‘Saif Needs Someone to Keep Him Grounded’: Kareena Kapoor Khan
She is frank, she is fearless, she is lovable. Kareena Kapoor Khan in a candid chat with Masala!
As we sit across from each other the thing that immediately strikes us is how comfortable Kareena Kapoor Khan is in her own skin. Perhaps her ease with herself is what people mistake for arrogance. This sort of self-assurance has been ingrained in Kareena since she was a child; even as a little girl in school the surprisingly mature Bebo always knew what she wanted and where she wanted to be. Now in an entirely different phase of her life, Kareena, despite being on a whirlwind promotional tour for Singham Returns, remains as unruffled and seems to be taking a page out of her husband’s book – to live large and well. In what we’d like to call a first (despite the numerous interviews she’s given), she speaks about her responsibilities, her family and the success that her mother told her never to take so seriously. Masala! is proud to bring you Kareena Kapoor Khan in a rare heart-to-heart.
You did something very different in Singham Returns.
I wouldn’t honestly want to say that it’s the heaven-on-earth kind of thing. It’s a commercial blockbuster. Everyone asks me what it is about Singham Returns and why I said yes to the film. My logic is very clear – either you be a part of big commercial blockbuster movies or do something that’s really relevant, where you believe in the character. Rohit (Shetty) happens to be one of the biggest directors in the country today and we have a relationship… So for me, it’s like being a part of Iron Man – even Iron Man requires a leading lady! But it’s not an earth-shattering part (smiles).
What would you say is special about the film?
Well, it’s Rohit and the role because Rohit and I have done wonderful work together in the past. He understands what I like as an actor; he understands my flaws as an actor, so you want to work with a director who projects you right. I know he will always project me in the right way. Besides I love doing comedy; people love my comic timing; so this is like a notch higher.
Do you find it hard to say no to people you know when it comes to working with them?
Yes, of course, I’ve done that in the past. But after 14 years of being in the industry I’ve decided that at some point I have to say no! Better late than never…
Does it get emotional because the people who like you always want to repeat you?
Yes, I know… I’ve worked with people in three films – whether it was Karan’s (Johar) production or Abbas-Mustan, Rohit Shetty, Aamir (Khan) twice over, Salman’s (Khan) production… In a way I’m glad people know this. Because somewhere, I’m a lot of heart more than anything else and relationships mean a lot to me. I’ve always taken decisions like that and a lot of people felt those decisions were wrong. But to me it’s okay, it really doesn’t matter.
There’s this whole controversy about Shuddhi and your relationship with Karan being affected by your refusal…
Yes I know it’s terrible! It’s so upsetting because Karan is like a brother to me. We talk about much more than films. I confide in him as a brother. I find these tabloid reports stupid that Karan and I could ever have a problem and that too over a film. It was my choice not to be a part of a particular project and that’s fine. It’s an actor’s prerogative what they want to do… Suddenly, I find everyone feels very responsible and it’s like judgement day – I should be doing this film. There are so many people taking so many decisions for me! Please, it’s a free country…
Would you like to talk a little bit about your work with UNICEF?
I’ve been working with UNICEF for the last one year. I didn’t really feel the need to talk about it and that’s why we didn’t earlier. But we’re taking this relationship towards another level – towards helping the children. My main concern when I met with UNICEF was that I wanted to do something for education. I have had a good education but I just wish I had had more… And probably this has come because of Saif. I also wish that young girls get to study more. There are so many people across India whose right to education is only primary. It’s not really secondary, which is quite sad.
The way I went to see these schools where these girls are studying – there are these schools which help them study only till the eighth standard. After I interacted with them – they are so able and so powerful these young girls. They feel so safe in this environment because they’re not working in somebody’s house, they’re not getting raped, they’re not being sent off to get married to people they don’t want to, they’re not working on a farm… They feel ‘we want to be an IAS officer, a computer engineer, a teacher…’ And I feel they have that right.
What touched you most about them and this experience?
The most important thing is that they have a right to be someone and pursue their dreams. There are these small girls from different places – I went to Rajasthan too, Jharkhand, Jalna but not many people know about it. That’s why we tapped into this subject and I told UNICEF I want to be a part of education. It’s close to me. Somewhere I’ve started reading a lot more now.
Because you have a bookworm of a husband!
An absolute bookworm of a husband! I have no choice really because when we’re on holiday and he’s reading I’m like, ‘Listen now even I have to’ and I love it! It’s literally these little things that have transformed me as a person and have changed my life entirely. I would like my fans to know this. There’s so much more than movies and over time I think it sets in.
What other influences of Saif have changed your life?
Reading, travelling…and also just knowing the power and the ability of letting go... We actors are always caught up in a web of ‘which is the next Bollywood film I’m supposed to be a part of, which director is making it and am I getting cast’? Or ‘let’s go to this actor’s house for dinner because…’ There is just so much going on that there has to be a time when you pull back. There are times when you just want to let go, meet other people and talk about things apart from movies. That part of my life I completely owe to Saif.
