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Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

What’s striking about Katrina Kaif is the in-depth knowledge of her craft, gained over the years in the industry, apart from the fact that she’s one of the most successful female stars we have today! It’s been more than 15 years and her growth has been commendable. Still dedicated and hard-working to the tee, she’s clear in her head about the choices she wants to make. Here, the lady gets chatting about her latest release, ‘Bharat’ and more…

How’s your journey been with Ali Abbas Zafar from ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’ to now ‘Bharat’?
We’ve had an interesting journey so far. I first met Ali on the sets of ‘New York’. That was Kabir Khan’s first film as a director and Ali was the first AD on it. When I met Ali, I told my manager that I hate this boy and if he talks to me again, I’m going to tell Adi (Aditya Chopra, who produced the film), I’m leaving the set. I wanted to go back to Mumbai for some promotions of ‘Singh Is King’, so I was like give me two days and he was talking to me very sternly – no you can’t go back and all. We started off on a bad note, and slowly we became friends. I realised slowly that he is a very hard-working person and he has his heart in the right place, he comes across as a stern person. Ali, Karishma, another person working on the set- they became my circle of friends. Then later, he told me he wanted to direct and he gave me the script. When I read it, I realised that he had written the film for me – the person he knew me to be, not the normal perception that people had of me. Which is why, the character he wrote is fun-loving, silly because that’s how our equation was like. I felt that I would enjoy doing this, because there was scope for me to do a lot. It was a great experience. For me, it was one of my most enjoyable roles that I got a chance to play. Then he went on to do ‘Gunday’, ‘Sultan’ with Salman. For whatever reasons, we were not working on those films. Once he told me, he was working on a sequel for ‘Tiger’ and I was shocked. I couldn’t even imagine anyone working on the sequel for that. When he explained to me, I realised it’s the most correct film out of Yashraj to make a franchise. I loved the film, my character and a lot of people loved how he took Zoya’s character forward. Here he made Zoya an active part of the being an agent. Out of the three films, if I had to choose one, then ‘Bharat’ is the best experience we’ve had so far. I feel that the character is the best because he didn’t write it with me in mind. For me, that’s a blessing in disguise. He will not admit it or agree to me, that he was so sure this is not going to be me – the character became very different. When Zoya writes a ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, at the back of the head she knows who she wants so there are certain nuances she brings in accordingly to those characters. In this film, he didn’t think of me and for me that’s a blessing because he gave me something super challenging and something that I’ve not before.

How did you perceive your character in the film?
In my mind, when I thought about the film, it was a docile, timid, wife’s role. But when I read the film, that’s not her attitude. She’s a modern, self-made strong woman in the 70s and that’s even more unusual. A woman fighting in a man’s world, and yet being feminine. Yet maintaining her sense of being a woman – wanting to get married, have children. I like that balance. Sometimes we lose the balance with a woman trying to be too manly, or strong and then sometimes it’s too passive. But I loved the fact that Kumud’s character has struck that right balance – of being today’s woman. She becomes a newsreader at a point in time. For me the challenge was to make this character believable. I was trying to have specific references of some of the Doordarshan readers. I thought there’ll be teleprompters but then we realised in the 90s there were no teleprompters. So, if you see some of the famous news readers they used to read from the papers. Also, the ladies of that time were very dignified in their demeanour.

Now that people are talking about the actor that you are, apart from how you look, how do you feel? And is it because there’s been a shift from your end with the roles you choose?
For me, it’s a wonderful thing. I’m not a newcomer anymore. How do you sustain yourself in any profession? You have to evolve to sustain in a profession for a long time. There has to be some sort of a change so that the audiences feel they’re seeing something new. You have to be connected with your audience. How you do that, is different for everyone. There’s no rule book in acting. You can have no training and become the biggest actor in the field. And then you can go study at Lee Strasberg and yet never become an actor. When people write reviews or say things about me as an actor, I feel good. It also gives a perspective to directors that I can do new things and fit into all roles. Some of the films we do, are just large entertainment films – where you don’t need to go into the depth of the character. Let’s say, for ‘Dhoom 3. You would have not go into who is this girl’s mind. If you give me ‘Dhoom 3’ today, I would. But that time, it was about the songs, glamour, never-see-before things in the presentation of songs. Also, now I’ve ticked those boxes. For me, dance and songs was a big part of what I wanted to do. For me, songs and films come in the category of performing arts. I was only allowed to watch films through musicals as a child. That was the information going in my mind as a child. It was all so bright. When I came here, I used to see, Madhuri’s films, Aishwarya. They had that joy on their face when they danced. That was my ambition. That was never in my mind. For me, it was the joy of performing because that’s the kind of films I grew up on. But now, that’s done. I tried many different versions of it, and I’ve done that a lot. Now where I find my enjoyment or fulfilment is in the character. I didn’t want to dance in this film. I was so happy in the whole film. Then he told me, to do one song which was so situational.

How are you selecting your scripts at this point?
Now I’m putting more work into what I’m doing, so it takes more time. For example, if I’m shooting for 100 hours for ‘Bharat’, I would put in 50 hours for prep for what I wanted to do. So, the quantity of films I’m doing has reduced. You choose with what attracts you as the person you are today. The person I was when I did ‘Dhoom 3’, is not the person I am today. It’s the nature of life, we’ll all go through things in life, experience things. Now I want to do what challenges me and what I’ve not done before. As soon as I was in the position where I could choose, I’ve always done roles that were performance oriented.

But there was also ‘Namaste London’, ‘New York’ and all those roles which people still remember and love! You’ve always connected to the audience so well!
I chose ‘Namaste London’ as soon as I had the opportunity to choose. Akshay agreed to do the film with a newcomer at that point. Then I did ‘New York’ which was one of the nicest characters I played. You know, funnily, people had forgotten all these roles and now they’re remembering it again, hence finding it new. That’s good for me, because it’ll give me a longer shelf life as an actor. That’s my only endeavour, to connect with people, or they should relate to your character.

“As soon as I was in the position where I could choose, I’ve always done roles that were performance oriented”

You joined social media pretty late. And now that you’re one of the most popular celebrities on Instagram – are you enjoying being there?
I think for me, the deciding factor for joining social media was that, this is not the correct representation of me. I used to feel helpless at that point. Then I analysed and realised that everyone has a platform on which they used to speak. The little messages you’re putting out on a daily basis speak a lot about you. That for me was the deciding factor for me. Cancerians by nature are very private people – that is a contradiction. That you’re an actor, but you want to keep everything close about your private life. Hence I was apprehensive about joining social media at first, but now that I’m on it I feel nice.

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