RECENTLY released hit film Bajrangi Bhaijaan has proved that Kareena Kapoor Khan isn’t ready to leave the Bollywood Alist just yet. The popular actress delivered another winning performance in the cross-border drama and held her own opposite Salman Khan.
When Eastern Eye caught up with the shining star in central London, she was beaming. Kareena was on holiday with husband Saif Ali Khan in her favourite city and looking forward to this month’s most high-profile Bollywood release.
The polished actress spoke about her strong bond with her mother-in-law and sister, and revealed what it was like to work alongside Salman Khan.
What can we expect from Bajrangi Bhaijaan?
Everybody loves Salman and me together. It’s a very different film, it’s a human story – there’s a lot of drama and emotion. Kabir (Khan) makes the big blockbuster movies, so it was really exciting to work with him. I play a teacher in Chandni Chowk.
[The story is about] how she comes across Salman’s character and they meet this little girl who they promise to drop back to Pakistan. Through their journey, there’s a romantic angle; it’s very emotional at the end.
Are you more selective in the films you act in these days?
In the last year I only did Singham Returns because I just got married and wanted to settle everything. Then I could pick and choose some really nice films. After Bajrangi, I’m doing Udta Punjab and then Balki’s film with Arjun Kapoor.
So it will always be either big commercial blockbusters or scripts that really excite me. I love being part of a big blockbuster; it’s in my DNA and I can’t run away from that, but I don’t always want to be known for women-centric roles.
You can’t imagine me being the same girl who’s done an item song and then playing a doctor in Udta Punjab; they both will be dramatically different.
Is it impossible to say no to a big Eid release opposite Salman Khan?
I think so, it’s pretty impossible to say no. Also Salman has turned producer after being an actor for 25 years. Now he’s produced his own film for the first time, so it was an honour that he called me and thought I was best for the part.
I’ve worked with a lot of directors but never with Kabir, so there were a lot of exciting things that came together with this film. It’s the first time I’ve had an Eid release; I’m confident with the story of the film and that’s what will get the (viewing) numbers.
What is your favourite moment in the film?
At the end of the film when everybody comes together is very emotional. When you see it, you will have a tear in your eye and a smile on your face. That is what the whole film is about.
How does Salman Khan compare with the other leading actors in Bollywood?
He is the biggest superstar in India but doesn’t take his success or failure seriously; that’s what sets him apart from others. He’s lots of fun but always very attentive; the camera adores him.
You are currently on holiday in London; what do you love about the city?
London is more of a home to me than even Mumbai. I’ve always felt at home here just walking the streets, sitting in a pub, hanging out – it’s what I want to do.
I love Chelsea and Notting Hill; for me that’s London. You want to sit outside and just chill, there’s something about this city where you never feel alone.
You are such a big Bollywood star, but do you get recognised often in London?
Right now in summer it’s actually mini-India, but it’s fine because sometimes I try to hang out in places where there are not a lot of Indians.
I’m also quite lucky because Saif has a lot of friends here so we tend not to go to the regular Indian hangouts.
Your mother-in-law, veteran actress Sharmila Tagore, likes to see you in glamorous roles; just how much influence does she have on you?
She’s a very contemporary cosmopolitan lady; she was extremely elegant and glamorous. She always has been for the last 50 years, so the question of not working after marriage was never there.
She has worked all her life even after her kids and still had a successful career, so she’s somebody I always look up to. She worked in all the biggest blockbusters and at the same time did films like Amar Prem and Mausam.
But she was in every blockbuster with Shammi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna, and that’s the way I want my career to go. She loves to see me (looking) glamorous; she says I am young and beautiful, it’s amazing to have such a support system.
How would you describe your relationship with your older sister Karisma?
Karisma is one of my best friends, I look up to her professionally and personally as well; we also anchor each other in keeping ourselves grounded. If I am going on the wrong path, she tells me and vice versa; we don’t hide anything from each other, that’s what I love.
Karisma’s been a wonderful actor and mother, I’ve been looking up to her in every way since I was a baby; she’s a lovely person.
Some female stars have spoken out about the gender pay gap in Bollywood; do you believe it exists?
Everybody gets what they deserve, I’ve never faced that problem. Definitely they must be paid more, but people get paid now according to the budgets of the film.
In a heroine-orientated film, the budgets are much less than Bajraangi Bhaijaan, so the pay-cheques will automatically be different. I’m very happy with what I get paid. Luckily I’ve never had the gender problem; I don’t know why people say that, actors get paid quite well.
Bajraangi Bhaijaan is a cross-border story; do you hope to visit Pakistan one day?
Of course I’d love to; Saif has some amazing relatives in Pakistan. I’ve never been there, I’d love to go.
What is your Eid message to your UK fans?
The biggest present is the film. I’m sure they will go and see it, that’s the biggest Eid party I can give them.
Bajraangi Bhaijaan is out in cinemas now.