Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif was feeling unusually agitated.
“We were trying to find the word to describe what we were feeling and that word is ‘restless’,” said Kaif in an exclusive interview over the phone from Mumbai.
By we, she means Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and actress Anushka Sharma, her co-stars from her latest movie ‘Zero’ out now in the UAE. At the time of this call, there was less than 24 hours before director Aanand L Rai rolled out his ambitious movie about a cheeky dwarf Bauua Singh and his trysts with two women, played by Kaif and Sharma.
“It’s the kind of restlessness that you feel when you want to simply get to your destination. It is like you are waiting for a train and you just want to get on it… I am anxious and curious. I am hoping for the best possible outcome.”
‘Zero’, which released on Thursday in the UAE, opened to mixed reviews and has polarised viewers. Reports claim the film has collected Rs380 million (Dh19.8 million), a figure that is respectable for any film but not enough for a Khan and his star-powered vehicle.
I feel so happy when she is around. I am proud of her. She has her own production house, her own clothing line and she’s someone who goes up there and does the things that she wants to and that’s admirable,” Kaif on Anushka Sharma.
However, it can be safely said that Kaif hasn’t done too shabbily in her role of a troubled Bollywood star Babita Kumari in ‘Zero’. She plays an alcohol-guzzling emotional wreck who is in a toxic relationship with a philandering actor Aditya Kapoor (Abhay Deol).
So what does Kaif want her fans to take away from her new film?
“You don’t have to look for happiness from another person or from a job, but just yourself. You don’t have to look for happiness in somebody else’s approval or the love of your partner,” said Kaif, adding that confidence should stem from loving oneself.
“The hardest journey that one has to ever go in their life is when they have to make peace with themselves. Confronting who you are and not looking for outside distractions to take away from who you really are is a tough call. Don’t let yourself be distracted in your work or relationship during that process.”
This life lesson would work wonders as a New Year’s resolution too.
[SRK and I] have a much deeper relationship now. We are honest with each other and he’s straightforward with me. He knows me well.
“You should make peace with who you are and your flaws. Accept them and believe that those flaws are what make you unique,” she added.
Kaif, 35, seems to have internalised Babita Kumari well as the majority of reviews have praised her turn as the troubled superstar in ‘Zero’.
“Shah Rukh said something very beautiful the other day. He said: ‘when you think of zero, you think it’s the end or that you have hit rock bottom. But instead of seeing it like that, why don’t you think it’s a new start for you’. And what he said made a lot of sense,” the actress said.
Her role as the mercurial diva — who comes of age when the vertically-challenged Bauua Singh enters her life — also makes you wonder if it’s modelled after her own personal life. Just like in the film, Kaif was romantically linked with A-lister Ranbir Kapoor, who’s constantly swatting rumours about his tendency to cheat on his romantic partners.
So was Babita Kumari, a fictional dramatisation of Kaif’s fractured personal life? For those in the dark, Kaif was an outsider in Bollywood and made her debut in ‘Boom’ in 2003. While her first film flopped, she made up with a string of hits including ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ and ‘New York’. But it was not just her career choices that made ripples; her alleged relationships with high profile actors such as Salman Khan and Kapoor, have set the tabloids on fire.
“Babita Kumari is unlike me. Calling all stars troubled is like saying all nurses and doctors are the same. There are extroverts, introverts and different types of actors… Although every actor draws inspiration from their own lives, Babita Kumari is unlike me,” she said.
Kaif also claims that Babita Kumari’s life lacks structure, something that Kaif would never condone or tolerate in her own life.
“She’s aggressive and irrational. Her life lacks structure. When something is going wrong in her life, she’s one of those people who want to make it worse… She has this self-destructive streak and takes to alcohol because she doesn’t want to feel the pain and the insecurities in her life. She doesn’t like the fact that a man makes her feel so vulnerable,” she added.
It’s no secret that Babita Kumari’s role is an actor’s dream. It’s not often that actresses in Bollywood get a chance to flex their acting muscles. Kaif — who has starred in hits such as the testosterone-charged ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ and ‘Dhoom’ series — has often been lambasted for riding on her male co-star’s box-office coattails rather than on her talent as an actor.
Her divine dancing skills are discussed more than her roles in several films. Case in point: Her 2018 period drama ‘Thugs Of Hindostan’, staring Aamir Khan, in which she played a seductive dancer.
“A lot of times you have to do what the film allows you to do. Here [in ‘Zero’], I have a scope for a strong character and it has given me enough time to go on this emotional arc. I hope people will relate to it and I will strike an emotional chord as Babita Kumari… Both me and Aanand sir [director of ‘Zero’] has adopted a no-hold-barred approach here. We have gone with all guns blazing here and put ourselves there.”
Zero is currently showing across the UAE.