With love from Bollywood

Here are two people who need no introduction. But Mira Hashmi asks the Indian film industry's golden couple what makes them tick…

With love from Bollywood
Kareena Kapoor

Does the world of films pressure actors into developing a certain level of vanity about their appearance? If yes, is there a downside to this?

Of course, there is a certain amount of pressure associated with being an actor. You’re expected to look a certain way: to be a certain way because you’re constantly in the public eye. But I look at it positively in the sense that it encourages us to take care of ourselves. We eat right, work out and get enough sleep. I don’t see how that is a bad thing.

Do you think the Hindi film industry is more demanding of women actors than men actors when it comes to appearance?

No, I think male actors are dealing with the same kind of pressures as their female counterparts. Both men and women are required to look a certain way if they want the big names to cast them. It comes with the territory.

Kapoor with her co-star Rahul Bose in Chameli (2004)
Kapoor with her co-star Rahul Bose in Chameli (2004)

As actors, we are more attuned to the world around us than other people (Kapoor)

You’ve been around films and film people all your life. Do you think that affects how you view the world? In other words, are film people, in a sense, cut off from the ‘real’ world?

I think as actors we are more attuned to the world around us than other people. We are required to be different people in different movies and I think that gives us a real sense of what it means to walk in another person’s shoes.

Have acting roles for women in Hindi cinema become more diverse in recent years?

Yes, they have. I mean, just last year there was the runaway hit Queen that was based entirely on a woman who was left at the altar by her fiancé. The audience loved the movie and appreciated Kangana’s role as Rani.

I'd like to play the role of Bobby in the Rishi Kapoor film (Kapoor)

Kapoor as Mahi Arora in Heroine (2012)
Kapoor as Mahi Arora in Heroine (2012)

There have been a number of recent films with women protagonists (Queen, Kahani, The Dirty Picture, etc.) that have done very well at the box office. So why does Bollywood still seem reluctant to produce more women-centric films?

I don’t necessarily think it is reluctance. It’s about producing movies that don’t typecast female actors. I think Bollywood is producing more diverse movies than ever and filmmakers want to make sure that if they are making a female-centric movie, they do it right.

You’ve done your share of offbeat cinema, such as Omkara and Chameli. Do you find the thespian in you is more attracted to these films than the regular masala films?

Character roles present a challenge of their own – one that I thoroughly enjoy. But I enjoy both genres because you cannot compare the two. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

If Bollywood were to remake some classic films, is there any particular role you would like to play?

I’d like to play the role of Bobby (played by Dimple Kapadia) in the movie Bobby that also starred my uncle Rishi Kapoor.

You are constantly in the public eye, especially as one half of a celebrity couple. Does it ever become exhausting or do you think you handle the scrutiny with ease?

Over the years, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am a public figure, which means my private life will always be up for debate. I’ve learned to take it with a grain of salt – I don’t let what they write about me in the tabloids affect me because they will say anything to sell their magazines.

The lovely Kareena Kapoor
The lovely Kareena Kapoor

Being a brand ambassador implies embodying the brand’s corporate demeanour and values. How have you enjoyed your role as brand ambassador for Head and Shoulders?

I love being the brand ambassador for Head & Shoulders. It gives you luscious locks while helping you maintain a clean scalp. Hair fall and dandruff can eat into one’s self-confidence and Head & Shoulders ensures that doesn’t happen. My hair is my USP and maintaining it can be tough as an actress but thanks to Head & Shoulders, I needn’t worry.

Saif Ali Khan

You’ve been part of the Hindi film industry for over 20 years now. Do you see any significant changes in how films are made?

Bollywood has a come a long way since I first started out. The production quality just keeps getting better, the choreography is in a league of its own and for the first time in a long time, Bollywood is producing movies that have strong storylines and scripts. Given that the scope of the audience has expanded – Bollywood movies are watched by audiences all over the world – industry standards have automatically gone up.

The film industry puts such a premium on youth when it comes to women actors. Do you think Bollywood is more lenient towards men vis-à-vis age and appearance?

I think that may have been the case in the past, but things are changing now. For instance, there are more female-centric roles now than ever before and all these movies have done exceptionally well: a case in point is Kangana Ranaut’s Queen that was last year’s surprise hit. So even though the industry standards are high as far as appearances are concerned, the rewards are immense. The audience today appreciates female leads and is inclined to watch female-centric movies.

Khan with his co-star Preity Zinta in Salaam Namaste (2005)
Khan with his co-star Preity Zinta in Salaam Namaste (2005)

Anyone who makes a film is not just doing it for fun (Khan)

On the surface, at least, Bollywood seems to be producing more diverse fare than ever before. Yet, at the same time, the box office seems to be most people’s primary concern. As an actor, does this feel as limiting and liberating at once as it sounds?

Anyone who makes a film is not just doing it for fun. They’re doing it because they’re passionate about the movie business and would eventually also like to make money off it. So I understand when filmmakers and actors are concerned with the box office returns because they’ve invested a lot in the movie and would like to see it do well. But I think that is where the challenge lies – to work on diverse roles while ensuring that it appeals to the larger audience.

Saif Ali Khan in Omkara (2006)
Saif Ali Khan in Omkara (2006)

You had a rough start as an actor: most people see Dil Chahta Hai as the turning point in your career, which occurred around your tenth year of working in film. What do you think changed for you to make this happen?

I just thought it was an interesting role even though initially I had second thoughts about it. They wanted a boy-next-door image for Dil Chahta Hai, which was similar to mine back then. So in the end, it all worked out.

In recent years, you seem to have focused more on romantic films and relatively less experimental work, such as Omkara, Ek Hasina Thi, and even Kurbaan. Do you think you’re playing it safer now?

I’ve been in this industry for over two decades, which has given me the opportunity to explore myself as an actor. I think movies like Omkara and Ek Hasina Thi showed the audiences and critics that I am a versatile actor. I’m at a point in my career where I’m quite comfortable in my own skin and am happy with everything that I’ve achieved so I think my choice in films reflects that.

Khan with Jacqueline Fernandez in Race 2 (2013)
Khan with Jacqueline Fernandez in Race 2 (2013)

How “private” is a celebrity’s private life, really? Does being in the public eye become exhausting?

It’s absolutely and completely exhausting, and overwhelming. We are public figures at the end of the day so it’s understandable when the audiences or fans are interested in every single thing about our lives. Having said that, I do, however, think celebrities are entitled to a private life. It’s tough having to read about yourself and your relationship every other day in the paper. If it’s not related to our work, it shouldn’t be up for discussion.

How would you feel if your children expressed a desire to join the film industry?

I would be happy with whatever they choose.

Saif Ali Khan plays the jester in Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
Saif Ali Khan plays the jester in Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

In another life, I'd be a cricketer (Khan)

If you had to live your life over, would you still choose to become an actor?

Honestly, I can’t imagine doing anything else. But maybe, in another life, I’d be a cricketer.

Being a brand ambassador implies embodying the brand’s corporate identity and values. How have you enjoyed your role as brand ambassador for Head and Shoulders?

It has been a great experience because the product works. I believe that Head & Shoulders truly does make people’s lives better because it gives you healthy hair and a clean scalp. Let’s face it: good hair is a great confidence booster and Head & Shoulders gives you that self-confidence.