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Interview Hindi

I have genuinely given everything for this role: Katrina Kaif on Bharat

During promotions for the film Bharat (2019), actress Katrina Kaif spoke about her character Kumud Raina, working with Salman Khan and sustaining a career in Hindi cinema.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Sonal Pandya

For her past three films, Katrina Kaif has worked with Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, and Shah Rukh Khan on Tiger Zinda Hai (2017), Thugs Of Hindostan (2018) and Zero (2018), respectively. In her next, Bharat (2019), she is back opposite Salman Khan for another big holiday release.

The actress spoke about the film and more at media interactions held in late May at the JW Marriott hotel in Juhu, Mumbai. Kaif was attired simply in a black floral Equipment dress for the interview and joked about how happy she was not to dance in Bharat.

“I was having the time of my life," Kaif said. "There is only one dancing song in the film, ‘Aithey Aa’, and it was, funnily enough, shot last. I was like, I don’t want to dance. I don’t think we need to. I was having this conversation and [director Ali Abbas Zafar] was like, this is a shaadi song, people dance.”

Kaif arrived on Bharat (2019) much after most of the cast had been decided and it ended up being one of the most memorable characters she has worked on. In a group conversation, the actress spoke about her character Kumud Raina, working with Salman Khan and sustaining a career in Hindi cinema. Excerpts:

You are the fastest growing celebrity on Instagram. What do you have to say about that?

I’m also the last person to join. I had to make up somewhere, I guess, because I was literally the last person. After me, there is no one else left to join. I think it’s been a nice decision for me. I don’t know what I was very stressed about. I was really against it.

I remember when Twitter first came to India, my manager had come home and said, Twitter wants you to join this platform. It was like an endorsement. Today, everyone is posting free on Twitter. And I was like, what is this Twitter? No one is coming on this platform. Nothing is happening from this. Cut to 50 million people on Twitter. So sometimes I lack foresight.

But I think the deciding factor for joining social media was there was a phase where everything I was reading about myself, I [felt] this is not a correct representation of me. I used to feel very helpless. And then I [wondered], why is it more so with me than with other people? I realized that everyone else has a platform from which they speak, so even if it’s not all the time, it’s like messages you are putting out.

In the last 10 days, I put stuff up about my film, I put stuff about my mom, and people have access to, information about you, about your life, about what’s happening. That for me was really the deciding factor why I said [yes].

I think Cancerians by nature are very private people. You want keep everything close. That’s what stopped me, I think, to get on, but now that I’m on, I think it’s quite nice.

How is Salman Khan as a co-actor?

He’s great.

Any experience you would like to share from the sets?

It’s hard to break it down. People like to personalize a lot, but the honest truth is, after Tiger Zinda Hai (2017) was released, the next time I had a lot of contact with Salman was on the set of Bharat. The first day when I came on set, he was already shooting some portion in Yash Raj [Studios] and he was like (deepens her voice), ‘Katrina, what’s up?’ There was no like ‘Oh, you’re in the film’, ‘Yay’, ‘Oh!’ ‘Wow’.

Salman is Salman. You know how he is, when he sits in front of you, he is like that (imitates Khan’s posture). He is like that with us also. He knew that Priyanka [Chopra], [it] was not possible [for her] to do the film. Ali had that confidence or comfort level with me and that was important to me to know that it’s going as per the director’s vision. So I don’t think Salman had any take on it.

Also my reaction made us both know this was correct. When I thought about the film, it was a very wife’s role, docile, timid, seedha-sadha. When I read it, I was shocked because, as you can see from the promos, that’s not her. She is a very modern, self-made strong woman in the 1970s which was even more unusual. That kind of woman fighting in a man’s world, yet being feminine, yet maintaining her sense of also being a woman, wanting to get married, wanting to have children, wanting all the things that a lot of women do, I liked that balance.

She [has] a lot of firsts through the film. She becomes a newsreader, at one point in the film, in the early 1990s. When we were doing the referencing for this part of the film, the challenge was to get this character to be very believable. I didn’t want anyone to have one thing to say when you see the film. This was our goal and, hopefully, we have managed to achieve it. We had very specific references in mind of Doordarshan newsreaders.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Even before the release of Bharat (2019), Salman Khan is very confident about your character and performance and believes you should get the National award. What do you have to say?

You know that when Salman talks, he talks with a lot of flair and a lot of fun. There is always a lot of humour. That [the National award] is impossible for anyone to know. What will be the audience reaction, there will be an award or not, we don’t know these things right now.

