Katrina Kaif: Salman Has Had the Biggest Impact on My Life
How far have you come since your debut?
I have grown in my job. If I hadnít learnt, Iíd be disappointed in myself. You learn new things about your craft every day. Iíve done many movies and songs. Now I have a sense of what I like, what draws my attention. Now Iíd like to do something different. I know that if I play a certain character, itíd excite me. I consider every film a journey with a director who may not think like me but who understands the way I think.
Does it irk when you are dismissed as a lightweight actress, when youíre called a Barbie doll?
When someone says, ĎKatrina is a Barbie doll,í what can I say? I have a Barbie doll named after me. I canít do anything about that. Yes, Iím a Barbie doll, but it doesnít mean I am confined to doing one type of thing. A legendary actress once told me, ďIíve done so many movies. But at the end of the day, Iím just known for my dance numbers.Ē It doesnít mean that her performance is any less. Itís just that in our industry, itís easy to get carried away by the song and dance. Itís easy for public perception to become overbearing and push your performances aside. But as far as my choices are concerned, I donít think Iíve gone wrong until now. Take Namastey London, Raajneeti, New York, and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara ó they were all credible films with credible stories. And the roles were versatile. Iíve had to fight for the right kind of movies with meaty roles.
Are you being given enough credit for your achievements?
In this industry, itís rare to find praise. Itís because of this that I donít talk much. I donít hear positive conversations anywhere. Is there anyone who can do certain things better than Katrina can? The answer is always going to be Ďyesí. That goes for a lot of people. This is an industry where there are no rules. You canít study and become an actor. Maybe, when it comes to the critics, Iím not coming up to mark. Itís something Iíd like to work upon, not for the critics but for myself. I do like parallel cinema. Itís the kind of cinema I grew up on. Iíve watched more art-house films and world cinema because of the different countries I grew up in. Have I chosen a safer bet over non-traditional bets? Yes. Sometimes I wish I hadnít done that. But thatís okay. You have to think those were the right decisions and you have to keep your mind open to taking risks.
What makes an actor a star?
Itís one of the unknowns of life. Look at our industry. Not every single personís position is in order of their talent. Who is better, who is talented is a matter of opinion.
You refused Barfi! In hindsight, do you wish you had done it?
One thing I will never do is talk about films I didnít end up doing, because I believe youíre not respecting the project and the director. However, all I can say is that Anurag Basu is a genius of a director. Barfi! turned out to be a very beautiful film. Iíd love to work with Anurag. I donít know why we should talk about the past. We canít change it.
Looking back, how hard has the struggle been for you?
I donít see it as struggle. My body of work is huge. For the first two years, I worked as a model. I would go to casting agencies with my pictures, do auditions, and travel around the country. Later, I did three South Indian films and then got into Hindi films. Iíve worked every single day. So, Iíve been at it consistently.
Have you ever felt like an outsider?
I clearly remember having this conversation with filmmaker Vipul Shah. It was my third year in Bollywood. He asked me to wait. So, there was a transition where at first I wasnít accepted by the industry to now when I know everyone. No one walks into any industry as a newcomer with trumpets behind them. Most of us have to prove ourselves.
How tough is it for a rank outsider like you than someone from the industry to make it big?
I had to learn how things are done here. Not growing up in India and not knowing the language was the hard part. That will always be my battle. A co-star recently told me, ĎSometimes I forget that you have worked 25 times harder than all of us.í Does that mean they feel sorry for me? No way. No matter how good I get at Hindi, Iíll have to work 10 times harder than the person whoís fluent in it. Thatís my destiny. The road will never be chilled out for me. It will never be a laugh-along joyride.
Shouldnít people cut you some slack?
No way. I donít want people to say, ĎOh, but Hindi is not her first language.í I want to be looked at through the same glasses and if I fall short in some aspect, Iíve proved myself and have enough achievements behind me to rise above them. I donít want to be judged with discount glasses. At the awards, I want to be judged by the same standards applied to everyone.
