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. Khan recently made her OTT debut with filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh’s Jaane Jaan, which has been receiving an overwhelmingly positive response. She’s also playing actor and producer for her latest film, The Buckingham Murders, giving her plenty to look forward to.
A Balancing Act
She is blessed with an innate sense of balance, which extends to her personal life, where Kareena makes the whole work-life equation so seamless. But perception often differs from reality.
She confesses, “It’s not seamless at all. As easy as it may appear to the outside world, it is extremely difficult, as there is so much to plan and deal with. My kids are of different ages. My younger son, Jeh, is two-and-a-half years old while Taimur is six-and-a-half. My older one needs me a lot more because he is at a sensitive age. A lot of sacrifice is required from both parents to maintain a sense of equilibrium.”
Saif Ali Khan (actor, and the Nawab of Pataudi) and Kareena are recognised as a power couple with one of the most stable marriages in Bollywood. But she seems wary of such flattering tags.
“There is no recipe for a successful marriage. Neither Saif nor I plan our relationship. What works is that we’re both working, we are independent, and we respect each other; there is a lot of mutual sacrifice in a marriage. For instance, I might want to do five films or go on holidays with my girlfriends. But, instead of five movies, I might take on two as this is a choice I have made. It’s okay, there is no perfect formula. I am lucky because Saif is very supportive. He always encourages me to work and says, ‘Be happy first to keep the children happy’. That is the best advice he has given me.”
Devoid of the trappings of stardom, the Kapoor-Pataudi household doesn’t conform to gender roles. During weekends, Saif Ali Khan enjoys whipping up meals for his family while his Begum looks on indulgently.
“Saif loves cooking and it’s a weekend ritual; he is so good. That is our idea of spending time together, I do all the talking while he does the cooking. He enjoys it as well. This is our life and that’s why going out for a party is not high on my list of priorities right now. Once or twice a year, I love to go out and meet my friends and colleagues in the industry. But I can’t do it all the time. There’s so much more that occupies my life: work, kids and balancing the rest of my family.”
While Kareena is a chilled-out mom, she believes in raising her boys to value kindness the most.
“I just tell my older son that everything and every problem in life can be addressed with a little bit of kindness. It’s most important—to be kind to yourself and to others. If you get headstrong or rattled, it is not worth it.”
A Zen Approach
She is at a phase in her life where she flaunts her age with aplomb. She has no secrets to hide or agendas to see through. We ask Bebo, since she’s a hot favourite with all the big brands, where does she think her USP lies? What attracts her to a brand?
“It is not a conscious effort, brands associate me with being real, as I have shared my life as openly as possible. I think fans, brands and directors think of me as a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of person. I have always been honest—when I was in love, got married, had two kids and now, when I’m going to be 43. I wear my age proudly, and I don’t care that I’m not size zero; I’m not competing with anyone. I’m just trying to better myself.”
Malaika Arora, one of her closest friends, deems her non-judgmental and supportive… someone who was there for her when she had a major accident. Kareena reciprocates the sentiment.
“I love my girl gang; I have few friends I swear by. In a world where we are constantly working, it is very difficult to maintain more than three or four friends, due to lack of time. At the end of day even maintaining a good friendship requires energy. Being non-judgemental and supportive has always been a part of my DNA. All of us are like that.”
Besides hanging out with friends or going on lavish holidays with her family, Kareena enjoys watching crime thrillers adapted from the books of American writer Harlan Coben.
“I love watching shows based on his books. I’m not an avid reader like my better half (he is most comfortable with a book!); I enjoy travelling or spending time with my family. That is my comfort zone.”
In the future, we will continue to see Kareena hosting her very popular podcast What Women Want.
“When we started out, we didn’t realise that this show would become so popular. Whenever I travel, people across the world have heard about the show, watched it on YouTube. We have managed to break a lot of boundaries by getting different people to come and share their experiences. So, we will definitely continue with this show.”
There is that sense of absolute tranquillity in Bebo. She always remains unruffled, a fact that we immediately notice at the shoot. Does she ever get angry?
“With time and experience, being in the industry for so long, nothing rattles or fazes me, honestly...”
Zen-like and admirably sanguine, she believes in living life to the fullest, making her India’s Queen (or rather, the Begum) of hearts.
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.