According to Kareena, in Bollywood's A-list of actresses her name is the only constant
Have you really pushed the envelope with Heroine as an actor?
It is the boldest and bravest role I have done. I am a commercial star and it is difficult to break away from that image, though I have always wanted to. And I did Dev, Omkara, Jab We Met. I can safely say that no actor in my position would want to play a declining superstar. Everyone wants to play a heroine who is at her peak and glamorous, who will either kill herself or become a superstar. This film does not follow that arc. The USP of Heroine is the last 40 minutes. I said yes to the film for those 40 minutes.
Do you mean to say unlike Fashion, the film does not end on a note of optimism?
There is redemption, yes. But (hesitates) the film is expected to be dark and edgy but Madhur (Bhandarkar, the director) has to do something different, it is his world and his take on the underbelly of the film industry.
A woman smoking, drinking and cursing - that is how Bhandarkar and most filmmakers stereotype bold women. How is this different?
You have to show all of that. But being bold is not just about skin show. I cannot bare and dare. I'll not be accepted. Audience sees me as Geet or the vivacious girl from 3 Idiots. But I had to break away from the mould and become the 'heroine.' And being bold here is all in the mind. Mahi's reactions in the film are scary. I'd not react this way but I know of many who would.
Madhur has obviously used several actors as references, isn't it?
Yes. He and his writers wanted bit of Hollywood and bit of Bollywood and then develop the character keeping in mind the nuances of this industry. A Bhandarkar heroine cannot run around snow slopes in short skirts and sarees. I can do that even in my sleep.
So did you give your inputs as well?
I didn't need to. All I had to was perform well.
But did you not feel any special connect with your character at any point?
I'm a superstar. This film is about a superstar's life. I kept asking myself, what if I had to go through this? Mahi is the only character I have lived through. People think it is Geet, which is not true. Every frame here is heartfelt. Ever since I was in my mom's womb... I wanted to be a heroine. I want people to split the screen and say 'she did Geet and she also did this.' That was the connect. I can't be just stuck doing a certain kind of role. I want to act till I am 50 and 60.
So will it be Bhandarkar's Heroine or Kareena's?
(Gets visibly animated) You know, Saif always tells me, that it is a director's medium and we as actors have to decide if we want to be a part of his world. I wanted to be a part of Madhur's world ever since Chandni Bar. Similarly, I've wanted to be a part of Imtiaz's world, and Karan Johar's world, which is about fantasy and glamour. As an actor I want to do a film for the director. Which is why, I will probably be great in some movies and not so good in others. And I am honest enough to admit it.
It is obvious your involvement with this film runs quite deep. Once it got over, did it make you feel like you have just turned the last page of a good book?
I'm glad you brought up reading. I'm not an avid reader. But I do understand that special feeling that comes with reading a great book. You keep that by your bedside and it becomes a part of your life. It's the same way I feel with Heroine. Playing the life of an actress... it all came so close to reality that I sometimes wanted to run away. There were days of dubbing when I would be so overwhelmed, the dialogues would give me goosebumps (extends her arm) and I would say can we do this tomorrow? It was that uncomfortable, sinking feeling. And then I realised, this is good stuff! But then, as Saif says: Everybody takes this movie business too seriously. It is not rocket science you know, not Lord of the Rings orGodfather!
How important a role does Saif play in shaping your choices and sensibilities as an actor?
In terms of films we think differently. But somewhat on the same page at times. He is way more evolved as an actor and person. He is worldly wise. I hope to evolve with time since we have the same paths and same goals.
I think you are worldly wise.
(Laughs) Well maybe I am a little now. I am well rounded maybe? But I still am not too fond of reading. I read magazines. I am trying to do better. Saif says you are never alone or lonely if you read a good book, it is like being in august company. I picked up a 550-page book on a real life story in the US and I managed to read 300 pages. It is taking time but I am improving!
Changing tracks, things are getting pretty competitive among your peers. Do you feel the heat?
Everybody is doing great work. I am immune to competition. It's always been Kareena and so and so, Kareena and so and so... the other names have been changing. My name hasn't. All I care about is striking a balance between my professional and personal life. And I can safely say that I am the only one in the industry to have been able to do so.