It’s simply the aura she exudes—accompanied by a strong sense of self-assuredness and the inherent poise from having been in the public gaze all her life. At HELLO!’s cover shoot, which takes place in the historic Mehboob studio in Mumbai, replete with Bollywood tales hidden behind every brick, the superstar makes a relatively unobtrusive entry surrounded by her small coterie of support staff.
This comes as a surprise. Neither does she have a large entourage—as one would expect from an A-lister—nor does she have any exaggerated demands. The actress is accommodating enough to even bring her own dabba from home, for the duration of the shoot.
In front of the lens, Kareena is the picture of serenity—almost stoic—in stark contrast to the rest on the premises. She raises an occasional eyebrow, or depicts a subtle frown, giving us a glimpse into her mood. But for the most part, she yields entirely to the photographer’s vision, trusting the process, and dazzling the crowd with her classic ‘Bebo’ expressions.
Unlike many from the Bollywood fraternity, Kareena needs no enhancers to accentuate her natural beauty. Her make-up is minimal and she feels no need to seek constant touch-ups. Perhaps, this speaks more of her inner state of mind, which exudes a zen-like vibe.
Personally and professionally, the actress seems to be in a great space. Just ahead of her 43rd birthday on September 21, she has a lot to celebrate! Playing actor and producer for her latest film, The Buckingham Murders, she’s got plenty to look forward to.
“It’s a really nice, small movie, and 80 percent of it is shot in English. This film has no stars, [other than her] just wonderful actors handpicked from the UK. It’s the story of a mother, who’s a cop and adapts to this immigrant town. I am hoping that people will watch this movie. We might release in India in 60-70 screens,” she discloses. The film is set to premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival next month.
Beyond The Blockbuster
As one of Bollywood’s biggest and most beloved stars, Kareena has consistently raised the bar with her repertoire of brilliant performances over the years.
Right from her days of innocence, when she debuted in the industry as the alluring Nazneen in Refugee, her growth curve has been astounding. And despite all the awards and accolades, fans still think of Bebo as the snobbish Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, or even the bubbly Geet from Jab We Met!
But Kareena isn’t one to be afraid to test the waters, and she’s proved it time and again; be it by playing the role of a sex worker in Chameli, or the vulnerable Aaliya in Govind Nihalani’s Dev.
And so we wonder, what attracts the superstar actress to a role today? “I think obviously after working for so many years, there has to be something super special that drags me away from my kids... right now they are my topmost priority. I also want to do different kinds of films. It’s no longer about doing a Bollywood blockbuster,” she asserts.
A Brand-New Chapter
Stepping up her game, Bebo is finally making her OTT debut with the Netflix film, Jaane Jaan, on her birthday. Yet again, the actress has departed from the conventional path by co-starring with two powerhouses of talent, Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Varma.
“It’s a really interesting film. The Devotion of Suspect X, a Japanese novel, has been adapted into a Netflix thriller. It’s a story set in a small town, and we have shot it in Kalimpong and Darjeeling. What intrigued me was the fact that I was working with Jaideep and Vijay. It adds freshness to the cast, and especially for someone like me, who has always worked with superstars like Aamir, Akshay, SRK and Salman, this was a much desired change.”
She adds, “It’s a great opportunity for me to learn from new age actors who have a strong command over their craft. These are actors who are blessed with a kind of ‘gift’ that a lot of ‘superstars’ don’t have, and are complete naturals in front of the camera. I have never seen that before!”
That is high praise indeed, coming from an actress who’s always been proud of her own talent. While Kareena is looking to experiment with varied genres, she also knows the commercial value of a Bollywood potboiler; having successfully explored the chick-flick narrative with Veere Di Wedding.
“The Crew is a commercial potboiler, a big theatrical release which will happen in March 2024. A well-rounded movie, with a lot of songs and comedy. People will see me in a glamorous role. My co-stars Tabu and Kriti Sanon are wonderful actors.”
Kareena is back with her old gang, comprising producers Rhea Kapoor and Ektaa Kapoor, to film The Crew. This is the same set of women who firmly stood by her when she was pregnant, and waited an entire year to shoot the film. It’s truly heartening to see the female brigade looking out for one another in an otherwise tough industry.
Would a male producer have extended similar support, we wonder aloud?
“Of course, while it is true that a woman understands another woman much better, it also is a fact that Rhea really wanted to work with me on this film. Both she and Ektaa didn’t waver from it. Considering how there are so many options today, I’m happy they stood by me,” says the actress, with a smile.
It could be a sign of evolution that Bollywood has finally come of age and women above 40 are finally getting meaty roles. But according to Kareena, it’s all a matter of choice.
“Women must decide what they want to do. Today, they are brave and are doing amazing films, all on their own. I have always been known as a ‘glam’ actor, so I have to keep that game going as well. Besides my acting abilities, I am also known for my glamorous personality. And I enjoy wearing both hats...”
Interview: Nayare Ali; Photos: Tarun Khiwal; Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand; Styling: Anushree Sardesai; Assisted By: Ila Parekh Make-Up: Tanvi Chemburkar; Hair: Mitesh Rajani; Jewellery Courtesy: Raj Mahtani; Production: Dandelion Pictures
This is an excerpt from an interview from HELLO! India’s September 2023 issue. To read the full interview, check out the latest issue right here.