She has her pick of illustrious industry names to append to her own, but Kareena Kapoor Khan’s star stands alone, says Nishita Jha
THERE ARE various machinations to getting an audience with a film star in Mumbai, depending on the tier of success you are dealing with. The newly-arrived might answer their own calls. The ambitious hire agents to stonewall them from the press (a pretence at being too busy to answer the phone). The discreet have publicists that call for friendly chats, peppered with relevant crumbs of information — and then, there are those that summon.
TEHELKA first met Kareena Kapoor two years ago on the sets of Golmaal Returns, when she was among the top-billed stars in the industry. An SMS summoned this reporter to Hyderabad. Since then, Kareena has starred as the lead in a dozen films (among which, 3 Idiots, Bodyguard and Ra.One were the highest grossing films of the decade), signed on twice the number of brands she once endorsed (her 22 endorsements — all carefully selected to ‘match her personality’ — make her the highest-paid actress in Bollywood today); worked with the Khans twice over — and married one of them.
Speaking to Simi Garewal years ago, Karan Johar talked about the first time he realised Kareena was a star. In a scene from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham; Kareena is introducing Shah Rukh Khan to Hrithik Roshan. The two men are sizing each other up, 10 seconds of pure electric repartee. But for Johar, who was watching on the monitor, Kareena stole the scene: “There she was, standing between two of the biggest stars in the industry, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her,” he had said. Kareena’s last release, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine, banked on this distracting luminescence. In spite of the scathing reviews the film received, Heroine was praised across the board for Kareena’s mesmerising depiction of Mahi Arora, a neurotic superstar losing her sheen.
Our last meeting was chaotic — Kareena was in the midst of a 40-hour shooting schedule, changing costume every few takes, constantly looking at her cell phone, texting non-stop. Now, newly wed, wrapping up the last leg of commitments prior to leaving for her honeymoon with actor Saif Ali Khan, Kareena, 32, is relaxed. Her sheen has grown. “Everyone around me — journalists, actors, producers, fans — are so concerned about what marriage will do to my career. I’ve been living in this house for five years, and I think I might be the only actor in the industry to have openly admitted to living with my partner,” she laughs.