It’s a known fact that Kareena Kapoor is easily ruling from the top as far as the demand for a commercially viable glamorous actress with very good acting skills is concerned. Satisfying all the key words here – ‘commercial’, ‘glamour’ and ‘acting’ – Kareena has seen it all pretty up, close and personal during last decade that she has spent in the industry.
However, to be honest, I was a tad surprised when I started working on this piece. What seemed like a straight forward ‘let’s talk about her hit films’ write up seemed to be having many other elements waiting to be covered. That’s because the fact which was explored all over again (as I went year by year) was that for every successful film of hers, she also has had her fair share of disappointments. Yes, practically every year. In fact there have been times when the number of misses in a year have surpassed the number of hits. Still, what one ends up remembering are her successful outings more than anyone else!
In this three part feature, here is looking at some of the many highlights in her career that have made Kareena what she is today. As she says in her own words – ‘I would not have been what I am if not for my flops’. Well Kareena, the fact also remains that you would certainly not have been what you are if not for the number of commercially successful films that you have given as well!
A rock solid beginning? Not quite.
The world is aware that Kareena Kapoor was the first choice for Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. A debut alongside Hrithik Roshan sounded like a good decision to begin with and Kareena was pretty much on board as well. However, in quick time she realised that the focus of the film was entirely shifting towards Hrithik and she risked being sidelined. Not to indulge into any faux pas at the very beginning of her career, she decided to opt out. This decision of hers made headlines all around and many did cry foul. Also, her friends and advisors did suggest her to stay on but being a strong headed girl with right dose of self respect and ego, Kareena decided to move on and instead stepped into Refugee.
A lot was expected from Kareena’a debut outing now. JP Dutta as a producer and director, Abhishek Bachchan – another debutant – as a co-star, popular music, grandeur, a different setting (Indo-Pak affairs), hype, promotion, buzz – just about everything went in the film’s favour. Yes, it paid off as well, at least from the initial box office opening standpoint. Audiences went in hordes to check out what the film was all about. The result was what had happened in case of Saawariya a few years later. Just like the Sanjay Leela Bhansali film which saw Ranbir Kapoor making a huge mark despite the overall product not quite finding much appreciation, actors in Refugee too had met with a similar fate then. The biggest gainer from Refugee was Kareena Kapoor for whom everything – and literally everything – worked in her favour.
She was acclaimed for her acting skills, a rarity when it comes to debutant actors, and hailed by one and all that she was the future of the first decade in the 21st century. She gained a phenomenal following for herself and that is commendable because in those times there were no multiplexes, social networking sites or other media forums that keep stars of today alive and kicking 24X7 in front of consumers. Kareena impressed most despite a role that didn’t allow her to get into a glam outing and it was widely declared that Kareena Kapoor was there to stay. Refugee didn’t work for the audience but Kareena did. Of course the blockbuster success as evidenced in Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai eluded her but she found a strong bearing for herself in the industry where talent kept her going for 10 years in a row. As for her pairing with Hrithik, then well it did happen a few times and came with its own share of hits and misses.
The H factor – Not quite a cent percent success rate
With Hrithik being a phenomenon after Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai and Kareena making her mark strong and clear with Refugee, it seemed that this ‘jodi’ could after all deliver a few hits together. The disappointment of not being able to come together in their debut outing was soon forgotten and investors were ready to pump in crores to make films happen with the two starring in them. The biggest of the filmmakers in the industry were keen to get their share of pie with Hrithik and Kareena being the flavour of the season. Some of the early birds to join in were Karan Johar (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham), Subhash Ghai (Yaadein), Sooraj Barjatya (Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon) and Aditya Chopra (Mujhse Dosti Karogi). These were and are truly the people who are the best in the business and it was more than just apparent that Kareena was on a roll.
With such major biggies in her kitty, Kareena’s market value shot up in a major way. She was easily the most sought out actor around and despite the fact that Amisha Patel had actually blockbusters like Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai and Gadar – Ek Prem Katha behind her, the actor who was gaining most of the mileage was Kareena. However, there was a fair dose of shocker in store for the pretty girl who didn’t quite have a fairy tale journey for her.
First of her debacles with Hrithik turned out to be Yaadein which stays on to be one of the biggest disappointments ever from Subhash Ghai. The film was poorly made, the characterisation bad, the setting more like a show reel of a dozen odd commercials and the narrative confused. What started off as a story about a widower (Jackie Shroff) bringing up his three daughters was (unnecessarily) converted into a love story just in order to reap the star value of Hrithik and Kareena. The film was panned by one and all
and it seemed that a big success was going to elude her for long.
Thankfully, Karan Johar didn’t fall into this trap and kept the length of the roles of his actors depending upon the clout that they carried. This is the reason why Shah Rukh and Kajol held most significance in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham due to which the limited screen time of Kareena and Hrithik was loved rather than being criticised for standing out like a sore thumb. Her ‘Poo’ act redefined a new image for Kareena and a multi-crore boxoffice super success meant that she was certainly not going away anywhere.
However, the very next year came Mujhse Dosti Karogi and just like Yaadein, it too was panned by one and all. Yes, the film was a success in overseas market but in India, the film was given thumbs down. Yet again, Kareena-Hrithik ‘jodi’ didn’t quite ignite the right sparks and all hopes rested on Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon. This was the film where Kareena was in a central role, had a title of the film designed around her character and had a spunky and spirited character written for her. She made the best of the platform provided to her and even though Hrithik was criticised for his over acting and Abhishek for his under acting, Kareena managed to sail smooth. Yes, the film did fizzle out after a rock solid happening but not before getting the tag of success next to it.
The picture was clear on the wall though. Kareena – Hrithik ‘jodi’ wasn’t quite the best that Bollywood had to offer. The two actors in individuality were doing quite well for themselves but to pair up again, they had to find something worthwhile. They decided to move on to other on-screen partners and the initial euphoria of Bollywood having found out a follow up to Shah Rukh Khan – Kajol pairing died down in due course as well. It has been 7 years since the two came together on screen and audience continues to wait on!
In Part II of the feature, we would be going through Kareena’s early years in the industry which were not quite her best and how a new phase kick started in her career post films like Chameli and Yuva.