Kareena Kapoor Khan: Akshay Kumar doesn’t let stardom get to his head
The actor talks about reuniting with Akshay in Good Newwz, the gender pay gap in Bollywood, and auditioning for Laal Singh Chadha
Dear Santa, there’s been a mix up! The Christmas season in Bollywood rounds off with Raj Mehta’s Good Newwz, a comedy about two couples who go in for in vitro fertilization and end up with their sperm switched. The film, set for release this Thursday, pairs Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor Khan alongside Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani. “We’ve taken the topic of IVF and turned it on its head,” says Kareena, who has been working non-stop since her 2018 comeback in Veere Di Wedding. The actor pegs her new film as a ‘dramedy’, promising a wholesome time for audiences this festive season.
In this interview, Kareena talks about her reunion with Akshay Kumar, pregnancy on and off screen, the pay disparity debate, and auditioning for Laal Singh Chadha.
Excerpts from the conversation:
You and Akshay are teaming up a decade after Kambakkht Ishq (2009).
I’ve known Akshay for 30 years. I was present when he faced the camera for the first time. It was the first shot of Deedar (1992), co-starring my sister (Karisma Kapoor). I was 9 years old, standing there in my school uniform.
I love Akshay. He’s a true-blue bonafide superstar. The phase he’s in, I can rightfully say, is what Mr Amitabh Bachchan went through. He’s enjoying that level of success and stardom, but he doesn’t let that go to his head. That’s what I love most about him.
Did working on Good Newwz bring back memories of your own pregnancy? Also, what do you feel about the exaggerated portrayals of labour pain in Hindi films?
Well yes, since I had to wear the pregnancy stomach every day. My character goes through different phases — from three to six to nine months pregnant. They made a swimsuit with a prosthetic belly for me and Kiara; it was created in London and looked strikingly natural. Having said that, this was pregnancy without the parathas (laughs). During my own phase, I used to eat 5-10 parathas a day. Now I'm down to one.
About labour pain, yes, a little exaggeration is always in order for Hindi movies. But in this film, we have tried to show it as it happens. Of course, the process differs from person to person.
Since the film deals with a sensitive subject, was there an effort to dial down the humour?
The logline of Good Newwz is very basic. It’s just about the fact that the sperm has got exchanged. Yes, there is comedy in the plot but the film eventually becomes about how these women carry the story forward. Generally in comedies, you see women standing on the side and laughing. But this isn’t that. There’s a lot of emotion in the second half. In fact, I’m proud of a monologue where I explain to Akshay’s character what a woman goes through and what her contribution is.
Back in October, you spoke out against the gender pay gap in Bollywood. Do you feel it’s hard for female actors to negotiate with producers?
Yes, but I also feel that now, with actors like Anushka Sharma and Deepika Padukone turning producers, the conversation is slightly different. The bigwigs are left with no choice but to bring female actors on board since they are bringing in that amount of revenue. The atmosphere is finally changing. We must remember that this is a change that requires a larger social dynamic than just the film fraternity. It has to be overhauled from the level of how a man looks at a woman on the street. But I’m glad that a small part is at least being acknowledged.
You had to audition for your part in Laal Singh Chadha, the upcoming remake of Forrest Gump. It’s rare for A-listers like you to test for a role.
I don’t think I would have auditioned even if it was for Hollywood. I auditioned for Laal Singh Chadha only because of Aamir Khan. I know his intent is to create a world, and he wants to be 100 per cent sure about it. While I was reading the scene, in my mind I knew I was getting the role, because I really am that character. The concept of auditioning did not exist in Bollywood for a long time. In the west, even big actors can’t land a part without auditioning. When I discussed the idea with Saif (Ali Khan), he said that I should do it. He felt it would set a good precedent.