Katrina Kaif has large shoes to fill with her forthcoming release Bharat. It's her next outing after Zero, a film which was largely panned but for her earnest performance as an alcoholic superstar.
Then there's the ghost of Priyanka Chopra, which her co-star of many films, Salman Khan, is refusing to let go of. Priyanka was the original choice for the film but she quit the project days before the scheduled shoot.
Comparisons will be made but Katrina is unaffected. Here, she talks about her expectations from Bharat, her unchanged work equation with Salman, why she signed up for Rohit Shetty's next cop film Sooryavanshi, and more.
After a powerful role in Zero, do you feel pressured that your work in Bharat should be equally appreciated?
Yea, I think so. A bit. Because you want to keep up and live up to the expectations that people have of you. I definitely hope that Bharat is a next step up and people feel that connection with this character as much as they did with Zero.
This is your fifth film with Salman Khan. How has your professional equation with him evolved over the years?
You know, Salman is the same. What I think people don't realise a lot is that when we come on set, we come as professionals to work. So it doesn't really matter what your equation is. Of course, you have fun, there's a lot of laughs, jokes between the shots, in the breaks — you have a good time.
I have a friendship with Salman which has lasted many years. We have that sense of knowing each other, that trust, that comfort. But when we come on a set to work for a film, whether it's Tiger Zinda Hai, Ek Tha Tiger or Bharat, we really come as professionals, as actors. Whether it's Salman in front of me or anyone, whoever my co-star is, we're there to give the audience a film, to bring on-screen a story which will hopefully entertain them, which they'll connect to.
How difficult was it to get into the skin of your character Kumud Raina, considering you joined the project pretty last minute?
It wasn't difficult at all. I had enough time. When people think last minute, we normally have six months in advance. I had the right amount of time to prepare and do what I wanted to do for this character. I enjoyed the process so much. I loved the script, the way she was written — a self-made woman in the '70s who is working in a male-dominated world in the government's employment exchange in the oil fields of Abu Dhabi.
Despite it being a very male-dominant space, she holds her own. She is feisty, outspoken, doesn't mince her words, but is also very emotional. She isn't afraid to show it, say it when she falls in love with Bharat.
What should we look forward to in Bharat?
For me, it's 100% a role you have not seen me do before. That is something I really want the audience to see. I think Salman has also done a fantastic job in the film. Bharat is a very well written script. It is emotional yet engaging and takes you through India's history from the 1940s to 2010 while showing you the journey of this one man. Ali (Abbas Zafar; director) has a very unique voice as a filmmaker. He has a certain way in which he tells his films and brings them to life and I'm very excited for everyone to see it.
Most of your films have been with major superstars. Has it been a conscious choice?
Not at all. It's just that those films garner the most eyeballs because they have done well, got a lot of media coverage and the audiences have liked them.
But right from the beginning of my career, I have never shied away from working with people who are newcomers or as new as me—whether it's been New York, which had me, Neil Nitin Mukesh and at that point John Abraham was still new, coming up in his genre, or Mere Brother Ki Dulhan with Imran Khan, who’d just started out, or Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani with Ranbir (Kapoor), who was fairly new at the time too.
I worked with Bobby Deol in Apne, with Aditya Roy Kapur in Fitoor, with Siddarth Malhotra, who you could say was a fairly newcomer, in Baar Baar Dekho. So I never strategise like that nor do I think like that. And frankly, I don't think anyone thinks like that. These are just the films that we get offered, these are the roles that I choose. If someone comes to me with a great role, with a great actor in it who happens also to be well known, then why not? Why should I not do the film? I'd totally do it.
Women don't really have much to do in Rohit Shetty's cop films. What made you take up Sooryavanshi?
See the film and then we will talk about it.
It's been quite a journey for you from Boom to now Bharat. A lot of highs, several lows...
I don't think I have had a lot of lows at all. Every time I feel sad or am going through a low day, I look back and I think of how incredibly blessed and fortunate I have been throughout my journey in films so far. I have had a chance to work with so many wonderful people — such good directors, actors. I have made a lot of wonderful friends. I am enjoying my work. Though this, at the end of the day, is a job, but it is also a way of life.
If you could say one thing to the 20-year-old Katrina before she made her Bollywood debut, what would it be?
I wouldn't change anything. People find it hard to believe but I genuinely wouldn't change anything because everything that has happened, had to happen this way. I wanted to go through those things. I wanted to do what I did. In my professional life, the journey was really what I wanted it to be and what I chose it to be.
Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, and starring Katrina Kaif and Salman Khan in lead roles, Bharat is slated to release on June 5.
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