He has never said anything like this for anyone else before.

So that’s a good thing [that] he has not said that before. I think when Salman says things, sometimes he says it in jest, but that always stems from some sense of truth to it. It starts from somewhere. I know because he gave me this comment also when we were on the set, that he appreciated what I was doing.

I think that’s nice because I genuinely have given everything for this role. I know you can say that every actor gives everything to every role, but sometimes you are in that right mindset, right frame of mind to really go a little deeper into who this person is. Sometimes it also really resonates with you and it was just the process that I really tried to make it very personal for me. I tried to make this a real person, really filling in all the layers.

During Tiger Zinda Hai (2017), Ali Abbas Zafar said that in this film, you will see an actor Katrina. Even in Zero (2018), you were appreciated for your dancing skills, but now people are talking about the actor in you. What do you have to say and do you see that a welcome change?

For me, it’s a wonderful thing because now I am not a newcomer any more. How do you sustain yourself in any profession? Look at Madonna or anyone who is successful in their profession for a sustained period of time. One, two years you can always come with some hype, something with some spirit, with some energy, lots of different things. To sustain for a long time, you have evolve, there has to be some sort of an evolution or growth. There has to be some sort of a change so that the audience feel they are seeing something new. You have to just remain connected with your audience.

How you do that may be different from you, me, Salman, Aamir [Khan], Kareena [Kapoor Khan]. Everyone is different. I keep telling my sister also, there’s no one rulebook. You go to Lee Strasberg which is the best acting institute for ten years and maybe you’ll never make it as an actor. You can have no training and you can become the biggest actor in your field, in your industry.

So the fact that people see a growth or a change now, the media people who talk about the film, who review the films, the audience, that’s a wonderful thing for me. It gives me longevity as an actor. It gives me an opportunity and confidence with the directors and the filmmakers and with me to try new things. They get the confidence that this actor is interested in roles like this, they are interested in creating a character.

How has the process changed of selecting scripts? Why are you doing fewer scripts?

How much more can I do? I actually feel that I have signed a film jaldi. Now I guess what’s happening is that I am putting more work into what I am doing. So it takes more time. In terms of choosing the roles now, you choose I feel with what attracts you to the person you are today. So the person I was when I said yes to Dhoom 3 (2013) is not the person I am today. It’s the nature of life. We all go through things in life. In two years you won’t be the same person, something will have changed in your life, your mind, your experiences and I think I want to do now what challenges me and what I feel I have not done before. So I feel something is very nice but it’s repetitive, then why would I do it? I’m going to be bored.

But you are also turning producer. There are some French films you want to remake.

That French film is a story which has been on for some time now. It’s not a French film actually, but there are a few ideas which I have had which are not my ideas. They are ideas which have come to me, which I have really liked, which I might put my name to as producer. I would like to put my name to something which I feel very strongly about. There are a few discussions happening, so hopefully this year.

Will you act in those films as well?


How open are you to working with new directors?

Oh, I’m very open. I just worked with Aanand L Rai sir.  He’s not a new director, of course, but I have never worked with him before. I have worked with Gattu [Abhishek Kapoor] before that. I have worked with Dada [Anurag Basu]. Honestly, it’s funny because some of the tags that get associated with you, it’s just the way it is in the media that names [it]. Sometimes it’s unfortunate because it doesn’t even allow for people to analyse and see if it’s the truth.

The fact of the matter is, as soon as I got into a position where I had material to choose from, the choices that I made were always performance roles. The first few films you are lucky to get what you are getting, so you take what you are given. So as soon as I could choose something, I chose Namastey London (2007) where the girl’s character had a fantastic role and Akshay [Kumar] agreed to do that with a newcomer at that point. Then I got a film like New York (2009). It’s not like I was always strategizing to do big commercial films.

People are just talking about your performance and range of roles now, but ever since Namastey London (2007), even Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), all of your roles have been so memorable in terms of how you have got that relativity right.

The great thing is that the fact people forgot about that and now they are remembering it again, it’s seeming more new. It gives me longer life as an actor. That’s my only endeavour, that everyone who sees the film says I could relate to Kumud’s character. You may not make the same decisions. She makes some fairly bold decisions in the film for reasons which are explained. But as long as it’s relatable and you feel for her, if you feel for her then my job was done correctly. Then phir mera chance hoga, yeh National award milne ki liye.