Katrina Kaif gets candid about SRK, Aamir and Salman Khan

Afsana Ahmed

Mumbai, Nov. 10 -- The last time we met, Katrina was quiet, coy, timid and politically correct. Today, however, the film industry's golden girl is bursting with life.

This has nothing to do with the success of her films as she's always been a successful actor. But she's never allowed herself to be flamboyant or displayed seeming confidence. She was nonchalant, till now, that is.

This change in her personality possibly has something to do with the fact that this has been the best year of her career - three Yash Raj films, romancing Salman and Shah Rukh Khan back to back in Ek Tha Tiger and Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ), will now be followed by Dhoom:3 with Aamir Khan. Soon she will also start a yet-untitled film with Hrithik Roshan, which will to be produced by Fox Studios.

Just back from Ajmer Sharif where she always offers prayers before the release of her films, Kat can't stop purring.

November 13, when Yash Chopra's final film JTHJ will release, must be a big day for you. Are you nervous?

I am lot calmer this time. Even though it was my first film with Yashji, I think, this time, it's more about Yash Chopra than any of us. It's the last film of India's most loved filmmaker.

Personally, it means a lot to star in this film. There was a time when I desperately wanted to be part of a Yash Chopra film, not because he was a great director, but because I was an outsider and I wanted that validation of being accepted in the film industry. I thought I would never get a chance to work with him because he likes his heroines in Indian clothes and I did not fit that image.

There are too many emotions and sentiments attached to this film. It goes beyond the anxiety and nervousness of a release.

Are you a complete Bollywood girl now? Or do you still watch a lot of English movies and enjoy the western lifestyle?

A lot of my sensibilities and certain other things are ingrained in me because I developed my likes and dislikes as a child. But having said that, fortunately, my mom was careful so as to not expose me to violence in action movies. My sisters and I were allowed to watch MGM films. So I've grown up on movies like Singin' In The Rain (1952), Gone With The Wind (1939), Ben Hur (1959) and The Sound Of Music (1965). These films are grand but soft, warm, intense, exaggerated, full of drama and emotions. If you watch them closely, you'll see they are a lot like Hindi films.

So I already have been exposed to such films. I love watching a Karan Johar film or something like Baghban (2003) too. Those films work for me.

At the same time, I can watch an English film and still like it. I actually connect with the essence of a film. But I am also a huge fan of world cinema.

In a recent interview I did with Amitabh Bachchan, he said that you were naive back when you acted with him in Kaizad Gustad's Boom (2003). Looking back, was your Bollywood debut scary?

It's really an interesting observation by Mr Bachchan. I was 17-years-old when I came here (to Mumbai) and I was genuinely naive, unlike today's 17-year-olds, who are far sharper.

I viewed everything, every person in the best possible way, and it's not like I think that's a bad quality. But it's a quality that people can take advantage of. I was very trusting. I felt nobody could mean anything wrong or have bad intentions.

Yes, I could have been misused or led the wrong way. But there were many different factors as to why nothing bad happened to me and why I could grow very quickly. I have God's blessings.

In JTHJ's favour...

* This is the legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra's last directorial venture. When he decided to wield the megaphone for the last time, he knew he had to give this love story everything he had.

* This is the first time Katrina Kaif has been paired opposite Shah Rukh Khan in a film.

* After Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in 2008, SRK is making a comeback as a romantic hero.

* AR Rahman's music and Gulzar's lyrics.

'London is not home for me. I was there only for three years!'

When did you first learn about Yash Chopra?

I had heard of him, but he wasn't there in the conscious part of my mind.

I came here when I was 17. Before that, I had learnt about the major people in the industry. I had gone for the premiere of Veer-Zaara (2004). So, yeah, from that time onwards, I was aware of his magnitude and stature in the industry.

Tell us your views on Yash Chopra..

Yash Chopra never designed his shots. Or choreographed them. If he strongly felt it was right, it turned out right. He never looked at the technicalities of a shot, whether the crane was placed right or the lights were fine, etc. He said, if the scene induces emotion, that's it. He loved women... adored and respected them. He lent them a certain sense of empowerment. He put them on a higher pedestal, unlike a lot of other men. That is why his heroines always got to share an equal amount of space with the heroes in his movies.

He understood and empathised with natural beauty, not technical beauty. He never liked anything jazzy and he wasn't fond of western clothes. Yashji loved Indian wear. He was very happy when I wore a sari in the film.

You've been acting with the Big Khans of Bollywood. How does that feel?

