Jeddah: Film festivals are a glorious celebration of movies from around the globe, but they also serve as a platform for actors to unveil facets of themselves often concealed beneath layers of voluminous gowns and sharp suits. The star-studded Red Sea International Film Festival, hosting a series of in-conversation sessions with A-listers like Will Smith, Ranveer Singh, Katrina Kaif, and Karan Johar, exemplifies this.
During these free-wheeling interactions, these actors take time to discuss their craft, fame, and cinematic journeys. Over the last few days and multiple in-conversation sessions later, it’s evident that each star and talent brings their own unique aura to the stage.
If Oscar winner Will Smith and flamboyant Bollywood star Ranveer Singh aim to make their fans feel like royalty, there are also figures like Katrina Kaif and Karan Johar who exude warmth with a slightly restrained vibe. Singh and Smith are like a tornado, sweeping the room with charm and wit, while Kaif and Johar take time to warm up to the conversation, waving at star-struck guests with studied benevolence and sagaciously accepting declarations of love from their fans — unlike Smith and Singh, who enthusiastically jump from their seats, hug them, and even take impromptu selfies. Each session becomes a keen study on how stars come in all shades, forms, and moods. Here’s what we gleaned from Kaif during the 30-minute chat, and here’s her take on ...
Being born into a big family and growing up with seven siblings:
“Noisy. It’s very noisy with six girls, as you can imagine, and there is a lot of fighting over mirror space, hairbrushes, and combs. But one thing we are all good at is braiding each other’s hair because we all had long hair. Growing up in a big family is amazing. My sisters became my support system, and my family is an insular unit because we don’t need anyone else. When it is us together, it feels complete. I remember when I was getting married — our second wedding anniversary is just coming up — it was during Covid. We were trying to plan a wedding at a time when the world was just opening up. Like many people, we had to wait for the lockdowns to be lifted so that we could have all our families attending. All the while, I was keeping my fingers crossed because I wanted my entire family from all corners of the world to make it. But we managed, and that was wonderful. 0
Her biggest strength that helped her stay relevant in Bollywood:
“My mom has always taught us one thing: it’s not just about being fearless, but it’s also about having a dream. She encouraged us and was never a naysayer. She always encouraged us to follow our heart’s passions. So, when I first came to Mumbai and started out in the industry, my actual ambition was to be a model. At that time, my idols were Madhu Sapre and Malaika Arora, who were the models of that time. And I thought that this was the path that I wished to get into. And from there, very quickly, I moved into cinema. When I moved into cinema, I knew that I had found my calling and I had found a place where it felt like home, and I felt this is where I belong.
Choosing roles, characters, and projects:
“It’s that X factor. There is no formula for choosing a script, and there is no formula for making a hit film. It is all about instinct. Everything that you see in cinema and on the big screen is all about establishing a connection. I’ve always believed that when an actor is in front of the camera, their energy translates and reaches the audience who sit in a cinema and watch them. So I’ve always operated from a philosophy that if this movie inspires me and compels me to be on the set, then that’s the movie I will choose. I aim and strive to be part of good films. When I prioritise myself, I would put myself on the second rung. Plus, you always try to challenge yourself as an actor, and that’s important. But at first, it’s all about working with good filmmakers because a movie is the vision of a director. My dream after being a model was to work with Mr Yash Chopra, a legend in Indian cinema. I used to pray, and when I heard that Mr Yash Chopra was going to direct a film called ‘Jab Tak Hain Jaan,’ I would pray that he would give me a call. And I remember that call from him where he said: ‘Beta [daughter], I am directing a film, and would you like to be a part of it?’. And my dream came true.
Thriving in Bollywood for over two decades:
“I don’t think we need to mention time … It has been amazing, and I am grateful for being here every day. I am grateful for every year that I have been a part of the industry. I had a dream, and it came true. I truly feel fortunate. My approach to work has always been a little painful because I’m very hard on myself. At the end of every day, I want to go back home with the feeling that you have given your 150 per cent and that you left your heart on the studio floor. You gave your heart and a part of your soul to every film. I have taken everything that came my way as a wonderful gift or as a learning opportunity.
Training for ‘Tiger 3’ that’s still playing in UAE and Saudi Arabia cinemas:
“When it’s ‘Tiger’ time, it’s a different zone. My husband and friends were like: ‘we saw you transform into this other person.’ I grow a very strict mindset where I block off all my sensitive feelings of being tired or about my body hurting. When it comes to ‘Tiger’ prep, I am in Warrior mode. The training we do before we get onto the ‘Tiger’ set is hardcore. For ‘Tiger 3,’ we worked with some incredible people from all over the world … I had Animal Flow trainers in Bombay [Mumbai] and people from America and China teaching me their discipline of action. With ‘Tiger 3,’ we have tried to just give people something new. I enjoyed them, but it was very, very tough. I lost my body double in the Hammam sequence because she got sick. And I remember crying because I had worked so hard, but the producer and director were like: “No, no, no. You are going to do it.” And I really enjoyed that … It’s not a film if there’s no blood, sweat, and tears.
Maintaining a work-life balance as an actress, entrepreneur, and wife:
“It’s very tough and trying. Sometimes, I have to force some kind of rules on myself like put down your phone, stop working. It’s important to spend time with yourself and centre yourself to calm your nerves. It’s all about discipline and balance. I love my job as an actress, and I love the movies I do because I pour myself into it. I love my [beauty] brand and my role as a businesswoman. I am a very hands-on person and it’s all about finding the balance. But when you really love what you do, it drives you.
Her friend circle in Bollywood:
“Most of my closest friends today were the ones I met on the film called ‘New York.’ It was just one of those magical experiences that everyone became like a family. Those connections have lasted for many, many years. I have been fortunate in my life that friends who stand by me have been with me throughout my career and are still with me today. Friends are our support system and are the ones whom you call at the end of the night when you just want to talk about anything, or you want to be distracted. Knowing that this person cares for you and are cared for is very important. The conversations are the same even if you have just come off a mega blockbuster or if you have come off a film which hasn’t hit the bull’s eye.
‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ and a possibility of a sequel:
“Sequels should be made not just for the sake of it … like a proposition. A sequel must be earned and must have a story that deserves to be told … And ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ is one of those films that deserves a sequel …