Do you think our daughter will grow up to be as pretty as her?” my husband who was watching the telly asked. I looked up from the book I was reading expecting to see Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai or Preity Zinta on screen. But it was Katrina Kaif endorsing the virtues of a beauty product.
She’d made a blink and a miss bikini appearance in Kaizad Gustad’s Boom. Couldn’t blame the husband for never having heard of the movie that was best forgotten or even Katrina. But some instinct told me that Boom wouldn’t spell doom for her and the fresh-faced 20-year-old would be back soon.
She was, in another blink-and-miss appearance in Sarkar, then in a ‘breakthrough performance’ (that was what her first award was titled) in Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya. By then, she was no longer a nobody but the new someone in Salman Khan’s life.
I got a chance to connect with her just before the release of Namastey London. We were supposed to meet but Katrina was rushed for time and we agreed to speak over the phone. I waited all day for the call. Then, around 5.30 pm, I left for home. Minutes later, my cell phone buzzed. It had to be Katrina.
Fumbling for my diary and pen, using a parked cab as a desktop, I started the interview, out there in the open. I tried vainly to drown out the traffic noises that made the conversation unintelligible.
I tried to tune out the incessant honking and screeching of tyres, but eventually, had to request that we continue with our chat in 10 minutes when my husband picked me up. Once inside the air-conditioned comfort of my car, I’d be able to hear her better.
Flight to catch
Katrina was sweetly obliging. “But I’m flying out of town in the next hour. Once I board my plane, I’ll be incommunicable,” she warned. I promised to call back, pronto. I did, as soon as I was seated in my car. She didn’t answer. I kept buzzing every five minutes. By the time we reached Bandra I had pretty much given up on the interview and decided that Katrina was another of those star brats.
Then the phone rang. “Sorry, I was on my way to the airport and a little tied up. But I’ve reached now and we can talk,” she informed. “I may have to stop when I enter security though.”
Fifteen minutes later, I had my interview and I had reversed my opinion of her. The girl was actually refreshingly well-behaved. And her natural effervescence gave Vipul Shah’s cross-continental love story a distinct flavour. When I told her so, she responded to my text message with a prompt “Thank you.” Yes, she was definitely ‘hatke’!
I switched jobs. At HT Café I discovered that she had a special tuning with a certain colleague that I didn’t wish to break. He also got a sweet SMS from her, every time an interview appeared.
Then this year, just before New York opened, we connected again since the colleague was out-of-town. Katrina was in Bangalore, I was in Mumbai, waiting all day to hear from her. She buzzed, around 8 pm, after a tiring day of press meets. There were none of the usual “I’m drained” moans and “Can we wrap this up fast?” groans.
Unfailingly polite and patient, she took every query, even those relating to Salman Khan and John Abraham that I had been forewarned to steer clear of. She also spoke about growing up in 18 countries with six sisters and one “acretaker” brother, of how she would rather be called “desirable” to “sexy”, of how when you are in love you break all rules and are ready to make any adjustments and compromises…
Now 25 and a star, Katrina was still on terra firma and not floating in the clouds. Definitely ‘hatke’!