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The new face of Bollywood

On the surface, Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor make a strange pair. But together, say industry pundits, they symbolise the Bollywood of today. Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi tells more.

entertainment Updated: Jul 14, 2010 18:57 IST
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi


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Usually, film stars don’t step out for a ‘cover’ interview without the trappings of security guards and makeup artists who scuttle up for a touch up every time the camera clicks. These two do.



Usually, film stars are accompanied by attitude, arrogance and annoying

nakhras

. These two aren’t.



Usually, film stars never make it in time for meetings, believing in being fashionably late. These two arrive exactly five minutes before schedule.



If the industry buzz is true, and Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor together really are the new face of Bollywood, then, given this refreshingly unBollywood-like behaviour, we’re all for it.



The evening seems almost magical in the way it comes together, particularly since it was so difficult to set up. In the first place, it took two and a half months of seriously persistent persuasion to get Katrina and Ranbir to even agree to this interview. Not because they were playing hard to get, but because they claimed to have nothing to say.



Having finally convinced them that if they answered our questions, they would have something to say, we then had to figure out a time and place that would be convenient to all. And after that, since both Katrina and Ranbir requested it, we had to persuade the Taj Lands End Hotel at Bandra, Mumbai, to let us use their space for the interview and shoot.



Given the heightened security after 26/11, this seemed like an impossible task, but the management of the Taj Lands End was most gracious. And as it turns out this evening, the staff are not only helpful, but go out of their way to make us feel at home. So we settle onto the pristine white sofas at Pure, the restaurant that focuses on organic food, and talk and talk and talk.



On the face of it, Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor make a strange pair. One has six hits to her credit, the other only half (though Ranbir was highly appreciated for his role in

Bachna Ae Haseeno

, his three leading ladies deserved a lot of the credit for the film’s success as well).



Ranbir-Katrina

Within a second of their arrival, it’s clear that the two of them can’t have a straight conversation. There are jocular digs at each other and constant claims that they have nothing in common. Yet industrywallahs and public opinion both hold that together, Katrina and Ranbir are the new face of Bollywood. And the chemistry between them is certainly evident.


So if they have nothing in common, what’s the buzz about?



“I have no idea,” begins the very proper Ranbir. But Katrina is quick to chide him for being politically correct.



“This man is too good to be true!” she says about Ranbir. “But to get back to the question, I guess it’s a matter of the kind of work you do. I have done some films that by god’s grace have been successful, and I think filmmakers see a lot of potential in Ranbir. So it works well. And perhaps we fit the demand of the time.”



That demand would be?



“Well, Katrina has given hits. Six hits to be precise, which she keeps rubbing into me every time I want to make point,” smiles Ranbir, while Katrina denies the accusation with all her might.



“That’s not fair,” she grins. “I don’t say it. Raj Kumar Santoshi (director of

Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani

) and the producer of our film tell him that when he tries to show off. Yes, he shows off. He thinks he is one big brand. A great actor who knows all about acting.”



And now Ranbir is left shaking his head.



So it isn’t a coincidence that they have been cast together in, not one, but two films – Raj Kumar Santoshi’s

Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani

and Prakash Jha’s

Rajniti.

The filmmakers must have gauged their marketability and then made their decision.



“You mean my marketability,” says Katrina, giving Ranbir a teasing look. “Ya, sure,” he retorts!



“On a serious note, I think we both just fit the roles perfectly,” Katrina continues. “

Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani

is a different love story. And in this case, that’s not a cliché. I really think no one could have fit the roles better and I’m sure once the film is out you’ll say the same.”



“I agree totally,” says Ranbir.



“Wow! We agree on something!” says Katrina, giving him a high five.



“It’s a love story and though it’s the first time we are coming together, and in spite of all the differences that we have, I think we’ll rock,” says Ranbir.



What made the two of them agree to do the film?



“I signed it six months before Ranbir was taken on. And since I am a good girl who has complete faith in her director, I decided not to be nasty and create an issue when Ranbir was signed,” says Katrina with a straight face.



Ranbir nods seriously. “She’s right! She could have made an issue of it. After all, she is my senior and has six hits,” he mocks before continuing on a more serious note. “One of the reasons I signed the film was Katrina. Of course the script and the director who had given my father a film like Damini were bigger reasons.”



As it turns out, the two of them first met properly on the sets of

Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani.

“We knew each other but were not pals. We don’t party or go out together. So it was on the sets that we met. In fact we still don’t know each other properly,” Ranbir says. But he signed the film partly because Katrina was in it.



“I have seen her work. She is good,” he says. “And the little bit of good looks she has just adds to the persona.”



“‘The little bit of good looks she has…’” Katrina repeats. “I’ll remember that.”



When Katrina first learned she’d be working with Ranbir, she says, her reaction was: “He’s too thin. Tell him to put on weight.”



“That’s because she’s used to working with brawny, muscular men,” Ranbir teases.



So the pairing is the directors’ choice. The ‘new face of Bollywood’ tag is from the audience’s point of view. But surely there’s something to it than their marketability and obvious chemistry? Could the difference in their backgrounds have something to do with it? Ranbir, after all, represents the hardcore Bollywood

gharana

, while Katrina is a complete outsider.



