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Verve People
July 07, 2016

Power Inheritor: Kareena Kapoor Khan

Text by Huzan Tata. Photograph by Prateek Patel

For shining strong — despite some misses — and bagging the biggest banners and hottest heroes since her debut in 2000

Jeena yahaan, marna yahaan’, sang her grandfather in Mera Naam Joker over four decades ago. And Kareena Kapoor Khan lives these words with true passion. In the Indian film industry, where heroines are said to have a ‘shelf life’ of around a decade or so, the feisty actor — who hails from Bollywood royalty, as the Kapoors are often called — has held her own for 16 years and still counting. Randhir and Babita Kapoor’s younger child Bebo (as she has been nicknamed) has proved herself as a worthy flag bearer of the Kapoor surname with her diverse roles and effortless performances, the latest being in R Balki’s Ki & Ka. She may have reduced the number of films she does, but Saif Ali Khan’s begum hopes to face the camera till the day she dies — and probably in her next life too.

My mother is an extremely strong and focussed woman, who comes from a simple home. Contrary to popular opinion, I had a very middle-class childhood…even now, my mom has a grounded approach to everything in life, be it success or failure. But I’m a lot like my father. He’s funny, gregarious, loves life, and is an outgoing and forthright person. When it comes to advice about anything in my life, my sister (Karisma Kapoor) is the first one on my speed dial. She’s closest to me — we’re actually best friends. My mom always says ‘People want sons to be their tigers but my two tigresses are my tigers!’ I think she’s the most powerful woman in my life, and it will always be that way.”

The greatest challenge of hailing from my family has been living up to the legacies of famous personalities like Prithviraj, Raj, Shammi, Shashi and Rishi Kapoor, my parents, and then Karisma. It was a struggle for me to be somebody who — when you refer to the Kapoor family — is talked about for being an actor. That was the biggest thing to live up to. And the last 16 to 17 years have been that struggle, and I think it’ll constantly be there.”

The first time you realise the reach of your popularity is when you face criticism. That’s when you know you’re a star. My granddad always told Karisma and me: ‘If you want to be actors, always realise that they will only write about people who matter. The time they don’t write about you is when you should be worried’.”

There have been many special moments in my career, but Refugee will always be a landmark film. It was the first time I faced the camera, and it was an unconventional role for a debut movie — it was a real challenge at the time. And a role I would love to play is Uma Thurman’s in Kill Bill. I can’t do it because I don’t have that sort of a flexible body to do those kind of backflips…maybe I’ll try it in my next life!”

After the release of Ki & Ka, I got home one day from a shoot and Saif told me that I had received a bouquet of orchids and a note, and I asked him why he didn’t open it. He said, ‘When Mr Bachchan sends you a note it’s a moment you must enjoy!’ That will always stay with me. He said it was one of the most natural performances he’d seen and I think that’s a really big compliment coming from someone who is the reason most people from my generation are actors.”

My perseverance and confidence have aided my success, and the fact that I’ve always been a fighter. I am a little laid-back and like to work at my own pace and on my terms. I don’t come across as someone aggressive, but there’s a fire that’s constantly burning in me. A lot of people have told me, ‘Don’t get married because you’ll soon stop getting work’. But I think I’ve done some fantastic films after marriage, and I hope to continue that always — even after becoming a mother.”

Read about our next power woman, Radha Kapoor.

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