Films that made Kareena Kapoor Khan a star — Birthday special

As the actress turns 36 today (21 September), we examine the films that changed her career.

Kapoor Khan in Refugee (2000)

Sonal Pandya

Over 16 years ago, Kareena Kapoor Khan burst onto the screen in JP Dutta’s Refugee (2000) opposite Abhishek Bachchan. The young actress came from acting pedigree — following her great-grandfather Prithviraj, grandfather Raj and father Randhir Kapoor in Hindi cinema. More importantly, she was following her older sister Karisma as well. Karisma was the first female from the Kapoor family to join the big screen; she paved the way for her younger sister.

Unlike Karisma, Kareena received a big star-studded launch with a prestigious banner opposite Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan’s son. The film was an average hit that year and the newcomers, Kareena and Abhishek, did well to hold their own against another blockbuster, Kaho Na Pyar Hai (2000) which introduced two newcomers, Hrithik Roshan and Ameesha Patel.

Kareena went to win the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut and a star was born after Refugee. The next year quickly established as a contender for top actress in the industry. She appeared with the foremost actors at the time, the new contender for number one, Hrithik Roshan and Shah Rukh Khan in his home production, Asoka, directed by Santosh Sivan. Kareena earned her first Filmfare nomination for Best Actress for her role as Kaurwaki, the former princess in hiding.

That same year, she also landed a part in Karan Johar’s ensemble family drama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001) where Kareena played Kajol’s younger sister, Pooja aka ‘Poo’. As the fashion-obsessed Poo with catchy one-liners, Kapoor stole the show against her more experienced co-stars. The success of K3G lead to a string of movies in 2002 and 2003. Kareena rose above the mediocre scripts and still remained in top demand.

With Chameli (2004), her perception in the industry and amongst audiences changed. She was lauded for taking up the challenging role of a prostitute and won a special award from Filmfare. In 2004, she was also seen in Govind Nihalani’s Dev and Mani Rathnam’s Yuva. Kareena balanced these critically-acclaimed films with two commercial hits in Fida (2004) and Aitraaz (2004). She won her first Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress.

Dev (2004)

The awards poured in again with Omkara (2006) and Jab We Met (2007). In Vishal Bhardwaj’s gritty village drama, Kapoor played the doomed beauty Dolly, the equivalent of William Shakespeare’s Desdemona. But unfortunately, with stellar acting from Ajay Devgn, Konkona Sen Sharma and her future husband Saif Ali Khan, Kareena was not mentioned after them all.

Jab We Met (2007)

However, Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met the next year, made sure that all anyone remembered was Kapoor’s talkative yet lovable Geet. Kareena finally won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress after two nominations. With this film, the youngest Kapoor sister eventually cemented her acting legacy. Her character Geet was one for the ages.

The coming years brought great success to Kareena with hits with each of the Khans and entry into the exclusive Rs100-crore club in films like 3 Idiots (2009) and Bodyguard (2011). But with each commercial success, the roles in these hits haven’t been fairly substantial. Many of Kareena’s appearances in the past few years have been extended cameos.

An occasional challenging role like the one in Shakun Batra’s Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012) allowed Kareena to play against the traditional heroine in a rom-com. Kareena and co-star Imran Khan were hardly the typical couple and the film played up on the opposites attract angles. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu also mentioned, but didn’t linger on the slight age difference between Kareena and Imran. In 2016’s Ki & Ka, she also acted opposite Arjun who is five years younger than her.

Kareena was a part of Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab (2016) this year in a supporting role. Her last truly leading role was in 2012 with Madhur Bandarkar’s Heroine. That year, she married Saif Ali Khan and continued working, appearing in Rs100-crore hits Singham Returns (2014) and Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015).

With her next project, Veere De Wedding (2017), she will go into a new phase of her career, taking on acting after motherhood. Since the announcement of her pregnancy, Kareena has not shied away from the limelight — from attending film events to walking the ramp for designer Sabyasachi at Lakme Fashion Week. In an online interview this year, Kareena stated, “I want a career like the late Zohra Sehgal's. At the age of 80, I want to be in front of the camera.” The way Kareena’s going, it certainly looks like she’s sticking around.