Hey, it's not like I sit there and go, 'Oh my God, I am acting with three superstars!' Yes, they are the three top actors and obviously I'll try to do the best I can and perform to my best ability and their expectations.

Are your achievements more or less than your expectations?

Definitely more than my dreams and my expectations. Less than my expectations would be what? That I have to run the film industry, perhaps (laughs)!

But that doesn't mean I have no more goals to achieve. I do. I would die without goals or a focus. I need something to keep me going.

Who are the people who contributed to your life in the last eight years?

Everyone I have interacted with has contributed to my career in some way. Filmmaker Dharmesh Darshan sent me to a kathak teacher, Biru Krishna. My dance teacher taught me a lot of the most essential and basic things I needed to know about grooming, dance and the film industry. He played a big part in my career.

Then I did a south film with Venkatesh. I was a kid then. Instead of focusing on my dialogue or scenes, I would play around the sets and get scolded by him.

Then, of course, there's Salman Khan. His knowledge and guidance have been invaluable and the support of his family is irreplaceable.

If you go back a bit in time, there is Raj Kanwar who helped me tremendously with the technical stuff of cinema.

Akshay Kumar also has an important role in my life. He was there, giving me the confidence to surge ahead. And of course, Vipul Shah treated me as an equal and with respect.

Do you dream of going back to London and settling there after retirement?

I want to clear this once and for all. I was born in Hong Kong. I grew up in Japan and China. London is not home for me. I was there only for three years before I moved to India, but that's probably why I am connected with it.

London is definitely not the place I consider my home. It's India that I consider home. Going by my past journey, I am not certain where life will take me, what turns and twists will happen; nobody knows where they will end up. As life changes direction, I'll flow with it.

'I have to admit that I was slightly intimidated when SRK and I first shot our scenes together'

When was the first time you heard of Shah Rukh Khan?

It was in London. I was watching a film called Asoka (2001). It was one of the first Hindi films to be publicised in England on the same level as an English film. I heard Shah Rukh's name then. But I didn't know the magnitude of his stardom. My mother and I were watching the film. We didn't watch it till the end. I wasn't used to the length; it was a long film and we had to go somewhere.

I actually remember watching it, but I don't have a good experience of it to relate, which is funny.

You and SRK were just acquaintances before you started shooting for Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Was it awkward?

He had been a very formal and distant acquaintance. I have to admit that I was slightly intimidated when we first shot our scenes together. Like, he would hold my gaze for not more than two seconds and vice versa. Initially, there was a little awkwardness and it was overwhelming.

Even though I have met him at stage shows and award functions, our meetings had always been very polite and abrupt. Working with him was like getting to know someone from scratch. Then when you get to know him, it's like, wow!

He is very particular about his co-stars. He wants to see them do well. If you notice, Shah Rukh's heroines never have inconsequential roles. They are always in equal roles. This is the similarity I find between Yashji and Shah Rukh, in terms of their approach towards women they work with in films. They place them on an elevated platform.

Then I realised, he's not a person, who minds his own business. He takes active interest in your career too. And that's a nice feeling.

Kat's top six heroes

Akshay Kumar: I really think his personality complements mine and my personality complements his. That's why we look great on screen. He's the most non-judgmental person I have ever met. He's been my closest confidence booster.

Aamir Khan: He's a simple guy. He's clear about what he is interested in and what he's not. He doesn't gossip. He's got a childlike quality and is very straightforward.

SRK: He has the most amazing mind that I have ever come across. He does multiple things at one time and gives each one equal importance. A genius mind, very intelligent, a great reader and actor and a hard worker. He is gifted and very passionate.

Ranbir Kapoor: He's got an amazing approach towards work. He knows the kinds of films he wants to do. It wasn't the same when he started, but he knows what he wants now. I think he'll make a big mark, make his loved ones proud and leave behind a different kind of career, full of quality work.

Salman Khan: It's hard to describe or define him. He will always be an enigma, who is difficult to figure out. He is the solid rock when everyone else comes and goes. He is immovable.

Hrithik Roshan: He is a very gentle, special, sensitive and spiritual person. And he's passionate.

On working with both Salman and SRK

They are two diametrically different people with different personalities and sensibilities. Their approaches to work are also completely different. Salman doesn't discuss or say much about his scenes and his dialogues. He doesn't rehearse. He is very spontaneous. Whereas, SRK is very much from theatre, and that comes across in his approach to work. He rehearses a lot and makes his co-stars rehearse. He is analytical, sharp and gives you a lot of specific suggestions. He knows the genre well and is a hands-on person. He's interactive with his co-stars and very helpful.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.