Kareena Kapoor Khan Interview: Angrezi Medium, Irrfan Khan & 20 Years of Being Bebo!
Kareena Kapoor Khan spoke to Masala! about her journey in the business for over 20 years and her role in Angrezi Medium.
She's a force. Make no doubt. Whether it's a thoroughly commercial film like Bodyguard opposite Salman Khan where she plays the girl Bhai has to rescue or it is Udta Punjab where she plays an idealistic doctor struggling with evil around her. Kareena Kapoor Khan can pull of diva and gravitas in the same breath and will leave you wondering how she did it all simultaneously. It all seems very enigmatic, but when you sit down to talk to her, she makes it seem simpler than it all really is...
Masala!: June 2020 will mark 20 years of your career. What are the major takeaways? Any celebration or book coming out?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: No, not all! The celebration is that it’s been twenty years. It’s been an exhilarating experience. The big takeaway is that every experience teaches you to learn more, to give more. Over the years I have learnt to become a more calm and composed actor which will hopefully help me go on for another twenty years.
Kareena Kapoor in the film Refugee that was released in June 2000. Bebo starred opposite Abhishek Bachchan. The film was directed by J. P. Dutta.
Masala!: Going by the choices you’ve made in your career, you’ve not always had box office success but none of that has harmed your bankability as a star. You’ve also nailed difficult to breezy roles without what they call ‘rehearsals’ or even method acting. How have you managed this? Was there a method to this madness? And was this at any point a conscious decision?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: There is no calculation. You cannot really have a plan to survive here. As you said, there really is no method to this madness. Things happened organically. However, the decisions were more thought out in the last ten years which I believe comes with age and maturity. I am practical and passionate about my work. I enjoy doing what I do.
I am practical and passionate about my work. I enjoy doing what I do. - Kareena Kapoor Khan
Masala!: What happens when a role is presented to you? What is the focal point?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: My focal point is that I should enjoy doing what I do. This is why I chose my character in Angrezi Medium although it is not the central part. It is a character that enters the film at an important plot point. It has an emotional arch. At this stage in my life, the whole idea is to experiment and do something different. I thought playing a small part which was relevant would be really cool.
Kareena Kapoor in Angrezi Medium, releasing March 13, 2020. Kareena will be starring opposite Irrfan Khan in the sequel to the film Hindi Medium. Picture courtesy, Jio, screengrab.
Masala!: How did you approach a role like this which wasn't really central? Tell us about the experience of working with Irrfan.
Kareena Kapoor Khan: The reason why I chose to work in Angrezi Medium is that I wanted to work with Irrfan Khan. I have worked with all Khans hence all boxes had to be ticked. The director and cast have created a stellar dynamic which worked really well. I am happy to have shared frames with such fantastic actors who are in their top form.
Masala!: How do you think Bollywood is evolving for women? If a woman isn’t ‘Poo’, or an object of anyone’s affection, how do you think cinema looks at women now? Is it better or worse?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: I think it is great because actresses are braver now. Be it Kangana or Vidya, they are all taking different paths and relevant roles. It is such a good time for women in the movies. It is all because there are these actresses who have fire in their belly. Today is there no gender specification today. We are all considered as actors.
"Actresses are braver now." - Kareena Kapoor Khan.
Masala!: Are there any stories that you would want to tell the world? Would you want to go into writing or producing films?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: In my way, I have always tried. I did Ki and Ka with Balki which was about a house husband. This idea was never approached the way we approached it. Hopefully, there are much better stories in the future we can choose from.
Kareena Kapoor Khan has avoided being pigeonholed as an actress.
Masala!: I was mostly referring to writing or producing...
Kareena Kapoor Khan, in one of her signature 'Aah!'s: Aah that! I have my hands full right now. With the work I'm currently doing and my family. It was honestly never in the list of boxes I wanted to check off.
Masala!: But some day?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: Some day, why not, sure. Maybe.
Kareena Kapoor in the film Chameli, 2004, where she played a young call girl.
Masala!: You’ve still mostly stuck to mainstream cinema. You’ve done a few shows but what about OTT platforms?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: I will always pick up the best that I can from everything that happens. Even Udta Punjab was a brave film and I wanted to support it. I will always try to balance commercial and the more artistic side of things.
I will always try to balance commercial and the more artistic side of things. - Kareena Kapoor Khan
Masala!: As you said, with age, you’ve been braver with the choices you’ve made in your career. From Veere Di Wedding to now Angrezi Medium. Quite a distance you’ve travelled from Poo to Naina in Angrezi Medium. Are you satisfied with your choices or do you look back?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: It is not that I look back and evaluate. I do think that I know what suits me and will work for my fans. The subject of egg swapping in Good Newwz was something no one would think of. It was done in a comical way. People loved the film because of its emotional value. Even in Angrezi Medium, I have played a small part but it also has an emotional arch. Her relationship with her mother is something people will really like.
Kareena Kapoor Khan in Angrezi Medium. Picture Courtesy, Jio.
Masala!: You have been called a diva but you carried on doing roles that were completely deglamorized. Do you think other actresses also need to be as brave as you because you could never be pigeonholed?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: It is up to the actor. Some get into the comfort zone - they may think, 'I need to have my hair to look a certain way' or 'my face needs to be like this all the time' so they never really want to choose roles that have nothing to do with all of that. All of this becomes toxic. I have never been pigeonholed even as a person.
I have never been pigeonholed even as a person. - Kareena Kapoor Khan
Every few days, if I ever feel like I've gotten stuck in a cycle, I step out. I meet new people, they give you a fresh idea of life and the world around you. I don't care about what people think. I switch on when I'm at work and then I switch off. Your own personality is important. I got married at the peak of my career despite people stopping me. I do my own thing.
Masala!: What is your message for the younger women? What is the best way of retaining your originality while trying to survive in a business like this?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: Following your heart and not getting stuck in the dance and song routine are important. Break barriers. This will only happen when girls are fearless.
Masala!: Are there any Hollywood dreams?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: Unfortunately, not! I never had such plans. It is too much of a commitment for me. It is not my priority. It never was.
Masala!: Speaking of priorities, little Tim Tim is often the centre of attention and the cameras love him. Possibly a cliched question but how do you deal with the attention that Taimur Ali Khan gets?
Kareena Kapoor Khan: We try keeping him normal and grounded. I am glad Saif is normal and does whatever he wants to. He would hop across the road if he feels like getting something. There's no paraphernalia. There is no entourage. Taimur's parents are famous but Taimur has not done anything considerable. He has to prove himself and there is a long way to go!
20 years is a long time to stay reigning queen and Bebo's done just that. With Angrezi Medium all set to release March 13, and Laal Singh Chaddha to release later this year, Kareena's career graph shows that there's no stopping her. She's not just proved to the world that she's as versatile as any actress can be - she's also shut down the myth that women can't have it all. Bebo has and the world can watch her have more of it for another twenty.