Kareena - wizard of whimsy, daughter of caprice
From the sassy streetwalker in Sudhir Mishra's "Chameli" to the Muslim riot victim in Govind Nihlani's "Dev" and now to the stunningly amoral wanton-woman in Ken Ghosh's "Fida", 2004 has been a momentous year for Kareena Kapoor.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
From "Refugee" to "Fida", it's been a truly maddening and turbulent three-year career for one of Bollywood's most sought after actresses.
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.
If she knew her potential as completely as Aishwarya Rai, Preity Zinta or Rani Mukherjee, Kareena would've by now become a major phenomenon of Indian cinema instead of being one of the most intriguing and appealing possibilities that she is right now.
Her attitude to life and career 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 wizard of whimsy, Kareena goes completely by what her heart tells her. In the process if she ends up looking somewhat contradictory, then so be it. Kareena doesn't care. She lives for the moment and crams all her intensity into it, not sparing a 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 wanted to be simple and Indian in movies, like she was in "Refugee".
During a private conversation, 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 centrespread queen in Satish Kaushik's "Mujhe Kuchh Kehna Hai" and later Karan Johar's "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham".
The makeover from the simple salwar-kameez clad girl in "Refugee" to the pouting seductress Poo in "K3G" was startling -- and complete.
Kareena's priorities had transformed completely. "I realise 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 saleable heroine of today is all about," she confided.
So it was goodbye Meena Kumari, hello Britney Spears. 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 laughed with that don't-care-a-damn toss of her hair, which makes her such a favourite 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.
"Right now it isn't time for me to do too many of these offbeat films. I did 'Chameli' and that's enough," she said with a toss of her stubborn head.
I immediately recalled her response to Deepa Mehta's "Water" when it came to her right after "Refugee". She was shooting for Subhash Ghai's "Yaadein" in Rajasthan when the script arrived. "I can't do this. Shabana Azmi would chew me alive."
Of course, she wasn't bothered by Shabana's performance. From the start, Kareena has been the most confident and arrogant performer in Bollywood. She needs no rehearsal even for the most complicated scene. Joking and giggling till the last second, she switches on her instinctive powerhouse performing abilities like a water tap.
And so it flows. Kareena is today on the threshold of another beginning.
"Fida", where she co-stars with her boyfriend Shahid Kapur, is a momentous turn for her and not just because she plays a negative character for the first time. Right now, Kareena is a girl completely consumed by love. Her other friends and well wishers have ceased to matter. "Fida" has to click because she wants her man to become a superstar at any cost.
Her moodiness is legendary. But she never carries her temper to the sets. Kareena is a performer much ahead of her times. She's a princess in demeanour and royalty at heart. Her bearing and behaviour convey the arrogance of aristocracy. It was these qualities that prompted Sanjay Leela Bhansali to cast her as the passionate warrior-courtesan Mastani in the historical love story "Bajirao Mastani".
The larger picture has never mattered to her. She always jumps into the short run, sacrificing the trek for the sprint.
I remember how excited she was after watching Bhansali's "Devdas". "I have to be in his next picture, no matter what. We were born to work together," she vowed.
Today "Fida" is of more immediate consequence to Kareena than a distant "Bajirao Mastani".
I've seen Kareena in love. Nothing else matters to her right now. If "Fida" doesn't work she'll be heartbroken, not for herself but for Shahid Kapur.