Much of your success is attributed to Salman Khan...
I believe behind every successful person thereís destiny, then thereís God. Then thereís your hard work, your talent. And then there are people, your team. Many people have been an important part of my journey.
How much of your success would you attribute to Salman Khan?
Heís had a huge role in my career. Thereís no doubt about that. I value his opinion. But as a person, Salman has had the biggest impact on my life. I became friends with him when I was much younger. His persona is very strong. If I were to look back, his contribution has been tremendous. So why are we talking about something as small and segmented as a career? Life is far bigger than a career. Of course, what would my entire life journey have been had I not met that (Khan) family, had I not met Akshay (Kumar). I highly recommend that if Salman ever gives you advice, think about it seriously. Iím not saying heís perfect but his thinking process is correct. Obviously, having someone whoís so knowledgeable about the film industry was extremely valuable.
You mentioned Akshay KumarÖ
Yes. When it comes to my career, not much importance is given to Akshay and the support he gave me. A lot of actors were refusing to work with me at that time. It took a lot of guts for him to agree to be my co-star. Akshay always made me believe in myself. Weíve never had long conversations, weíve never been back-slapping buddies. But I have a huge amount of respect and fondness for him.
So what is your equation with Salman today?
Thatís restricted space. This was the advice given to me by the man himself. He said, ĎI donít understand why people talk about their relationships in public. Itís wrong.í I imbibed this attitude and it has become a part of me. What right do I have to speak on another personís behalf? Again, when youíre talking about an equation with someone Iíve known as long as Salman, youíre talking about something thatís important to me. I wonít talk about it in a trivial way. Iím single!
Are relationships in the industry difficult to maintain?
Relationships are, as it is, tough. But relationships in this industry are harder. You need a very strong person with a tremendous amount of trust in you. Also, whether the person supports you or supports your work hours, whether he has the faith not to believe all the rumours about you. People are always saying, ĎTell me some gossip.í Itís all harmless and fun, but we all indulge in it. And when gossip goes around, your belief in your partner should be unquestionable. Now add to that the pressure of explaining yourself to the media.
It doesnít work for me to explain myself. I can explain myself to my friends and family with great difficulty. When you are talking about a relationship, or friendship, youíre speaking about two people.
Youíve worked with all the three Khans. Whatís your take on them?
Salman has seen me since the beginning. Heís had a different approach. Heís casual on the set. Thereís nothing serious about him. I am most intimidated by Shah Rukh Khan. I didnít know whether it was just him or it was the environment on the set. Jab Tak Hai Jaan was a Yash Chopra film, Aditya Chopra was the first assistant director. It was the enormity of the situation. Shah Rukh is an impeccable co-star, always there to guide you. After the first schedule, he noticed the approach I had towards my role. Heís a perceptive co-star.
As for Aamir Khan, there was so much happening before the start of Dhoom 3 that I didnít have the time to fret about working with him. So the first scene with Aamir, whoís known to be a perfectionist, was fun. We were just two actors standing there, and Aamir was telling me, ĎLetís just interact and see how the scene works.í I never felt like he was judging me. I feared it would be terrifying. But I actually felt extremely comfortable with him.
Okay, come clean on Ranbir Kapoor.
Heís a fantastic actor. Heís got an incredible approach to his work. Heís got talent and the courage to walk the unbeaten path. Both the films we did (Raajneeti and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani) were fun. Most importantly, they were loved by the audience. Heís a lovely person, fun and a good friend.
The rumour is that you are back together.
Iíve lost count of the times weíve been, not been, off and on in a relationship. As I said earlier, Iím not going to speak about my personal life. Itís a pointless conversation. The day I get engaged to whoever I want, it will be clear.
You two have been spotted at movie theatres, having dinners, holding handsÖ
Itís the first time Iím hearing that going to a theatre with a group of friends means anything. Dissecting each and every story is a futile exercise. Beyond a point, I donít think it makes sense to talk about oneís personal life.