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Interview of Kareen Kapoor Khan: Daring to have new dreams

The multiple award-winning actress discusses first Netflix thriller Jaane Jaan, the character she portrays and how being a mother in real life helped her

By: Mohnish Singh

AFTER entertaining cinema audiences for 23 years, Kareena Kapoor Khan is now stepping into the streaming world with the new Netflix thriller Jaane Jaan, which had its global premiere on her birthday on Thursday (21).

Helmed by Sujoy Ghosh, the acclaimed director of Kahaani (2012) and Badla (2019), the film is an adaptation of the 2005 Japanese novel The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino. The twist-laden movie also features acclaimed actors Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Varma in the lead cast.

Eastern Eye recently caught up with the multiple award-winning actress in Mumbai to discuss Jaane Jaan, the character she portrays and how being a mother in real life helped her. She also opened up about her film The Buckingham Murders, which is set to have its world premiere at the upcoming BFI London Film Festival, and the happiness of her legendary mother-in-law Sharmila Tagore making an acting return.

Did you read the novel The Devotion of Suspect X before signing the film?

I wanted to stay away from reading it because we have adapted it pretty well.

Tell us about Jaane Jaan and the character you portray in it?

It’s a thriller. I enjoy watching thrillers, crime, mystery dramas. I play the character of Maya D’Souza. It’s a story of a mother and her child, and what happens with them that takes the story forward.

What do you reckon was the most challenging part of playing this character?

Every single thing is not challenging. I think actors enjoy their jobs so much that they won’t really find anything tough. I don’t find anything tough because I am wanting to do it. So, I enjoy being a part of this experience. If you love something, you just want to do it rather than think of it as a challenge.

Did being a mother of two wonderful kids make you more connected to the character?

I don’t really connect my personal life to my work life. It’s very different. My work and personal life are separate. There is no conscious kind of effort but maybe subconsciously, you know, it comes into play.

Interview of Kareen Kapoor Khan: Daring to have new dreams
Kareena Kapoor Khan

With Jaane Jaan, you foray into the streaming space. Is this the right time for you to begin this journey?

I mean, everyone is doing such good work on different kinds of platforms. This was a script that Sujoy wanted to make for Netflix. And I just loved the script. So, I immediately said, ‘Yeah, I will do it’. Anyway, I am always trying to do different things.

You must have received several offers before you took this one up, right?

Yeah, but I never liked a script that I felt was worthy enough of doing OTT. I think working on a Netflix project, watching it so close, you need fabulous actors, a great script, and great content. It’s not like there is song and dance and you are munching popcorn. It’s a different kind of medium when you are watching it at home.

How was the experience of filming Jaane Jaan in Kalimpong?

It was so nice and so comfortable. Sujoy said he chose that place because it’s so crucial to the narrative. The mood and setting are so important in a thriller. So, he was hell-bent on shooting Jaane Jaan there.

 Is it a coincidence that your father Randhir Kapoor and aunt Neetu Kapoor starred together in a film with the same title?

They (the makers) loved this title because in the film, our characters go to a karaoke bar and there is a little bit of a story.

You once admitted to being inspired by Delhi Crime actress Shefali Shah and wanted to play a similar character. Can we say that you have got that opportunity now?

No, Delhi Crime was a crime detective cop drama. This is the story of a mother and a child. I mean, it has to be interesting enough for me to do it. Sujoy has done a fabulous job on this one.

How does Sujoy Ghosh compare to other directors you have worked with?

I think he is a very fine director. He really pushes the artists to do something different, to emotionally drain them, to kind of bring out a side to them which is slightly more intense because he makes these kinds of movies that require all these aspects. And here, there is a story of a mother and a child. So again, it is very dark and nicely done.

You have delivered powerful performances in good films like Omkara, Talaash, and Chameli. But a lot of people still know you by your characters Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham or Geet from Jab We Met…

I think they love those characters that are funny and slightly more out there so much. The younger people love to imitate those roles; the clothes, songs and dialogues. Intense roles, I feel, will be remembered forever.

You are becoming a producer. Tell us more about this new journey?

