May 27, 2010

"Audience acceptance came quite a bit before I got my industry acceptance" - Katrina Kaif

Bollywood correspondent DEVANSH PATEL chats to Katrina Kaif about the most challenging role of her career - Rajneeti, a film about politics and more

WHEN you meet Katrina Kaif, you do not become speechless but you do start to have problems with your speech. At 11am I am scheduled to meet her. I arrive on time. She doesn't. Not to worry. It is 11.30am by the time she arrives and the first thing she does is apologise.

That is something of a worry. What do I say? That is when you go speechless.

Then after looking at her for half an hour in a closed room you start experiencing speech attacks.

Instead of David Cameron, the Prime Minister, you say James Cameron.

That is exactly what happens when you are face-to-face with this beauty that cannot be described in words, poetry and art.

Kaif could have had little idea quite how much it would change her life when she entered the Indian film industry, and for the rest of us, like me, when we actually see her in the flesh.

She walks in without a smile. She has a bad headache with things not going her way. She orders her favourite green tea, sips it and then sits on the couch.

Q: As you play a politician, did speaking in Hindi publicly ever become an obstacle?

A: All languages make you grow as a person. It's not that I came from England to India. I was born in Hong Kong and then went to Japan, China, France, and so on. Before I was even 12 years old, I had travelled to 16 countries. The more you see in life, the more aware you become. I am more confident and understanding of the Hindi language and its importance. Rajneeti has polished my Hindi a lot.

Q: So is Katrina Kaif being redefined here?

A: (Laughs) I don't want to be redefined. If I say I want to redefine myself, then that would mean I am not giving respect on the appropriate amount of recognition and gratitude to every person in this country and the non-resident Indians in England who see Hindi films and who have made me successful. I cannot deny that the Hindi film industry has supported me and is supporting me. Audience acceptance came quite a bit before I got my industry acceptance.

Q: Brief us a bit about Prakash Jha, the director of Rajneeti.

A: All his films are rooted in an Indian flavour. He comes from a grass roots level - a very intellectual circle. He comes from this world of politics; not politics where you are sitting in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament). He comes from the local constituencies. He knows them because he has been there. He knows north India inside out. He knows the Indian political system and that is what his films reflect, the kind of person he is. Rajneeti is Prakash Jha's most complete film.

Q: Is Rajneeti too intellectual a film? A: Rajneeti isn't for 70 or 30 per cent of audiences, it is for 100 per cent of audiences. There are very few films that are rooted in the culture of India.

Rajneeti falls into that bracket and any film that showcases Indian culture will entertain audiences. Prakash has that reputation. His films are urban as much as they are rural. I am a fan of Prakash and it came as a shock to me.

Q: It is tough to win over UK audiences who love commercial films rather than going to watch one like Rajneeti, which deals with politics.

A: I think the UK audiences are looking for films that are true to India because most of the people who are going to see Hindi films are the ones who really love India, who have lived there for quite a bit. The non-resident Indians tend to have an even stronger love and fondness for their country than some of those who reside in India. They always want to see their country and cinema being represented fairly and respectfully. Most of the films I've done with Akshay Kumar have been hugely successful in the UK, irrespective of their genres. In terms of Rajneeti, it's something that we'll have to wait and see because the film is very rural. I think the UK audiences would like to know what is going on behind the scenes of politics in India.

Q: Are there any politicians you admire?

A: If it sounds very farcical and very politically correct, the only politician I look up to is Madam Sonia Gandhi, because she is an Italian who comes to India after her marriage to the then-Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, then sees him brutally assassinated by a terrorist and then she fights the system by being a politician. She learned the language of India and as a woman and a foreigner in India, she rose above the men. I say 'men' because India is a very male-dominated country. It's beyond incredible what she has done for India and for its citizens. People can talk all the rubbish they want but to maintain that level of power and to have held on to it, it takes extraordinary courage and confidence.

Q: Does politics concern you at all?

A: I don't watch television. You need to have a basic knowledge of what's going on in your country and who is running your country. Beyond that, whatever interests you, it then boils down to an individual. I don't think you need to watch any political debate or any active political programmes to understand the system and prepare for your role.

Q: How was it wearing a saree in the film?

A:I loved wearing the saree in Rajneeti. I think it is the most comfortable clothing you can wear. I am very good at draping it also. Those were the best days of my life when I was covered in a saree in Rajneeti, on and off set.