Karisma Kapoor is well schooled in the culture of cameras flashes and paparazzi hiding in bushes to capture that viral celebrity faux pas.
The 45-year-old actress, who is currently on a film hiatus, grew up in the glare of the spotlight with her Bollywood lineage (she belongs to the fourth generation of actors in her family) ensuring a lucrative career well past her prime as per Bollywood standards.
Kapoor’s career flourished well through the 90s and early 2000s, at a time when social media was all but a twinkle in the eyes of its creators and the marketing blitzkrieg that signals a film’s release today was largely limited to five interviews and a handful of photo ops.
And while Kapoor is quick to defend the hard work stars put into a film at the time, she readily admits that the intrusion of cameras into their personal lives was also largely limited to public outings and not the hounding her children, Sameira (14) and Kiaan Raj (nine), and her nephew Taimur Ali Khan (two) — son of sister Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan and arguably the most photographed child in the history of Bollywood — are currently subjected to.
In fact, her frequent co-star Akshay Kumar recently spoke of his own heartbreak in an interview, when his daughter Nitara (six) told him “she doesn’t want to go out for family dinners because there will be paparazzi and she hates the flashing lights.”
But Kapoor has long learnt to pay the price of fame with a level of diplomacy, especially when her personal life and a very ugly divorce battle found its way into the gossip pages.
“We have to deal with it keeping the line and profession that we come from. The positive side of it is our children, our little Taimur, are loved so much that they are being photographed. They are getting blessing every day. And that is the way me and Kareena and Saif look at this phase,” said Kapoor.
“We try and give our children the most normal life. When they are at home, there are no cameras there and school life is very private,” she stated, adding that her children, like other normal kids, also have to do chores around the house.
The actress spent the past few days in the UAE, braving the humidity during a beach outing, followed by a work commitment that included facing the notorious Dubai-Sharjah rush-hour traffic to open the 43rd outlet for Al Adil Trading.
Dressed in a simple black and white kurta and shalwar (traditional Indian attire), Kapoor graciously overlooked the Mercury settling in the high 30s and took to the outdoor stage erected to greet her fans in Sharjah who had been standing in the heat for hours to catch a glimpse of the actress.
Kapoor sportingly danced to her famous track from ‘Coolie No 1’ and ebbed the crowd on before heading indoors and donning an apron to roll out chapatis (Indian flatbread).
“Do they look round enough?” she asked, almost childlike, before being handed a cooked one to pose with for the cameras.
As the actress took note of the groceries on display, it was a natural question to ask whether she took equal care at home in Mumbai to plan weekly shopping.
“Oh my god! You would be surprised but it is me. That is my downtime. It keeps me grounded. I like to do hisaab (budget), see what are the prices of the vegetables and fruits and I really enjoy doing all of it,” the actress revealed, adding that she comments every time the price of food skyrockets.
“It’s good to be in touch with reality, in touch with what is happening around you on a very honest level,” she explained.
Going by her fitness levels, one wonders what goes in her shopping cart and the meticulous care that goes into her diet.
“Honestly, I don’t do much. In today’s time because of the internet, there’s so much to read about nutrition. There are so many superfoods out there. I simply prefer to do things with the values I grew up with. I think my mum did well, if I say so,” came the response. “Me and Kareena, we are fit, we are healthy. We know what’s right and wrong. It’s very basic and very simple.
“Food at home is simple dal [lentil stew], sabzi [vegetables] and roti. My children eat ghee [clarified butter]. My grandmother introduced us to ghee and she had such amazing skin and hair. That is our secret.”
Kapoor was also quick to point out that she doesn’t deny her food cravings either.
“Knowing the Kapoors there are many treasured food recipes we relish. We eat the typically rich Punjabi food, but at the same time, we strike the right balance. Everything in life has to be balanced.”
The actress also chooses to stay away from low-carb diets such as Keto and Atkins.
“I won’t comment on people’s chosen diet; each to their own. I prefer to do everything in balance. When I was in the ride over here, I ate a big piece of chocolate cake and even though you may not believe me, that’s the truth,” she confessed. “When I’m in Dubai, I love to go to good restaurants and enjoy eating the food. When I go home, I eat a home-cooked meal.
“Just being on salad or having few leaves and lemon water and depriving myself is something I can’t do. I am a Kapoor foodie.”
Back on screen
While fans continue to wait for Kapoor’s big Bollywood comeback after the 2012 debacle called ‘Dangerous Ishq’ — although she had a brief cameo in last year’s ‘Zero’ — the actress has found another medium to show off her acting talent with a new web show titled ‘Mentalhood’.
When Gulf News tabloid! quizzed her about the Alt Balaji production, Kapoor clammed up. “I am not authorised to say anything about the show now,” she replied. Yet probed further, she revealed a few nuggets.
“I loved the script. It was something I relate to and live on a daily basis. It’s about motherhood and the ups and downs and the goods and the bads. It think it will be interesting,” she revealed.
On the show, Kapoor plays a former small-town beauty queen who moves to a new city with her husband (played by Sanjay Suri) and three children and meets the ‘momzillas’ of Mumbai. The show is expected to release later this year.
Kapoor isn’t the only one in her family who has discovered the potential of web-based shows, with her brother-in-law Saif Ali Khan earning rave reviews for his role in ‘Sacred Games’ on Netflix. There has also been talk that Kareena is soon to make her web debut as well, but nothing has been confirmed.
“The current [web boom] is amazing. There’s so much great talent out there and now we have another avenue to show that talent and that’s great,” Kapoor stated.
Many of Kapoor’s peers, including actors Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Abhishek Bachchan, are also looking at the web medium with respective shows of their own, be it as a producer or the lead. Kapoor agreed it was a good time to be an actor in Bollywood, but like everything in her life, she preferred a balanced take.
“People tell me that heroine-oriented films are being made today, but that was happening even during my time. Be it my films such as ‘Biwi No 1’, ‘Zubeidaa’, ‘Fiza’ and ‘Shakti’. If you are a good actor, you will always find good roles in every generation — right from ‘Mother India’ (1957) to today.”
Yet, the good role in Bollywood is still evading this Indian National Award-winning actress. Her big-screen comeback has been on hold indefinitely, with Kapoor even hinting that it may never happen.
“I don’t know. I never plan anything in my life. You can see or you can’t see a comeback in films for me. I haven’t decided. I just go by my instincts,” she said. “I do hear scripts. A lot of them. I’m just waiting for something exciting to get me out of home and back on the sets again.”
Bollywood, are you listening?
Karisma Kapoor on social media trolling: “I think social media is a part of life today and we all need to take it [the good and the bad] in our stride. I think social media is a fun place. And even though I am a very private person, people know that and they respect it.”
On the sitcom ‘Friends’ celebrating its 25th anniversary on September 22: “Is it 25 years? We all grew up watching ‘Friends’. I didn’t realise it’s been 25 years. Congratulations to all of them. Oh my God!”
On what she’s binge-watching now: “Oh, many shows. I like watching a lot of family drama as I am very family-oriented. I like shows such as ‘Brothers and Sisters’.”