Mumbai — In terms of the way things are fast changing, Kareena Kapoor Khan is almost a veteran now, with screen experience of 15 years. What is, however, creditable is that she still is an A-list heroine when others junior to her have faded away or have lost their glow.
Set to score again in her third film with Rohit Shetty, “Singham Returns,” releasing Aug. 15, the new begum of Pataudi is full of beans as we meet up one evening at her husband Saif Ali Khan’s Illuminati Films office.
Scratch the veneer of her stylized, ooh-la-la-sophisticated exterior, however, and you find a full-blown Kapoor — grounded, pedigreed, desi, completely passionate about Hindi (strictly mainstream) cinema and above all, a hardcore realist. Marriage has made her secure, chilled-out — she lauds other heroines, and also calls a spade a spade.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: A cliché, but what is your role in “Singham Returns,” which unlike the “Golmaal” franchise, is about Ajay, Ajay and Ajay?
A: In this film, I play possibly the only female auto-rickshaw driver in India! And she woos the stern Bajirao Singham.
I think that the people have always appreciated me in comedy, including in the two Rohit Shetty films I have done earlier, in which I was like a suspicious wife in “Golmaal Returns” and then one of the boys in “Golmaal 3.” After serious stuff like “Heroine” and “Satyagraha,” it was refreshing to do a light role again. It is I who keeps saying “Aata maazhi satakli (Now I have blown my fuse)!,” Ajay’s famous line in the first “Singham,” and that too to him! Yes, our romance is in the form of comedy! And the comedy here is funnier than in the “Golmaal” films.
Q: So many films down the years, what is your equation with Ajay Devgn?
A: I have known Ajay now for over 20 years, even before I became an actress, when he was my sister’s hero. His only bad trait is smoking, and I can’t stand that. He would do it all the time when we were sharing lunch, so we have a pact now — we eat our lunches separately!
But I feel that his good points completely outweigh this one negative trait. (Smiles) He’s a great guy — he’s responsible, consistent, very good natured, and a dear and dependable friend who can give great advice. He’s someone with whom it will be great to catch up with even 20 years later.
Q: But for two films with Imran Khan, you have stuck to senior heroes. And almost all are superstars, so that you have to play second fiddle.
A: So where are the great roles for me? Oh, I am happy doing these mega-box-office movies, and frankly, to answer your first query, it would really be pushing it too far to hope for a film in which I co-star with Varun Dhawan, right? I would love to have dinner with him, but I cannot be his leading lady!
Besides, like all the Kapoors, I have always been a commercial actor. Though I now read scripts page by page, which I did not always do before, I would hate to do any movie in which I am appreciated but the film is not. After “Heroine,” people said, “Kareena was good, but the movie was bad!”
Q: Still, what will you get to do in a film like Kabir Khan’s “Bajrangi Bhaijan,” which has Salman Khan?
A: Let me tell you that this film is a truly different story, and it is a privilege working with a director like Kabir Khan, who wants to work with me after three back-to-back films with Katrina Kaif! It is a human story and not at all a typical Salman Khan film even for him. So there is a good role for me.
Q: These are times when a Rani Mukerji does a “Mardaani” and a Priyanka Chopra a “Mary Kom.”
A: I can’t do action, and I love what I am doing! I really applaud Rani Mukerji and Priyanka Chopra — hats off to them for attempting such different genres. However, song and dance is in my blood and I am okay with them. I would love to do an “Arth,” or a “Bridges of Madison County.”
I am hooked on old Hindi movies on Zee, while Saif watches English films. I am in love with the old “Gol Maal,” “Angoor,” “Aradhana,” “Kagaz Ke Phool,” “Abhimaan” or my grandfather Raj Kapoor’s films “Boot Polish,” “Awara,” “Aah” or “Prem Rog.” I do not know why some of these films are not re-made.
Q: In that case, you can produce the kind of film of the kind you like to do.
A: Oh, I would rather leave making films to Saif! (Smiles) Look, it’s simple: I have worked with the best — whether directors or co-actors. But I have never worked for an award — no Kapoor has — and I am happy and content that Saif got a National Award for “Hum Tum.”
An instinctive actress like me is not really looking for that great challenging role! It’s actually more challenging to stand out among great actors in a film like “3 Idiots.” And I always like to believe what I am playing! When I do a “Singham Returns” I believe I am a rickshaw driver.
Q: Speaking of the Kapoors, what would be your advice to your cousin Armaan Jain, whose maiden film “Lekar Hum Deewana Dil” was a disaster, and what do you also think of Ranbir Kapoor’s penchant for “different” cinema?
A: I think that the first thing we learn here is to take a flop and a hit in the same way. My first film and that of Ranbir and so many of us were all flops. So we cannot let that get us down.
As for Ranbir, I guess he knows what he wants to do. But I am sure that he will go commercial soon. Personally, I would not like to do anything different for the sake of it!
Q: Which are your favorite contemporary films?
A: Did you know that the last complete film that I have watched is “Dabangg”? I do watch new English films, like Saif, and my favorites are detective shows, which I can even watch at 3 a.m. in the morning.
Q: You have been known to refuse a lot of films, like Zoya Akhtar’s “Dil Dhadakne Do,” and you backed out of “Shuddhi” after Hrithik Roshan’s exit. Now that Salman is doing that film, will you return to it?
A: I loved everything about “Dil Dhadkane Do,” except for the fact that I would have to be out on a cruise for three whole months. Imagine being away from home that long! And I don’t think I will have the dates they would want for “Shuddhi,” but let’s see. For me, the big attraction then was Hrithik. With Salman, I am already doing a film anyway.
Q: What if these films are the kind of blockbusters you love doing?
A: The word “regret” does not exist for me as I never look back. Some films I turned down have already been huge successes.
Q: There was a time when you made it a point to say that you were only doing films with the Khans. Who are your favorites among them?
A: I would say Aamir Khan and Salman Khan. Aamir is the only actor whose fan I was since “Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.” I wished to work with him when I came in and I am very lucky that I finally bagged two films with him, including his biggest, “3 Idiots.” Besides, I have had at least two rounds with almost all the Khans.
Q: What are your feelings on Soha Ali Khan’s recent engagement to Kunal Khemu?
A: I am really happy, because I have seen how happy and smiling she is whenever Kunal is around and that’s what love is about, right? May he keep her smiling for all time!
Q: And Ranbir-Katrina?
A: I am just thrilled that I will be invited to both these weddings! (Laughs)