Saif was always that kind of person…
Yes, I agree he’s always been a little detached and that’s what makes him the kind of actor he is. He knows exactly how to go away.
How do you feel you have influenced him?
I think Saif has become more responsible. He’s become more grounded and somewhere has a sense of belonging. He belongs to me, he feels that commitment, he feels answerable…And I think Saif needs someone to keep him grounded. We both like each other’s company. It’s very important for partners to enjoy each other’s company more than physicality. I feel most marriages just end up being a responsibility. I’ve always told Saif it shouldn’t be like that for him and me. We should be friends; we should talk over a glass of wine – very important to have an evening of that. That’s what I enjoy and I hope we can always be like that.
You’ve always been a very responsible girl – to Saif, to your family…
Yes, I am – not many people know that but I am a responsible girl.
What makes you proud today when you look back on this?
I think it was mum’s upbringing. She just kept us so basic, that’s what has paid off. The fact that she’s always told us never to take success and failure so seriously. Both Karisma and I have seen so much of success and failure and it was mum who always told us, “You have to find your balance…” But I think it was actually mum who kept us balanced. An evening with the three of us is quite basic; with the three of us chatting and having dinner… It’s homely and it’s what we want.
And, of course, my father! He’s a very, very responsible, grounded man. Somebody who’s extremely compassionate, extremely understanding... Somebody who is my friend and is always there. He really loves Karisma and me. And in the big picture of my life (because we lived with mum) he’s irreplaceable because he’s my father. There’s a bond that’s irreplaceable.
What do you feel most responsible where each member of your family is concerned? For instance, your dad…
I think he needs to look after his health. He’s diabetic and I am concerned all the time. So he should be more responsible on that front.
And your mum?
I feel responsible for my mum for my entire being. Like I said earlier in an interview my mum, Karisma and I are like the Holy Trinity. It’s literally like that. I am still answerable to mum despite being married.
Do you worry about anything where she’s concerned?
Well, yes, I worry about wishing I had more time to spend with her. After this film, I’m not shooting for a month-and-a-half, so hopefully I’m going to give her a lot more time after 15 years of working. I think you owe that to your parents.
And Karisma. Do you still play her elder sister?
(Laughs) Yes, I am her elder sister! From the time we were kids I was always bossing her around, firing her and telling her to do this and that. (Laughs) And she loves that!
Would you like to see her working? She seems to have taken a break?
Yes, I would like to see her working but not in movies. She’s the perfect mother; she’s happy doing ads and not giving out too much time. I think she’s quite prudish and she’s always in her shell so we’re trying to get her out of that, to meet people and go out a little bit! Her entire youth of 20 years, all she did was work. Sometimes you have to live for yourself. But now she’s busy with the upbringing of the kids and is a hands-on mother!
How do you feel as an aunt to Samaira and Kiaan Raj?
I think I’m a very good aunt. I love them and they’re like my children. They’ll always be like my firstborn, no matter what.
Your honesty where your own life is concerned is quite an achievement.
Well, if I may say so (and very few media people understand this) is that I’ve been as honest as I could be. I’ve spoken about my relationships and I’m someone who’s always said I can’t work without love. It’s important. In a relationship where I didn’t even know if I was going to get married, I still spoke about it. But I’d rather live my life like that – you feel more alive. I think a woman of today should be as real as we can be in the public eye.
Who would you consider your best friend today?
My husband is my best friend – I really don’t feel the need to look elsewhere even though we spend a lot of time apart. It is hard sometimes; like this time, it’s been 20 days – he’s off shooting in Canada for Phantom. I was with him in London and I returned to Mumbai. But I’m meeting him in a week, so that’s fine! I’m going back to London since I have a UNICEF thing happening and Saif and I are attending the finals of the cricket at Lord’s. And it’s Saif’s birthday! So everything’s happening at once.
You’re a big planner of surprises…
I’m always the planner because Saif always says, ‘You decide where…’ Now we’re both not working for a month-and-a-half so we want to travel a little. I appreciate it when an actor says they don’t have a life apart from acting. I really respect that. But in today’s day and age, I feel it’s nice to have other things going as well. Since I love travelling I now want to go to the Northern Lights in Iceland. All these things are part of my bucket list and I want to move towards that! Do one or two films a year but more time with family, more time with travel.
We can’t see you not doing films…
Neither can I – I’m too much of a Kapoor for that! (Laughs) There’s a lot that hasn’t been tapped. Next on my list is a film with Kabir Khan, with Salman. It will be quite different from what people might expect of an action-packed Salman Khan film. Of course there will be action but it’s a very human story. I’ve never worked with Kabir. He’s interesting and tries to touch on interesting topics. So I’m very lucky at this stage to get to work with somebody I’ve never worked with. I’ve otherwise done the gamut! I’m reading a lot of new scripts. I want to work with a new director, someone young and inspired who can also inspire me.