The Box Office Bomb

Superstar Katrina Kaif cannot contain her excitement as Bharat has hit the silver screen. In a chat with Titas Chowdhury, she talks about living the life of Kumud, her character in the film, undergoing physical transformation, her chemistry with Salman Khan and much more.

You had said that it was very important for you to understand the emotional journey and core of your character. How did you achieve that with Kumud in Bharat?

To understand anyone's reasons and actions, you have to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and desires. You have to figure where they are coming from. It is easy for me to just read what the character is supposed to do. But to try and personalise this character, and understand who this person was or could be, I had to make it personal to me. I had to understand what she was thinking and go beyond the script by reading between the lines.

Like Salman Khan, will we also see you ageing in the film?

Oh yes! The first time you see Kumud is in the year 1975, and you see her right up until 2010. This is the journey that she and Bharat take and the film takes you through their journey. That's 35 years!

Take us through your process of transformation across 35 years, in the film!

I had to take one step at a time. The shoot was also roughly in that order. The major part where we are young was shot first. Once we got that right and I was clear about what I had to do in that part of the film, the next big thing was the visuals. The visual aspect of ageing was a big thing in my head because I felt that every time I had seen it done, it was not quite what I would have liked to see. My experiences with it have not been very pleasant.

Funnily enough, Ali (Abbas Zafar) was very calm about it. I, on the other hand, was very worried. I kept thinking about how we would get it right. We ended up with this company called Millennium in London. They did the most incredible job. We had look tests spanning three days at Yash Raj (Studios). We did a bit of trial and error. But, honestly, there weren't many errors. It was just a few stages that we needed to get right.

So we had these small things that we wanted to achieve such as a few lines, a little bit of acne, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. You will see me in my 50s and, in the last stage of the film where I am in my early 60s. They were so precise and their work was so clear. Ali also had a very clear vision, which gave them a good look in to getting things right. Ali and I flew to London from the Malta schedule. We went to their office in London. We met with the whole team and we showed them images.

Did you give them a reference point?

Yes, we gave them references of Nafisa Ali and Rekha. We told them that these are women who are really gorgeous and elegant even at their present age. They were the reference points. But, well, we can only hope to achieve that. (Laughs). We wanted Kumud to look as elegant and delicate as they do. We took about eight to nine hours a day to get the look right. It was a time-consuming process. But when we took the pictures and I looked into the mirror, I felt it was completely right!

Speaking of Ali, you have a long working relationship with him. Does it get easier with every film now that you understand each other's pulse?

Yes, it definitely does. Mere Brother Ki Dulhan was his first film as a director. At the time, I saw him as a person who was finding his voice and style. It was a collaborative effort. The whole team – the assistant directors and us actors – did a lot of improvisation on the set. We had so much fun and there was a lot of madness. I loved making that film and I love how it came out. I played a very quirky character in it.

Then came Tiger Zinda Hai, which was a different process. It was still a little bit of a serious time for me. That was when I was finding my feet at work again. You could say that it was a bit of a transitional period for me. We worked together very calmly. But there was a lot of silence this time. It was just us being there next to each other. It was very peaceful.

But in Bharat, it was a wonderfully great space. Everyone was in a good place and we were all very happy. There was fantastic energy on the sets. There was a lot of time for us to talk and discuss what we wanted to do. The nicest thing was that we shared the same vision. Sometimes, one needs to have discussions to arrive at a point where everyone is comfortable. But, this time, we were on the same page about almost everything.

We have to talk about Salman Khan. You two have given us some very memorable films. How do you make sure that your chemistry looks fresh every time?

We try to do that by being very true to our characters and by really understanding and staying within the confines and sketches of Kumud and Bharat. So when I am standing in front of Salman on the set, it is actually Kumud who is standing in front of Bharat. We know each other so well. There are moments when we feel that we are slipping or getting out of our characters. At the end of the day, it is my job as an actor to stay sharp. It is very important to watch yourself.

Let me give you an example. There is this scene where Bharat walks into the information exchange and says to Kumud, 'Aap sir nahi, aap madam sir hai.' At that point, she is only looking at him. She has never seen him until this moment. For her, he is just a guy who is throwing attitude and is trying to make cute jokes when she is really stressed. In her head, she goes, 'What is your problem, my friend? Get the hell out of here!' (Laughs). These are moments when we have to be careful and conscious. You have to safeguard the character dynamics.

Every actor takes back something from the films they do. What is your biggest takeaway from Bharat?

A lot! From this film, in particular, I took back a whole lot. I guess I was reminded of many things. I was reminded of being in the moment on the sets, when my performance was going on, or when we are filming the scenes and I am enacting my character. I learnt the importance of being a completely blank canvas so that it can be filled with different colours.

I was personally reminded of silencing my mind and my thoughts while I am on the set shooting, holding what I want to portray amid all the drama and the noise that is going on in my mind and the importance of really loving your character.

After exploring so many different characters in your film career, is there still something you want to try? What kind of characters attract you today?

Different characters have attracted me at different times. I was attracted to certain characters a few years ago. I will not make the same choices today. We are all different people who want different things. We all are going through different things and we have different dreams, different ideals and different visions for ourselves.

I need to have a goal to work towards. I need to know that I am headed in a certain direction and then I try and make my choices accordingly.

Does the unpredictability of the box office still scare you?

Of course, yes! It is a big exam that you have to pass. No matter how many releases you have had, that Friday judgment is still going to scare you. Those nerves are still there. I hope Bharat lives up to everyone's expectations. I hope we have conveyed what I felt when I read the script.

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