Being Kareena Kapoor: The Superstar, The Girl

Who but Kareena Kapoor can call herself a superstar without sounding pompous? Even Rajesh Khanna couldn’t get away with that one.
Who but Kareena Kapoor can call herself a superstar without sounding pompous? Even Rajesh Khanna couldn’t get away with that one.

Who but Kareena Kapoor can call herself a superstar without sounding pompous? Even Rajesh Khanna couldn’t get away with that one.

Kareena dazzles you with her enterprising spirit. From the sassy streetwalker in Sudhir Mishra’s Chameli to the Muslim riot victim in Govind Nihlani’s Dev, to the sassy Punjabi kudi in Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met and now the on-the-edge actress in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine, it’s been a truly maddening and turbulent career for Bollywood’s most pricey actress.

I’ve known Kareena better than almost anyone else. But then, I don’t think anyone can really ‘know’ Kareena fully. Certainly not Kareena herself.

Her attitude to life and career always swings between “I-don’t-care” and “I-live-and-die-for–what-I-believe-in”. There’s never a middle path, never a chance of finding a balance between those two extremes.

Daughter of caprice and the wizard of whimsy, Kareena goes completely by what her heart tells her. In the process if she ends up looking somewhat contradictory in her conduct, then so be it. Kareena doesn’t care. She lives for the moment and crams all her intensity into it, not sparing a single thought for what’s gone and what’s waiting around the corner.

I think I was the first journalist Kareena ever spoke to. Right after the release of her first film Refugee I remember running into this spunky naturally beautiful girl who told me she always wants to be simple and Indian in movies, like she was in Refugee.

The impact that Kareena made in her debut film remains unequalled by anything any other newcomers including Dimple Kapadia in Bobby or Karisma Kapoor in Prem Qaidi, made.

During a private conversation the icon himself Amitabh Bachchan had called her “ethereal”. She had laughed nervously. “That’s what I want to be. I’ve watched the films of Meena Kumari and Madhubala and those are my role-models… I feel very awkward doing the things that today’s heroines are required to…”

She had just begun shooting for her second film Ajnabee where she was required to be sensuous. And Kareena was dying a thousand deaths. “I can’t do all this!” she grumbled throughout the making of the film.

Barely a year after Refugee she was transformed into a captivating centre-spread queen in Satish Kaushik’s Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai and later Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.

The makeover from the simple salwar-kameez–clad girl in Refugee to the pouty seductress Poo in K3G was startling… and complete.

Kareena’s priorities had transformed completely. “I realize I can’t be paid what I am for being draped from head to toe. I’ve to be glamorous and seductive. That’s what being a sale-able heroine of today is all about, ” She confided me.

So it was, goodbye Meena Kumari, hello Britney Spears and Lady Gaga… and never mind if Spears erupted much after Poo.

During the making of K3G it was clear to all who the queen on the sets was. Not Kajol, not even the Bachchans… it was Kareena who was pampered silly by the Johars. It was as though everyone saw she was the superstar in the making. Somehow the commercial success never really happened. But it didn’t stop her rapid climb to being a youth icon.

“I must be the only actress in the world whose brand equity increases every time I give a flop,” she laughs with that don’t-care-a-damn toss of her hair which makes her such a favorite among the generation that believes in self regard being the highest form of creativity.

Somewhere down the line her headstrong attitude cost her dearly. She lost big banner films like Karan Johar. She said no to the offer to do Kal Ho Na Ho because, according to her, she was being offered peanuts. She also said no to Deepa Mehta and Rituparno Ghosh’s offer to do Water and Raincoat after saying yes.