How Kareena Kapoor manages to be in the top league

“If you are looking to make money, this industry is actually the wrong place to be in, as there are so many ups and downs here,” says Kareena Kapoor , Raj Kapoor’s granddaughter.

Money is not what drove the younger daughter of Randhir Kapoor and Babita to make her debut with Abhishek Bachchan in JP Dutta’s Refugee a decade ago. She was born to act, as filmmaker and friend Karan Johar says.

Of course, Bebo, as she is fondly called, is relieved that she does not have to support her parents or her sister. Which is why money, she says means freedom to live her life, travel and indulge in the pleasures of life.

“I am lucky in this aspect. I do not know how much I earn either, my mother takes care of everything to do with finances,” says Kapoor as she pushes her fork into the freshly cut mango that has just been served to her by Prakash, her man Friday.

Professional success, happiness in her personal life (Saif’s name comes up occasionally in her conversations) as well as life’s experiences and maturity of age, all reflect in a kind of calmness on Bebo’s face. Not that she ever lacked confidence.

“She has been a star even in her failures,” says Johar. Yet, success has brought about changes and though mother Babita maybe handling all her finances, Bebo knows the power of being part of a blockbuster. After 3 Idiots things began changing.

“In a male-centric film, how many people get an opportunity to have a performance-oriented role? This time round, I was very sure I had to have the pivotal part or it did not really make sense in my doing the movie,” says Bebo, talking about Rohit Shetty’s hit franchise, Golmaal and her role in the third part which actually moves the story forward.

That the third part grossed Rs 144 crore, meant Bebo had Blockbuster written all over her, in spite of sharing screen space with four male co-stars. The biggest change has come over the last few years, working with directors like Imtiaz Ali (Jab We Met) and Raju Hirani (3 Idiots).

Working with both, she learnt the importance of script and story. Till then, she candidly admits not having a great sense of script. In the past, she did films for all the wrong reasons, sometimes because a friend asked, sometime because of the co-star among many other such reasons.

Almost all of those bad choices led to flops.

“There have always been dips but without them, the highs would not be that great. I am what I am, because of my flops, but I must be the only actor who in spite of consistently giving flops still managed to be in the top league! That is something I will always hold very close to me. It’s because of those flops that I then look at myself as a winner,” says Bebo, with a tone more reflective, than arrogant.

There were the dark and doubtful moments too – times when she isolated herself to think of what to do next. Till 3 Idiots and Golmaal 3 , there have always been ups and down, says the actor. The only thing she constantly tried through this period was to ensure a balance of her performance-oriented films with her commercial ones.

Today, Kapoor is secure in the knowledge that she does not really need to bifurcate the kind of films she is doing. Whether it’s with Aamir or Salman, or Agent Vinod with beau Saif, she has equal roles compared to the hero if not better roles than them, she adds proudly. Of course, Ra.One is commercial, adds Bebo, almost defensive, but then its one of the biggest films being made in Bollywood today.

“I am going to be singing and dancing in it, so it’s one of my commercial genre of film but it’s nice to be a part of balancing cinema,” says Bebo. Just then, Salman walks past and waves out to Bebo and shouts loudly that he hopes she is giving a scandalous enough interview. Bebo laughs and dismisses him.

The camaderie is obvious, as is the comfort. A fact Kapoor is very proud of. She reminds us that she is the only female actor in her generation who is working with Aamir, Shahrukh, Salman, Saif and Imran and quite managed to be on a wonderful note with each one of them individually.

“I do not belong to any camp and I do not take my work home. Though I have a camp of my own, which has people who support me!” laughs Bebo. Though not a Khan, Bebo does not forget to include her Golmaal co-star Ajay Dvgan in her list as well.

Johar, a childhood friend besides her K3G director adds, “Bebo is a natural actor; she has no craft, grammar or process attached to her acting. She is gifted with a great sense of cinema that I have seen only in Kajol other than her. Move her from the sets of Golmaal to a Jab We Met to a Chameli on the same day, and Bebo will fit into them all.” Khans apart, Kapoor is a director’s actor.

Spontaneous and gifted she may be, but she knows that an actor can try to salvage a situation with his/her performance and with some improvisation. But ultimately, it is all lies in the director’s vision.

“Everything else is mere tools. He/she is the big chief,” says Bebo, reflecting back on her 3 Idiots director Raju Hirani who, she adds, knows his script like the back of his hand. The admiration is mutual, as Hirani recalls his leading lady as a real professional who took him by complete surprise in many an emotional scene.

“The scene where she tells Boman (her father in the film, 3 Idiots) about her brother’s letter was a very tough one and Kareena insisted that I do not rehearse. She said she would lose her spontaneity. She had worked it all out in her head. I was a little apprehensive but trusted her. And it went off like a dream, in one shot!” recalls Hirani.

Ladakh shoots, getting up at 3 am in the morning, getting ready before time, are all memories that Hirani recalls, which also added to his admiration of this beautiful girl. Ironically, though it is the films which make or mar an actor, it is the number of brands in the wagon which all actors are measured by today.

Here, Bebo is right on top of the heap. With 12 brands in her kitty at an average of Rs 3 crore annually per brand, Bebo cuts across all demographics at 30. From laptops designed by Sony for her size zero to shoes, she has them all.

“Today, actors earn more than 50% of their annual income from brand endorsements, shows and star appearances. Kareena comes right after the Khans and Ranbir in the list of endorsements, and if you count cricketers, only after Sachin and Dhoni,” says an agency insider, who tracks brand endorsements.

There are many things one wants to ask Kareena Kapoor. Her RK legacy, her parents, their separation, her sister Karishma’s influence on her which has been immense, her closeness and complete dependence on her mother Babita, her cousin Ranbir, the breakups and link-ups and of course, her current love – Saif Ali Khan .

But sitting comfortably, in a cotton Fab Indiaish salwar kameez, hair tied up tight in a pony tail, the hot afternoon sun streaming through the huge glass panes of the temporary house built for Salman at Film City, her face reflects a certain vulnerability, which stops one from probing further.

Besides, this is a story on the trail of the moolah and the box-office, on which count she has come out a thoroughbred.


Refugee with Abhishek Bachchan.
Directed by JP Dutta in 2000

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham: 2001
Chameli: 2003
Yuva: 2003
Omkara: 2006
Jab We Met: 2007
3 Idiots: 2009
Golmaal 3: 2010

2011: Bodyguard (Salman Khan)
Ra.One (SRK)
Agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan)
2012: Reema Kagti’s untitled project (Aamir Khan)

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