Birthday Special: How Katrina Kaif Took Control Of her Life

Birthday Special: How Katrina Kaif Took Control Of her Life

On Katrina Kaif’s 35th birthday, Subhash K Jha looks at the girl who has carved a unique place for herself against all odds
Birthday Special: How Katrina Kaif Took Control Of her Life
Katrina Kaif

Last year at this time when  Katrina Kaif celebrated  her  birthday things were rather bleak. Her love life was the topic of headlines in tabloids, thanks to her break-up with Ranbir Kapoor and her career was not doing too well either with some flops like Baar Baar Dekho to her discredit.

This year she has a lot to smile about on her birthday. Katrina dislikes  the  way  her  unparalleled  success ratio   is undermined  by  being  dismissed as a  matter of luck. “It’s not as  if  I was just lucky to be in  successful films. Of course I’ve been  lucky. But I’ve also worked very  hard to get where I am. And please don’t forget I chose those films that went  on to be  successful. So please  grant me with that   bit  of  intelligence,” she had  once told me.

Before  one could react  to that she quickly added, “And  by the way, I was  advised by friends  not  to do many  of  the films that have eventually  turned  out  to be hits.”
She admitted that she sought the help of Salman Khan initially  to decide what films to do. “Not  just Salman, I  also took the advice  of  people like   Sajid Nadiadwala  and  David Dhawan.  But finally the films I did, were my call,” said  this  transparently  honest and  unpretentiously  beautiful girl who tries to underplay her intelligence simply to fit into the Bharatiya Nari  mould. “Oh, one has to work very hard on it.  Men  don’t like to be around  women who can talk back . I  like to  make  my point. But I  don’t   like  to  be aggressive and  insistent  in  my attitude. At the same time, you won’t see me knocking on   producers’ doors at odd  hours to get work. I  never have, I  never will.”

Katrina  is the happiest when  audiences  see her as  full-on desi  heroine, often more so than the  Size- O  heroines who seem to belong to another  hemisphere.  “It’s because I grew  up in   a  large  joint family filled with seven  sisters and brothers. The  atmosphere at  home was very Indian. We  were brought  up on  values that are very Indian. I guess that explains why  I’m so Indian in my outlook  although  I’m half-British and half-Indian birth.”

Katrina’s struggle started  in  2000 when she arrived in  Mumbai. “I came to Mumbai to  be a model. I had no inkling  at  that  point  of  time that I  was  going to be  an actress. I first  met  photographer  Farrokh  Chothia who  put me on to the right modeling agencies. Soon the modeling assignments began to trickle in. I was also introduced to (glam-photographer)  Daboo Ratnani  who did my portfolio.”

Ratnani’s photographs were circulated  in  the film industry. Soon Katrina landed  with her  first film project. “When I did Boom in  2003 I was  clueless about my intentions, camera angles, language, the works. I’d say my  film career  started with Ram Gopal  Varma’s Sarkar  in   2005 followed by Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya. That’s when my  real initiation  into  acting began. I was kinda getting bored with modeling and  ramp walking. I  sensed  I had reached a saturation  point there and needed  to  move on. Acting seemed the next  natural  step.”

Katrina describes her  early days  in Mumbai as  lonely. “To begin with, I  lived  in  a two-bedroom  flat  near Rizvi College. The entire day I’d be  visiting  modeling agencies. In the  evening I’d return home   to  a lonely  house.  I’d miss my sisters’ presence around me.  But  it was okay. I don’t want  to romanticize those days. I  didn’t really have to struggle hard. Nothing  untoward happened to me. No one  made any  sleazy suggestions.” What  really bothered Katrina  initially  was  not her lack  of  knowledge of Hindi. “In any case, everyone in  the modeling world spoke  English, so that wasn’t a problem, except when I had   to  haggle with auto-rickshaws to avoid being cheated  and  to  find addresses  in Mumbai. That was  tough.”

Also awkward  were   the  gawkers.  “Because I came from London I dressed  in  a certain casual way that was not  quite acceptable in Mumbai . You know, stuff like  shorts and tops, or just the kind  clothes that are  considered  trendy  among college kids but  somewhat  bold for working girls. People would simply stare. I had  to  change the way I dressed. I also  hired a  tutor to  teach me  Hindi and I  started learning Kathak  dancing from a  guru recommended  by filmmaker Dharmesh Darshan. Both  Priyanka Chopra and I  learnt  classical Indian dancing  from the same man.”

Katrina  now  looks  back on   her nine  years  in Mumbai with  much affection.  “The city has given me  a  lot, and I  today  feel I am fully a  part  of  the  Indian entertainment  industry. I’ve done  films  not  only  in Hindi but also in  Telugu and Malayalam. Is there a sense of satisfaction  in what I’ve achieved? There is, there most certainly is.  I’ve worked very hard to  get where I am. There are days when I don’t get more than  3-4  hours of sleep.  But  then  all the hard work pays off. I  feel I’ve  earned  my  next holiday whenever  it might be. I  look forward to  taking  periodical breaks to be with my  siblings and mother. ”

There aren’t too many friends in Mumbai. Katrina  finds it hard to  get along with  her female colleagues. “It’s not as  if I  haven’t tried to make friends with….whoever.  It never works out. There’s always that edge  of competitiveness.”

One  of  the main reasons why  she wholeheartedly embraced  Salman Khan’s family  was because  they  provided her with a comfort zone  in  a city where she was all alone. Katrina’s  bonding  with   Salman’s family goes  beyond  the  fair-weather relationships of   the entertainment industry. The Khans  really welcomed  Katrina into  their  family .
Says  Katrina,  “Salman   helped me  a   lot to find my bearings in  Mumbai. He  guided me, helped me choose the right roles and to find my place in   Mumbai.  He was there for me constantly. With Salman and his family around I never  felt alone  in Mumbai.” Katrina confessed  to me that she often ends up subconsciously  looking for a father- figure in her male company.  “We sisters  grew up without a  father in  the house. So  I  guess I  do  look  for  sensible wise male company. I get bored with giddy-headed guys my own age.”

Beyond that Katrina won’t talk about her personal life.  “It’s very simple. I’m a friendly girl. I don’t like  to offend anyone. But  in  pleasing others and not offending them I won’t compromise  with my own inbuilt sense  of  right and wrong. I  know what I want in life. And I won’t take any short cuts.”

Now of course we Katrina and I don't talk any more. We haven't spoken for many years. But the mutual respect  remains. I wish her well always. There is no other way one can wish for her.