Still basking in the acclaim for her performance in Zero and ahead of the release of the upcoming Bharat, Katrina Kaif speaks a great deal about reinvention and finding a balance between films that provide creative satisfaction and commercial entertainers. She spoke to Anupama Chopra about changing her process, the importance of working with the right directors and wanting to play Indira Gandhi.
Anupama Chopra (AC): Director Ali Abbas Zafar said that you did workshops and language training. What did you do and how did that shape your role?
Katrina Kaif (KK): Honestly it's something that I've been trying to do for the last 2 years and I have done it before in the past for certain films but it's definitely a process, Anu, that I've embraced a lot more.
AC: The acting workshops?
KK: Yes. But workshops are there before a lot of films but not in the earlier years. Honestly, there was no such thing as that in the kind of films that we did, and there were no scripts also a lot of times. I've not had a script for Singh is Kinng or Welcome. You understood the story and you would, you know-
AC: You just show up?
KK: Well, no. you would get the scene maybe the day before. It was a different process of working, you know?
AC: Of course.
KK: And it was—
AC: It was fun?
KK: It was fun, it was great. But the process now is very different, I think for everyone. The whole system has changed and for me personally, I think, since Zero, it's been a big change for me in the approach, which now I do for myself. So regardless of how the director works or whether the director wants to hold a workshop or doesn't, there's a certain work which now I make sure I do for myself.
KK: Yeah. And it's important. I actually said this to Hrithik the other day and he said, "Yeah, I've been doing that since my first film", and I was like, okay, I mean, that's probably true but everyone's process is different and everyone has their own journey. This is who I am and this is the way my journey is and this is the way my journey has been. But…I feel that it's added a lot to me. I feel it's added a huge dimension to me in, if nothing else, my enjoyment at work.
AC: You talk about that, Katrina, about how much joy you're getting out of your work now and you said, "I'm learning and I'm unlearning", and I was curious- what are you unlearning?
KK: Rather than unlearning certain things, I think probably the better way of putting it is replacing certain habits and certain go-to's with a different thought process.
AC: When you approach a character?
KK: When I break down the script and break down the character before I get on set. It's just a different way that now I've been working with a few people. There have been a few people that I've been, kind of, switching between. And it's just about imbibing the techniques which you think work for you and imbibing the thought processes which give you a deeper connection with the character. So, no matter if Kumud is an employment officer in Delhi, we know that she is going to take these men to Abu Dhabi, she's their supervising officer. She seems like a very strong, dominating woman who speaks her mind. But now I wanted to personalize this. How do I personalize this for me and match her struggles and match her thought process to me? It doesn't mean that I'm actually feeling the same thing but how do I find a place that it becomes similar so that her journey becomes personal to me?
AC: Tell me, why do you think the last two years, you've felt the need to, sort of, go deeper? What changed?
KK: I just felt that there was a huge side of me which was not coming across. We all have kind of like a vision that we conceive for ourselves. Thoughts and pictures in our head, because we're actors and we see movies day in and out and I felt that there was a side to me which had been depicted and portrayed on screen very well and done in many different ways, in many different films, many different songs. And I felt there was another dimension- not another dimension but a few dimensions which were not coming through and I wanted to look into that and I chatted with my directors a lot- from Aanand L Rai in Zero- we spoke about it. He kept on saying, "This is nothing you've ever done and this character is so new!", and I was seeing it but I wasn't seeing it to the extent which now- when I see the film and the scenes we shot, I understand what he was trying to get out of me.
It was just about me giving a little bit more thought and attention to what I now wanted to do with myself onscreen. Of course, a lot of it is not all in my hands. A lot of it depends on the roles you get offered. I'm not sitting here with a pick of every film in the industry, I have to choose out of the films that are offered to me and also working with the level of these directors who can really help you and mould you and shape your performance. That makes all the difference. So that aside, because those are the parts which are down to our destiny and down to our luck. When the right thing comes together for me, my contribution is – how do I grow from here, how do I add more? Like you know, if you're a doctor you further it. Like my sister, she's gotten her master's, now she's doing her doctorate, she's furthering her education in her profession. How do I up my game? How do I better myself? It's just that simple.
When the right thing comes together for me, my contribution is – how do I grow from here, how do I add more? Like you know, if you're a doctor you further it. Like my sister, she's gotten her master's, now she's doing her doctorate, she's furthering her education in her profession. How do I up my game? How do I better myself? It's just that simple.
AC: So when you then do a film like Sooryavanshi, which of course is a very male universe, testosterone-heavy, Rohit Shetty, you know, lots of cars, cops…How do you, in terms of just strategy, balance between films that will satisfy you as an artist and give you meat, and films that are perhaps not satisfying but will further your brand?
KK: I think the way you phrase the question is very honestly exactly what was on my mind. It's exactly what you said. Balancing the films which have a lot of meat and give you creative satisfaction as an actor and as an artist which I need to survive, I mean I need to grow as a person. The personal growth you're talking about, to feel inspired and to feel satisfied at work, balancing that with certain films that are of a certain scale, fun, summer blockbusters which also have a certain brand element to it.
Rohit Shetty is a person who has a huge brand of cinema which is immensely popular, teaming up with Akshay Kumar again, we've done a lot of really successful films together. Because there was a thought where I asked myself this exact question that you're saying, and my answer to it was exactly what you said. I think it's about finding the balance. I don't want to go overboard also with taking yourself too seriously, because we are entertainers. Probably tilting a lot more towards the side that would challenge me because I've done a lot of the entertainment bit already. In my filmography, I guess you could say, a lot of films are those big summer commercial entertainers and I think now what I'm naturally being drawn towards is just – without getting too complex or intellectual about it – just being drawn to spaces which seem new to me honestly, that's it.
AC: OK, and tell me, you want to play Indira Gandhi in a biopic?
KK: I really really wanted to, yeah.
KK: I just think it's a fascinating story.
AC: It is!
KK: I think it's a fascinating story, and now, with the way I've seen people work on prosthetics and all that and with the structure that is there, I know it would look right. I mean, certain structures would be difficult, you know. There could be another person where you would say, 'No, that's going to be really tough.' But there are certain similarities in structure, which you need, which would work… I would love to. Let's see. Maybe not that, maybe it's something else that comes. And sometimes you just have to hope that it comes when you least expect it – and then that one thing comes and it's outstanding. Did we talk about this film that I saw last year, I think it was? No, it was this year – Tully?
KK: Did you see that film?
AC: No, no.
KK: Oh, you have to see it, then we'll talk about it. Charlize Theron plays a single mother in it.
AC: OK, no, I haven't seen that.
KK: See that film. To get a script like that!
AC: Well, you put it out in the universe!
KK: Yeah, exactly!
AC: And hopefully it'll happen.
KK: And you know the other thing I want to do, which I've said before? I want to do a really cool two-heroine film. Think like that cop film, which Will Smith and that guy did, the famous buddy cop film… But you know what I mean, something like Thelma & Louise, but not necessarily on the run.
AC: Listen, Katrina, I'm saying you're talking to Mr Rohit Shetty, you're working with Mr Rohit Shetty, get him to create a female buddy cop film!