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Home / Bollywood / Happy birthday Katrina Kaif: An outsider who became an insider

Happy birthday Katrina Kaif: An outsider who became an insider

Katrina Kaif has debunked every theory in Bollywood - that an outsider can’t make it big, that an inability to speak in Hindi would be a major impediment. Charting Katrina’s career arc in the industry on her birthday.

bollywood Updated: Jul 16, 2020 06:46 IST
Nivedita Mishra
Nivedita Mishra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Happy birthday Katrina Kaif: She is one of the most successful stars in Bollywood today.
Happy birthday Katrina Kaif: She is one of the most successful stars in Bollywood today.

The one thing that Katrina Kaif does the best is her ability to dismantle cliches. She is an outsider who made it big as an insider. She could speak no Hindi yet dreamt of making it big as a Hindi film heroine. Starting out with a critical and commercial disaster called Boom (1999), today she is among the highest paid actors in the country. If this isn’t a definition of success, what is? Over the years, Katrina has evolved as an actor who understand her limitations, works on her strengths as an entertainer, and has made some smart choices. As Katrina Kaif celebrates her birthday today, here is looking at her evolution in the film industry.

When she started out in late ’90s, other than her gorgeous looks, there was frankly little she could really count on. In the late ’90s,she started out like many actresses do - as a model - in London. It was there that Kaizad Gustad saw her and decided to cast her in Boom. Unaware of the Indian audiences’ preferences and with a poor command over Hindi, Katrina was universally panned, when the film released. Undeterred, Katrina picked up a Telugu film, Malliswari and did a brief role in Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar. What was accepted beyond doubt were her good looks. Her handicaps were, however, pretty major to encourage producers.


Then, around 2005-06, Katrina began working with Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, two associations that would remain pretty constant in her professional life and would help her bolster her innings as a bankable entertainer. In 2005, she did Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya with Salman. Perhaps for the first time, audiences realised she did have a screen presence - charming and jovial in equal measures. While her Hindi was still questionable, dubbing took care of that. The next year, she did her first film with Akshay Kumar - Humko Deewana Kar Gaya. The film was a hit and audiences liked the new pair. From then on till Tees Maar Khan in 2010, the duo would star in a string of successful films including Namaste London, Welcome (both in 2007) and Singh is Kingg (2008). She was especially appreciated in Namaste London as an Indian girl, brought up with English ways, manners and customs.

This was the period when she was heavily criticised for her preference for male-dominated films and termed “pretty prop” and “unabashed eye candy”. She was, of course, ensuring that producers saw her as a bankable entertainer and she got visibility, the much-needed elixir for ‘outsiders’ in Bollywood with no backing. Around this time, she also began coaching herself in Hindi and, in years to come, would starting dubbing herself.

With films like Race (2008) she began to ace her ultra cool glamorous avatar. Apart from romantic comedies, family dramas, with Race, she was willing to try her hand at an action thriller too.

Then in 2009, she did New York with Kabir Khan. Until then, she usually played second fiddle to the hero. With New York, she genuinely began exploring hitherto unknown facets of her personality - as a desperate wife of a man, whose life goes for a total spin after he is wrongly detained after 9/11, Katrina was a revelation. Going from a carefree college student to a helpless wife, Katrina perhaps had a first major shot at acting.


From here on, her journey would definitely take a different course - Katrina would still be ultra glamorous but her roles would be more substantial, even in multi-starrers. During this period, she appeared as a runaway bride in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, as a diving instructor with a zest for life in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and as a young woman from a prominent political family pushed into politics in Rajneeti (2010).

Soon, Katrina was catapulted to highest echelons of the Bollywood A-listers’ group, featuring with almost all the leading men in the industry - Ranbir Kapoor (Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahaani), Aamir Khan (Dhoom 3), Shah Rukh Khan (Jab Tak Hai Jaan), Bang Bang (Hrithik) and Salman (Ek Tha Tiger). Many of these turned out to monstrous hits.

She was also getting associated with leading directors and production houses during this time - Zoya Akhtar, Kabir Khan, Ali Abbas Zafar, Prakash Jha, and Anurag Basu to name a few. She was working with Dharma Productions (she did a hugely successful special song Chikni Chameli in Agneepath) and Yash Raj Films (Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Dhoom 3, Ek Tha Tiger and Tiger Zinda Hai) and Salman Khan Productions (Bharat). Her film Zero, directed by Aanand L Rai and also starring Shah Rukh Khan suffered badly at the box office, but she came out unscathed; in fact, her turn as Babita was, for many, the best bit about the film. Her role as Kumud Raina in Bharat too was appreciated. She will soon be back with Akshay in Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi.

Katrina remains a force to reckon with among the female stars in Bollywood - a stunningly beautiful person, a glamorous star with an affable personality and a keen business mind has meant that Katrina is here to stay. If the likes of Elli AvrRam, Norah Fatehi and Natasa Stankovic nurse Bollywood dreams, the reason could well be the success of Katrina Kaif.

Author tweets @mniveditatweets

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