“Has that ever really mattered?” asks Katrina. “I think our personalities are the governing factor. Directors and producers think we fit their characters, so they decide to put us together. Aside from that, both of us are carefree people – which doesn’t mean that we’re careless – and in that way, perhaps, we represent the generation of today.”


Surely backgrounds do matter, though. Or was it easy for Katrina to break into Bollywood?



“I was a complete outsider and nothing came easy,” she says. I have had to work my way through. Definitely, it hasn’t been a bed of roses for me. But I worked and am getting my due. But that at no point discounts the work that Ranbir has had to do. His coming from a filmi background may have got him things a wee bit easier but I am sure every person has to fight his own battles.”



Ranbir agrees. Though his Kapoor name saved him from doing studio rounds in search of work, the baggage it comes with is heavy.



“When you come from a background where your father and grandfather have proved their worth, then it becomes essential for you to carve your own niche,” he says. “You can ride on their names for some time, but not all the time. Expectations of you are very high, people are waiting to pull you down, and if you fall, the fall is very hard. Harder than anybody else’s. So with the good, there is the bad too.”



Katrina and Ranbir are perhaps the most unconventional stars in the industry today. Ranbir made his debut in 2007 with

Saawariya

, a film that was the debacle of the year. And Katrina is anything but a regular Bollywood heroine. Born in Hong Kong, brought up in London, when she decided to move to Mumbai, she was Anglicised and didn’t even speak Hindi. Yet, today they’re two of the most sought after stars in tinselville. Are they the new face of Bollywood, or is it Bollywood that’s changed?



“Of course Bollywood has changed,” says Ranbir. “The sensibilities have changed and so have the sensitivities. Bollywood is now smarter, slicker and more stylish. Filmmakers are ready to experiment and that has really expanded the scope not just for films but also for the people working in films.”



“Absolutely,” says Katrina.


And once again, the two of them find they agree on something.



“Ten years ago, I can say with certainty that I would not have been able to be where I am today,” Katrina continues. “But times have changed and so have films and roles. Someone like me has tremendous scope now.”



Katrina has almost consistently done roles that mirror her own background – she usually plays stylish, modern, foreign-returned babes. “All the roles I have done have been based on conscious decisions,” she says. “I was a nobody and I had to make sure I delivered commercial hits so that I got noticed.”



Ranbir is too new to have fallen into an image trap, he says. “I am still discovering myself and want to continue doing that my whole life long.”



“Now that is something I call luxury,” Katrina says about Ranbir’s aspiration. “That is something that comes only when you are extremely secure about yourself and your surroundings. For me, it was a different ball game. Movies weren’t about discovering myself. They were about being able to help out financially back home. When you have eight siblings, a broken home and money is short, life becomes serious. So you look for financial stability. In the process, if you discover yourself, that’s a bonus.”



Why have the two of them not done ‘serious’ films though? Do they think they’re too young for heavy-duty roles?


“I have no image and thankfully, I haven’t really needed to think too much. I am like a child in a candy store who wants everything but doesn’t know what to choose. So I wait for roles to pick me,” says Ranbir. “Yes, I do want to experiment with roles and my two films Rajniti and Wake up, Sid (with Konkona Sen Sharma) are a move towards that.”



Katrina stayed away from serious roles because she needed commercial hits, but with

Rajniti

and Kabir Khan’s

New York

both due this year, she’s about to make a change. “I am now in a position to make the change,” she says.



It may take some time for Katrina’s westernised image to change, though, Ranbir says, when he first met her, he was surprised because he thought she’d be more westernised than she is. “I think she is fitting into the desi mould rather well,” he says, shaking her hand.



But would Katrina ever be able to roles like the ones Aishwarya did in Devdas or Vidya Balan in

Parineeta

?



“I don’t think Ranbir should answer that one,” Katrina cuts in before Ranbir can say what he wants to. “I am the only person to say what I can do and what I can’t. No one else has the right to be judgmental. And my answer is YES. I can do it. Maybe not immediately, but there will be a time when I will do that too.”



So that leaves us with our final question. Who are the co-stars Ranbir rates the best and the worst?



“I think all of them are very good. Each one has a different credibility. They are great actresses,” begins Ranbir. But before he can finish, Katrina starts making faces.



“You really think he’ll answer that one?” she asks, exasperated. “He is very correct and exceptionally boring. He will never say what he feels.”



“That’s what she thinks. I can’t change her perspective,” Ranbir defends himself.



“There he goes again,” Katrina shoots back. “He has a magnanimous attitude and indulges everybody as though he is a messiah! Believe me, every time he says he is okay at his work, he is telling himself that he is the best.”



Okay then. Does Katrina have a top five? “Aamir, Shah Rukh, Salman, Saif, Hrithik, not in any order though,” she rattles off.



“And what about Akshay?” grins Ranbir, pleased to have caught Katrina out. “He is your hero... Wait till he sees this in print!”



“Oh no! No, no you have to add Akshay,” squeals Katrina. “Leave out Saif, Akshay has to be there. He is my favourite co-star.”



Sure, but doesn’t Ranbir feature in this list?



“He still has things to prove. I am not the right judge but I think he has great potential. But he should become a little less politically correct. He needs to understand that it’s okay not to be a goody two shoes all the time. He doesn’t need to make everybody happy always.”



Ranbir smiles indulgently. “Not again,” growls Katrina.



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