What makes Kareena Kapoor Khan an icon.
As she juggles movies and motherhood, Kareena Kapoor Khan still has the power to have audiences eating out of her hands
Every Kapoor is a draw. So is a Khan. It makes sense then that Kareena Kapoor Khan, who combines the best of two of the biggest Bollywood surnames, is a major draw. M-A-J-O-R. One was inclined to apply the phrase, ‘they don’t make ‘em like her anymore’ but that would be presumptuous and technically wrong. For, Brand Kareena – simply Bebo to fans – is far from over. She is an original and will always be. In an industry that thrives on stereotyping and playing it ‘Saif’, Kareena has bucked every trend. She makes heads turn simply by being herself. One of Indian pop culture’s most recognisable icons commands a huge following across the globe and her career trajectory proves that she was born to be a star. Which Kapoor/khan isn’t? And guess what? She is not even on social media!
Actress, star-wife, mother, style icon, you name it and she fits every bill accorded to a Bollywood actress. If you ever wanted evidence of what Kareena Kapoor means to Asians, you just had to be there at the recent Masala! Awards at Fort Island, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. Dressed in Faraz Manan couture, there she was, a vision of flawless beauty with evergreen writ all over her – the ultimate showstopper and a more-thanperfect muse for a fashion show by the famed Pakistani designer and close friend. Collective sighs were recorded when the lights dimmed and she glided on to the stage, in a pale pink ensemble, hair open, the pout in place. And when she posed on the ramp, standing tall and exuding confidence in a way only Kareena can, the flashbulbs couldn’t stop popping. The cameras love her and she loves them right back. Dubai’s elite guests that comprised the audience were all reduced to being fangirls and fanboys of the definitive heroine!
Indeed, Kareena is the complete actress – the style, the ada, the grace and dances that few can match. Hindi cinema accepts great actresses whose performances can move you to tears. But to be the object of fantasies of a million, an actress has to be an allrounder, in terms of looks, dance and appeal. Hema
Malini had it, so did Sridevi, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit. After which, only Kareena Kapoor has it. She can be exuberantly over-the-top (for instance, Jab We Met in which she famously declared, “I am my favourite”) and she can be subtly understated (Udta Punjab, 3 Idiots). She can nail every look, the demure or the daring, the firebrand or the friendly, and she can rock her thumkas and jhatkas at the same time. She is as up for a
sexy ‘item number’ as she is for a deglam role. Not for her method acting or textbook performances. She is what she is, on and off screen. And that’s what endears her to fans. Her confidence (some naysayers tsk tsk it as ‘arrogance’) can be infectious. “Beauty is confidence,” she once remarked. True. Just that in her case, her confidence is also a form of beauty.
HOW SHE WON
Kareena’s romance with the arc lights began nearly two decades ago (Refugee released in 2000!) and probably reaches back to her birth. After all, when
Ranbir Kapoor was born, one distributor called Raj Kapoor welcoming the birth of a future Bollywood hero! The same prediction wouldn’t have come true for Kareena. The Kapoor girls don’t generally become actresses. But Kareena and sister Karisma broke that rule. Karisma has long retired.
But in an industry with short attention spans and shorter shelf lives for its leading ladies, Kareena burns bright. Her contemporaries – male and female – have had mixed results in their career. Abhishek Bachchan, her first co-star and born to Bollywood’s first family, has not found his firm footing yet and continues to flit in and out of films. The Ameesha Patels, Bipasha Basus and Preity Zintas have more or less bowed away from the scene. Yet, Kareena is there, powering on, despite not having done a plethora of movies recently, to give tough competition to the Pr-schooled, ultra-social media savvy stars like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt. What explains her ever-lasting appeal?
Perhaps, it’s the combination of style, the devil-may-care attitude, the sex appeal and connect with audiences from 6 to 60 that makes her so relevant. Right from the beginning, she was an interviewer’s delight, never pretending to be politically correct or safe. She was dismissed as brash but never boring. Her off-screen persona was strong and in her, girls found a role model, who could be unapologetically herself. Even when she embraced marriage to Saif Ali Khan and motherhood, she did it openly, sans any pretence. With the birth of son Taimur, the limelight has shifted to the infant Nawab a bit but Bebo continues to be not just her own favourite but also the media’s. Kareena returned to the silver screen earlier this year with Veere Di Wedding, where she played a reluctant bride and it seemed as if she had never gone anywhere. Her brief pregnancy break never really took her away from her fans. Be it marriage to Saif
Ali Khan or her pregnancy, Kareena played every role with stylish nonchalance. Needless to say, she has shone in her real-life role of a mother with little Taimur already being a superstar in his own right.
Critics might carp that she doesn’t have the bouquet of varied films that some of her peers can boast of. But a close look at her filmography shows some rather bold choices. Right from a rustic young woman of Refugee to communal riot hit Aaliya in Dev, fiery tribal woman in Asoka, resilient lawyer in Aitraaz, the Indian Desdemona in Omkaara, prostitute-with-aheart in Chameli and Talaash, the chatterbox Geet in Jab We Met or the more recent, avowed feminist in Ki & Ka and compassionate doctor in Udta Punjab, Kareena has displayed a wide diversity. But it’s her fashionista and chic attitude that overrides everything else. Perhaps her most iconic role continues to be that of the fashion-crazy Poo from Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Ghum. Director Karan Johar is on record that he cast her simply because the Kareena he had so closely known was exactly like Poo! But Kareena is much more than a Poo. Or a Geet.
It’s to her credit that she hasn’t allowed popular perceptions to come in the way of what she wants to do and what she has become. Kareena Kapoor lives life queen size, on her own terms. Exactly what makes her a true Asian Icon (the title Masala! gave her at the awards). With her lofty beauty and abundant natural talent, Bebo has charmed her way into our hearts in a way few Bollywood heroines have. That’s saying a lot in an age where ‘trends’ change every few weeks. But well, some folks have all the sass, don’t they?
KAREENA KAPOOR SIZZLES ON THE RAMP AT MASALA! AWARDS KAREENA KAPOOR RECEIVING HER TROPHY FROM SUHAIL GALADARI, CHAIRMAN, SUHAIL GALADARI INVESTMENTS KAREENA WITH HER FAVOURITE DESIGNER FARAZ MANAN ON THE RAMP