Kareena Kapoor Khan on reuniting with Akshay Kumar for Good Newwz and auditioning for Aamir Khan's Laal Singh Chadha
Kareena Kapoor Khan discusses reuniting with Aamir Khan for Laal Singh Chadha, returning to comedy, and playing a pregnant woman in Good Newwz.
These are exciting times for Kareena Kapoor Khan. The self-confessed ‘hungry star,’ who has often adapted to the changing landscape of Bollywood, is gearing up for the release of Good Newwz, a comedy about a mix-up in the In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) clinic, where the samples of two couples with the same name get interchanged.
The 39-year-old actor has also finished shooting for Angrezi Medium (with one of her favourite actors Irrfan Khan). The film with her 3 Idiots co-star Aamir Khan, Laal Singh Chaddha, an official remake of Forrest Gump is on floors in which she steps into the part of Jenny, played by Robin Wright in the original.
Besides films, the actress made foray into television and turned reality show judge with Dance India Dance 7, and continued as host of radio talk show, What Women Want. Excerpts below, from a chat with the candid and outspoken actress, who challenged the stereotypes with pathbreaking roles such as Chameli, Mira (Yuva), Geet (Jab We Met), Dolly (Omkara), and Rosie (Talaash) among many.
You have finished shooting for Angrezi Medium. You are in the midst of Laal Singh Chaddha, and Good Newwz is coming up. What are you feeling right now?
Good Newwz is a comedy of errors. It is very entertaining and quite topical. We have kind of turned it around on its head, and made it more like a dramedy. Talking about Laal Singh Chaddha, now what do I say about someone (referring to Aamir) who is such a genius, and has got such a cinematic mind? It is an absolute pleasure and honour to even stand besides Aamir, and working with him again (after 3 Idiots and Talaash). He is so passionate and dedicated to his craft. The journey has just begun, and it is quite exciting.
Did Good Newwz remind you of the times when you were pregnant?
This (the film) was pregnancy without the paranthas, and that (real life) was pregnancy with the paranthas (laughs). I used to eat 10 paranthas a day. Now, I eat one. We shot the film in Amritsar and Chandigarh so I ate two paranthas with white butter on it, in excitement that Laal Singh is being shot in cold wintry weather. I am a full foodie.
Are you one of those rare Kapoors who is strict with food?
In fact, now I am not strict at all. I have just given instructions at home to make aate ka (wheat flour) halwa. I eat everything but of course, there is a diet plan that I follow.
The way they show women in labour in movies is really scary. Don’t they overdramatise it in Bollywood films?
In Hindi movies, a bit of exaggeration is justified but in this film, we have tried to show as it would be as much. Labour pain differs from person to person; like my mother was with me was in 24-hour labour. I actually had to have a Cesarean (delivery) because the baby’s head was down. I was very hyper. I was getting anxious during the labour.
Since the film is tackling a sensitive topic through comedy, how cautious and careful was the team?
The line in our film is very basic. It is just that the sperm has got exchanged. In that, of course, there is comedy but this film turns again on its head in the interval. Eventually, it is about how these women carry the story forward. But usually, in comedies, we have seen that the actor is saying all the dialogues. It is not that kind of a film. Here, women will turn it around. Emotion comes in the second half, and which is why I did the film. It is beautiful because there is an entire monologue where she (her character) explains to Akshay’s (Kumar) character what a woman goes through and what their contribution is. People will remember that scene.
What do you have to say about women getting substantial and stronger roles to play these days?
The change is extremely welcoming. The entire content and dynamics have changed. Look at Badhaai Ho. Today, you don’t need a mainstream actress to pull off the main character. It is all about content. That is what I have been saying for a long time that it is not just about your part in the film. Forrest Gump is a love story, and the girl is what is driving him (the male protagonist) and the film.
It is for the first time in your 20-year-old career that you auditioned for a role, for Laal Singh Chaddha. Were you hesitant?
In these 20 years, nobody has ever told me that you have to read these two scenes. But I think that even if it was for Hollywood, I would have not auditioned. I auditioned only because of Aamir. I know what his potential is, and I know his intent. He will create a world, and in that world, he wants to be 100 percent sure. I was reading the scene, and I knew that I had nailed it. When I was midway through the scene, Aamir told Advait (Chandan, director) that this is done, and that he can see my character in that. There has never been this concept for audition, and when I told Saif (Ali Khan, husband) about it, he said, ‘What is the big deal and that actors should audition for the part.' I know in Hollywood actors like Al Pacino and Meryl Streep don’t get a part unless they audition.
How mindful are you about what your art represents, and will you ever play something that is not politically correct?
It is nothing to do with being politically correct or what art represents. When you talk about divorce, or man having an affair, or it is orgasm, everything is from the male point of view. For the first time, we showed it from a female point of view in Veere Di Wedding, and I wanted to be part of the film. Ditto with Ki & Ka. There are many guys, husbands who don’t work. But women want to hide it. They don’t want to tell anyone that their husbands don’t work or that they cook at home. This concept of a woman being the bread-earner in a marriage was shown for the first time, and I wanted to be part of the film.