I have made a small film. It is releasing at the BFI London Film Festival. It is actually in English. The Buckingham Murders, directed by Hansal Mehta. It is an attempt to do a different kind of cinema. It’s not commercial, but it’s a different cinema that I also want to explore.

Has your process of choosing a film changed over the years?

I mean, one cannot keep doing the same films again and again. So, yeah, I want to do something different. That’s why there has been a conscious effort to work with Sujoy Ghosh and Hansal Mehta. I will always still do commercial films, but there is a side to me that also wants to do different kinds of things, apart from the same kind of movies.

 Tell us about that?

This film has been with Sujoy for 10 years. He has wanted to make this film for a long time. I think they couldn’t put the cast together and Sujoy made a couple of other films. So, he put this film on the back burner and made it after a long time. I always wanted to do a thriller with him because he is so good in this revenge story space, and this was a perfect thriller with the right mood for us.

Interview of Kareen Kapoor Khan: Daring to have new dreams
As Maya in Jaane Jaan

Jaane Jaan also stars Vijay Verma and Jaideep Ahlawat in primary roles. How was it working with them?

They were very prepared and come from a different school, trying to make something different out of their character. We did the reading of the script, but I think all of us were prepared on set because Sujoy also is a demanding director. He wants everybody to know everything in the scene and when you see the film, it’s a thriller that needs everybody to kind of be solidly there. That’s why we went to Kalimpong and shot there, start to finish. We didn’t want to break the schedule to kind of get into that mood.

Your husband Saif Ali Khan had expressed that you should do this film. Tell us about that?

I think he is always encouraging me also to do different things. He is like, ‘You must try and do different kinds of cinema also’. Sujoy Ghosh or Hansal Mehta make different kinds of movies. So, he always encourages me to do it.

Vijay had mentioned that he has to thank Saif for introducing you to their work. Were you really not that familiar with their work?

I was very familiar. I have seen so many of Vijay Varma’s OTT films because I think they were just spectacular. Yeah, all of it. I mean, they are just such good actors. Jaideep Ahlawat is wonderful in Pataal Lok. So, I think today it’s about breaking barriers in your performances, not just the commercial angle.

What’s the big difference working on a streaming platform?

I think it is different because you watch it so close, so you need to be more prepared. It is more kind of intense. Everyone is watching it so closely. So, I think it is a different kind of experience.

Your mother-in-law Sharmila Tagore made a comeback with the film Gulmohar and returns to Bengali cinema with Puratawn. What do you think about her decision?

I think she will be amazing. Gulmohar was such a beautiful and brilliant film. People loved it. People love seeing her. She is one of the greatest living legends we have and one of the finest actors. She was also looking absolutely stunning, so I think Bengali cinema has, in fact, been her home turf as well. So, I am really looking forward for her at this age to come back and have that energy. I think she is amazing in any kind of cinema, not just in Bengali.

Interview of Kareen Kapoor Khan: Daring to have new dreams
With Vijay Varma (left) and Jaideep Ahlawat

Many Indian actors are now exploring Hollywood. Don’t you ever feel tempted to follow suit?

No, there is no such temptation because I am very busy with stuff here. Also, I am a mother of two, so I need to give my children time. They are at a very young age and need me as much as possible. So, I don’t think so. As I mentioned earlier, I have acted in a small English film with Hansal Mehta, which will be released at the London Film Festival.

You always have a smiling face when the paparazzi surround you. Do you really enjoy it?

 I am okay with it because I understand that everybody is doing their job but clicking the kids’ pictures becomes too much. He has no reason to be famous; he has not done anything in his life yet.

Jaane Jaan is releasing on your birthday. At this phase in your life, how different are birthdays for you?

Birthday is more about family now rather than parties. It is more about being at home, with family and kids.

How do you look at changing times and opportunities in cinema?

I think one has to explore new things and pick up different scripts. Now everyone is doing such good work. Scripts are also being made differently. So today, I think it’s all about the choices rather than just being a part of a successful film. We have to make the right choices where you are also kind of proving yourself constantly. Cinema has changed. Everyone wants to be known as a good actor.

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