If you had a year like the one that Bollywood star Katrina Kaif endured in 2013, perhaps you would come across as stroppy, too.
The year included damning photographs of her vacationing on the sly with her rumoured boyfriend, Ranbir Kapoor, on an Ibiza beach — and that too in a mismatched bikini. It gets worse, Kaif — one of Bollywood most bankable faces — didn’t have films to roll out for the most part of 2013 to deflect or cushion such a controversy. To top it off, her boyfriend’s cousin Kareena announces on national television (during the chat show Koffee With Karan) that she’s looking forward to dancing to Kaif’s biggest hits at their as-yet-unconfirmed wedding, and is seen goading Kapoor to profess his undying love for a certain Kaif.
So it’s been a nasty few weeks and so had we been in Kaif’s shoes we might have sworn off cameras too.
During a recent visit to Dubai to promote the diamond brand Nakshatra for Gitanjali Jewels at Paris Gallery, Kaif — not known for being the warmest of interviewees on any day — appeared to be in an especially strange, aloof mood. Entering a lounge where a gaggle of photographers were waiting patiently to take pictures, she looked around warily, asking her publicist who they were. A strange question, considering that she had already agreed to do one-to-one interviews with the local press. One dramatic walk-out by a TV station later, and tabloid! sat down to interview her.
Facing the actress — dressed in a black Dior jacket, Armani trousers and a top from The Row (the fashion line by Olsen twins) — we went straight for the jugular.
We — the press — are not her favourite people at the moment. (On finding her vacation pictures splayed on magazines, she had written an open letter reprimanding the media for invading her private space and causing her distress).
“There’s no rocky relationship with the media. Let’s not generalise... it was my statement on a certain kind of paparazzi,” said Kaif.
“Such incidents are bound to happen when we have been around for such a long time. We are going to have disagreements. Some people agree and some people don’t, but you have to move on … so I am not angry I am just hungry at the moment,” said Kaif, insisting that she has many friends in the media.
“That’s like you saying that media has a rocky relationship with the politicians. I respect the media as a profession … my relationship with you is going to be how you are with me,” said Kaif. She lived up to her promise because for the next ten minutes (and later in a phone interview that was arranged to speak about her latest release, Dhoom 3), Kaif was entirely professional.
Being a Dhoom girl (which Kaif becomes in the new film, released on Friday) is Bollywood’s answer to a Bond girl, with actresses such as Bipasha Basu, Esha Deol and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan previously injecting glamour into the action series, produced by Yash Raj Films.
“Like the Bond girl, there’s a stigma attached to being a Dhoom girl. You have to look pretty good and people are going to judge you,” said Kaif with a laugh.
Dhoom is high on wicked heroes, weapons and women. The plot revolves around a devious thief who can outwit policemen (played consistently by Abhishek Bachchan and his comic companion Uday Chopra) in the most enterprising manner, oozing style and sophistication even as they carry out the most absurd robberies. While the first instalment saw John Abraham play the thief, the baton was then handed to Bollywood hunk Hrithik Roshan. With each successful instalment, the unrelated plots have become more complicated and the stakes have risen. Dhoom 2 was a film that even pushed Bollywood royalty Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to wear a bikini on-screen, and lock lips with bad boy Roshan.
This weekend, Aamir Khan becomes the next Dhoom hero.
“Aamir is a big star but he doesn’t carry it with him because he is a genuine actor. He doesn’t come in with the air ‘I am the star, now watch me’. His attitude is more towards ‘let’s make this happen together’,” said Kaif. She plays a gymnast, Aaliya. But like all Dhoom girls, there’s more to her than meets the eye. However, Kaif wants to keep her role — described as “the most physically challenging role of my career” — under wraps to retain the mystery.
“It’s almost like being a part of Cirque du Soleil,” said Kaif alluding to the global circus phenomenon from Canada.
“You need physical strength to do aerial scenes because you cannot use any kind of harness or safety equipment. That was a big challenge because I had to learn how to use my body strength. Most girls don’t work with our shoulders and I didn’t. So I had to train for days and eat a lot. And I didn’t try to cheat,” said Kaif.
Filming delays on her other film, Bang Bang, due to co-star Roshan’s brain surgery, gave her time to work on her form, but also meant that she was off screen for a long time. Her last release was Jab Tak Hai Jaan in November 2012. Such a gap is considered career suicide in an industry in which heroines have at least four films released a year. Does that worry her?
“It is sometimes good to have a year where you have a breather of sorts. Of course, Dhoom 3 is an amazing film and I have confidence that people will like it. It’s a cops and robbers film but what’s interesting is its storyline. There’s a lot of twists and turns that people will love.”
Kaif, who made her debut in box-office dud Boom in 2003, has seen both success and failure at close quarters. The 30-year-old was initially written off as glorified eye candy, but has proved her detractors wrong by acting in films such as the political thriller Rajneeti, in which she played a reluctant politician, and post-9/11 drama New York, in which she played the wife of a terrorist. But her attraction towards Dhoom 3 is far less complicated.
“Dance has been a big passion for me. It excited me when I learnt that there’s an opportunity to be a circus performer and to be a part of songs that need some very good dancing skills.” She says the 32-second teaser to the song Malang, which sees Kaif suspended from the roof and pirouetting on a hoop, took a month to rehearse.
“I really hope the amount of work that we put in shows in the film. Usually in a film, our efforts are amplified,” said Kaif. While all eyes will be on her this weekend, the big question is whether this would be one of her last films as a single woman.
“I don’t generally talk about my personal life. But I can say for the moment there are no plans to get married,” said Kaif. However, she says she would love a beach wedding. So what about all those comments made by her alleged boyfriend’s cousin Kareena on the show Koffee With Karan?
“Everything that you see on the show shouldn’t be taken seriously. Everyone after the show keeps going ‘he/she said this and that’ on his show. But you have to remember his pointed questions are meant to evoke witty answers. They are not meant to be answers which should be documented as gospel truth or fact.”