Do you find it difficult to balance work and life?
There is Laal Singh Chaddha, and there is period drama Takht. Both are totally different from each other. I do make that little effort to pick and choose. But it gets difficult because I am bound by time constraints. It is like I am living my life on one leg, and I am constantly balancing, whether it is time with Saif, or Taimur (Ali Khan, son) or my mom-in-law (Sharmila Tagore), or my own family, or whether doing brands for 30 to 35 days, and 50 days of doing another film. There is a lot going on. If I don’t set rules and boundaries then I feel everything will just fall apart. I would love to do three films a year, with all being different.
After working with Priyadarshan, Rohit Shetty, and Rajkumar Hirani, does comedy comes easy to you?
I think so. But comedy comes easy to me because there is a slight inherent comic timing in me, and I am a very funny and open person. Also, having Akshay and Diljit (Dosanjh) around, it was very easy.
Do you plan to turn to content on OTT platforms?
I haven’t thought about that. At home, somebody (Saif) has broken the boundaries, and has put India on the map, on the global platform, with Sacred Games. Obviously, it will be difficult for me because there is going to be a natural comparison. Saif has made it a lot tougher for me (laughs). And now, he is doing an amazing show for Amazon (Prime Video India) with Ali Abbas Zafar (called Tandav). It (her OTT debut) has to be something outstanding otherwise there is no point. Honestly, I am scared to get on to this platform.
Talking about pay disparity, a lot of female actors have said even when they star opposite male actors with the same experience, still there is a pay gap, and negotiations are always awkward. Do you feel the same?
That’s true but now with Anushka (Sharma), Deepika (Padukone, with Chhapaak) becoming producers, the conversation is slightly different. Producers are left with no choice but to involve the heroine on board to get the kind of kickback because they are bringing in that amount of revenue.
But is it not sad female actors have to turn producers in order to get into a comfortable negotiating space?
This change requires a bigger dynamic rather than only in the film fraternity. Film is only a small fraction of this society. For that, there has to be a dramatic change in terms of your DNA. It is the way, say a man looks at a woman on streets, that should also change for that matter. But I am glad that a small part is at least being acknowledged now, and conversation is on.
A 50-year-old hero romances a 20-year-old girl but a 50-year-old actress does not romance a young guy because 'it looks odd'. And there is always a criticism whenever an older woman romances a younger man. It requires justification. What do you have to say on this?
Of course but hopefully, now when I am older, I will definitely do that kind of part, and break the norm. People do fall in love. Look at Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. They are from different generations. Saif and me are from different generations but we fell in love. What is the big deal? But yes, producers' mindsets need to change.
You are one of the few actresses who have not had an official social media profile. Why is that?
...And yet I know everything (laughs). (My) Fan clubs have some six to seven million followers. But there will be an official page, which I will do at some point. It will be run by somebody but not me. It will be all official about my work, information, projects but nothing personal.
You and Akshay share a great chemistry, he has known you since you were a kid. How has the equation with him been?
Yes, I was there when Akshay faced the camera for the first time for Deedar with my sister Karisma (Kapoor) at a bungalow in Madh Island. I was a nine-year-old then. I love Akshay because he is a true blue bonafide superstar, and the phase he is currently in, I would rightly say that he is in the same phase that probably Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan has gone through. He enjoys that kind of success and stardom. But he doesn’t let it go to his head, and that is what I really love about him. It is an amazing comfort working with Akshay. I have known him for 30 years of my life, and he is brilliant. Every time I look at him, I feel happy for his success.
Karan Johar recently said in Barkha Dutt’s interview he regrets making and featuring item or special songs. He said he has realised these songs do objectify women. What is your opinion?
Oh really? Did he? Like we had in Brothers? I don’t know if I would do it today. But I can’t run away from the fact that I have done those songs, and that is a part of my repertoire. Whenever you go to any shaadi (wedding), they play songs like 'Fevicol', 'Chikni Chameli,' I don’t like the fact of being pretentious about it. If you have done it, fine, kiya hai. It is not a crime. Maybe we will live and learn, and not do it again. But I enjoyed it. I can’t lie about it.
Do you discuss movies with your mother-in-law?
My mom-in-law’s thoughts are very progressive. She picked up great roles, and went against the tide. She had done films like Daag, Mausam post marriage and child. The same (is the case) with Hema ji (Malini). It all depends upon your personality, and what you choose to do. But mom-in-law doesn’t discuss movies as much. It is not a film conversation mostly. Books are a big part of this family’s conversation. They read a lot. I am the most unread person in the house. I am more into films and DVDs but now, I have started reading. Conversation here at home is so different. It gives you a different perspective to life rather than just being insular in the film world.
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