It’s not just about Katrina Kaif’s looks in ‘Phantom’

August 21, 2015

Katrina Kaif routinely finds a place in lists ranking India’s most Googled celebrities. She says her looks got all the attention in her first few Bollywood films.

The 32-year-old actress has been trying to change the perception that she can’t act, and her meaty roles in upcoming Bollywood films “Phantom” and “Fitoor” seem to have been chosen with care.

Fitoor“, an Indian adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations”, features Kaif in the pivotal role of Estella Havisham. And in Kabir Khan’s “Phantom“, Kaif plays an intelligence agent pursuing one of India’s most wanted men.

Kaif spoke to Reuters about “Phantom”, her roles in Bollywood and whether she is consciously choosing films. Edited excerpts from the interview.

Q: “Phantom” seems to be a film that doesn’t resort to songs and dance routines.
A: In the middle of a thriller, you cannot stop and have a song. But I think what really gave me the confidence to take up the film, regardless of the songs, was the fact that the story was so good. Sometimes, as you said, we depend on song and dance because maybe it’s not the world’s most interesting story. But I think “Phantom” had a unique story. There was so much work that went into a concept like this. To weave a story from scratch and to have so many twists and turns and for all that to add up and to tie all the loose ends in the end is not a easy thing to do.

Q: How much does it draw from real-life events?
A: It’s based on facts. It’s set against the real backdrop, which of course is 26/11 (the 2008 Mumbai attack). I dont know if you have seen the movie “Munich“. For me that was a big inspiration. When I saw the film and when I saw the script of “Phantom”, I was really proud of Kabir and everyone for coming up with something like this. If I have to draw comparisons with a film, then it will have to be with “Munich”.

Q: Is there anything you do differently when you are acting in such films?
A: No. Whether it is based on fact or fiction, the work remains the same. You are still playing a character you are creating. So whether it’s a true-life character, whether it’s a biography or it’s a completely made-up fictional character, you still have to discover it. You still have to sit and work with the director to find her traits. Of course, one advantage I had was knowing the director very well, because I’ve worked with him in two other films (“New York” and “Ek Tha Tiger“).

In a film like “Mere Brother Ki Dulhan” where Ali Abbas Zafar is directing, he knows me. He’s my best friend, so he knows the real me. When he is writing the film, he wrote the character of this girl as a little crazy. He knows me so he was able to see that. But someone who doesn’t know me, perhaps might have a few preconceived ideas or image and might think that Katrina is very calm and very proper and sober and they may not give me a character like “Mere Brother Ki Dulhan”. That’s the advantage of getting characters who somehow have traits that relate to you.

Q: So is that a motivation to work with people who know you?
A: Not really. Here the advantage is that once people see you do things like that, then people know what you can do. Someone like Zoya (filmmaker Zoya Akhtar) was another person who didn’t know me very well. But it was a character which went very naturally for me.

Q: Can you think of a character which was completely unlike you? Raajneeti?
A: Not really. There were many character traits about her (in “Raajneeti“) that I can understand. I can’t think of one right now … Yeah, “Race” is not like me. But it was a film where we had great fun.

Handout still of Katrina KaifQ: Your last few films had a fair bit of action. Was that a conscious choice?
A: It’s not like I am keeping a chart at home which says three action movies, three romantic movies and one comedy. This genre is not even something that holds any interest for me per se. I probably wouldn’t watch an action movie in my free time. But I don’t think “Phantom” is an action movie. It’s a thriller-drama. That’s my favourite genre. One of the main reasons I did “Dhoom 3” is that I would never get a chance to do those kinds of songs and sequences at that scale. The skills I learned during the practice and shooting of “Malang” and “Kamli” are not something you get to learn every day. To be able to do that kind of song, you need a producer who is going to spare no expense. When a producer gives you that kind of luxury and respect, that means a lot.

Q: A popular belief about the success of “Dhoom 3″ was that people went for repeat viewings to see those songs.
A: I know for a fact that what Adi (Aditya Chopra) and Victor, the director, wanted was very clear. They wanted “Kamli”, the girl’s song, to be something that the people will come back to watch. That’s why they did not release it online and on TV. It still doesn’t play on TV. It was actually a strategy which Adi wanted to implement in “Jab Tak Hai Jaan”. At that time I went on bended knee and begged and pleaded with him not to do it. I believe that the film benefits more from the songs been shown on TV. I understand that many years before people would come in to see the song because they wanted a cinematic experience. I could understand Adi’s approach. But I was like, can we not make me a guinea pig, at least not with this film. Adi agreed. The movie had such romantic songs – I wanted people to come in and watch the movie. I told him, let’s not gamble. But when “Dhoom 3″ was ready for release, Adi said I am doing this with this film and I don’t care what you guys say.

Q: So do you put a lot of thought into how the film is going to look?
A: As much as possible. Not in every film. There will be films where you don’t have to contemplate the way you look. There will be films which have free, casual and easy-going characters and there are going to be films like “Dhoom 3″ where you have to make sure every frame is looking like a picture, because that’s the requirement of the film. Then you have films like “Phantom” where you have to look like a person who has not got up and designed her outfit. I think there is great beauty in all of that.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and Tony @TonyTharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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