks in the industry. Rahul Bose comes in the category of new-version of parallel cinema…how was the chemistry?
“Rahul and I come from two different worlds of cinema, I’m hail from this typical Hindi filmi acting kind of background, which I of course love and I’m proud of; and Rahul he is this more realistic kind of guy. Even in ‘Chameli’ he is a banker and I am a commercial sex-worker, the vast disparity in the characters is apparent even in the film.”

We’ve seen the sensational promos of ‘Chameli’, where you’ve dressed in a sari with garish make-up, what is the extra-special that Kareena has added to this role”
“I don’t know what’s that extra-bit that I have put it for ‘Chameli’ but I am in a state of daze, simply because of the way people are reacting to the film. When the news broke that I was to don the role of a commercial sex-worker for ‘Chameli’, about twenty-five people exclaimed – ‘Why in the world are you doing a film like this, you’d rather do some commercial cinema’. At that time I kept quiet, and today, when I meet people at a party, the biggest of stars and directors come up to me and say that they are eagerly waiting to watch ‘Chameli’. All I know is that I desperately…desperately tried to be different and I hope it works this time.”

We hear that the effect of Chameli’ is so strong that your co-star Fardeen now calls you Chameli?
“Yes, he does. Not only Fardeen, nowadays when passer-by’s on the road spot me they call out to me ‘Chameli…Chameli’. I know now my name will change from Poo to Chameli. I cool with it, thank God, it’s not Poo anymore.

This is the second time you are working with J.P. Dutta, but ‘LoC’ has a large ensemble of stars, in what way do you think he has added more to so many characters?
“I can never say ‘no’ to Mr. Dutta, if he tells me that I will be the five hundredth person at the back, that I will be out of focus and almost unseen, I will do it unquestionably for him. That’s the kind of respect I have for him. There are certain relationships that must be kept on a pedestal, or else life is not worth it. I know which relationships are important, this is one such. I would do anything for J.P.Dutta.”

Well, Kareena hasn’t given a block-buster to remember, yet, she hasn’t gone unnoticed ever. She is still in the top rung. How?
“It’s true. With each flop I give I get bigger films. Sometimes even I wonder that after giving six flops how I am in the top rung. That only goes to show that it is the talent that counts. Everyone knows that it’s the scripts that have failed me; I have never failed my scripts. If my director has asked me to underplay my role I have done that, when they’ve asked me to overact I have done that. If people feel Kareena makes faces, to hell with them; the fact is that filmmakers still come back and take me, so it really doesn’t matter.”

Is it the new serious roles you’re doing that are shaping you or is it that Kareena Kapoor has suddenly matured beautifully over the past months?
“I think after my sister got married, my mother and I are pretty much alone, so I want to be with her and make her happy. I want to be a responsible daughter and professionally, I want to be a responsible artist. I hope this year proves that irrespective of hits and flops, Kareena is a good actress. I pray the New Year takes a great start and the critics, media and my fans back me for ‘Chameli’. The box-office is something I am not looking for, this is a small film, I want people to come out of the theatre and say ‘Kareena was fabulous!’ And if I can touch a few hearts and entertain a few people, I’ll think it was all worth it!”

Recently there was a little murmur about you and Shahid Kapur…
“It’s so weird that everyone is talking about it. I’ve just started shooting with Shahid for my Ken Ghosh’s film and I feel he is like a baby who has to be mollycoddled. I meet him at parties and have been talking to him, but please, there’s nothing of that sort between us. In fact he should be insecure, as in Ken Ghosh’s thriller I am far friendlier to Fardeen than him, and I can’t wait to start shooting with him. Ha!Ha!”

So who is Kareena’s hot-favourite co-star?
“I think Fardeen and I have this unreal chemistry. There’s something there, I don’t know what it is. I think Fardeen is the hottest guy alive, and I have no bones in saying that! ”