Thursday, February 19, 2009

Let's talk about ... Kareena Kapoor!

The "honor" of being the second actress to be discussed in my "Let's talk about something other than a specific movie"-series goes to golden child (or according to some, spoiled brat), Kareena Kapoor.

Kareena is a difficult case for me to discuss because even more than some actresses, people seem to either fiercely love her or hate her. I moved from one end to the other of the "Bebo love/hate spectrum" pretty fast but even though I love her now, I understand the views of the opposing party far too well.

Kareena comes from the lineage of Kapoors, the Kapoors. When your sister and uncle and basically everybody in your family is in the business, the laws of Bollywood dictate, breaking into films isn't going to be a tough task for you. Becoming a good actress, on the other hand...

I haven't seen most of Bebo's earliest films, though I did have the misfortune of sitting through Yaadein, so I can't say objectively how she developed in terms of acting talent, film-by-film. I first saw Kareena in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, my first ever Hindi film, and I disliked her severely in it. At this point, I couldn't really see the exaggerated comedy in the character of Poo(ja) that she portrayed, and so it took a long while until I warmed up to Kareena,. If you'd asked me what I thought of her in 2004, I would've said "Yuck!" - and this was based on just that one performance, not a single interview blurb that a lot of people base their dislike of her on.

I might've seen some Kareena films between my first viewing of K3G and my later rewatch of it, but if I did, I don't recall it. The next time I saw her, it was once again, in K3G as Poo(ja), the mini-skirt sporting egomaniac of a forever-teenager like straight out of Clueless, only without the heart. But this time, I got it. The character was a joke, an instead of being annoyed, I just chuckled at her, because I felt like I finally understood. And like Hrithik's character in the film, I saw through that act, that joke of a Westernized NRI girl stereotype, and learned to like Poo, and through that, Kareena.

I saw okay films of hers like Yuva and Hulchul and Kyon Ki (okay, that one sucked but not thanks to Kareena) but what really sold me on this lady were two 2006 films; 36 Chinatown and Omkara.

Chinatown was not a great film, but in the filmi climate of its release - after Rang De, before Fanaa - it was a nice, all-around decent comedy with a couple of great performances (loved Akshaye Khanna!), cute song picturizations (Shahid and Kareena in 24x7 crackland!) and the first signs that Shahid and Kareena together could actually amount to some on-screen chemistry. It's no Jab We Met but it was cute enough and it made me recognize that Kareena actually had talent in the field of comic timing.

And of course, Omkara. Even if everything else in the film sucked (which gladly isn't the case), it really made a case for Saif and Kareena. She delivered a strong, believable dramatic performance without fail and looked gorgeous in a completely non-glamorous way, capturing the innocence and naivity of Dolly.

Since then, I've liked everything I've seen of her and anticipate some of her upcoming films a ton (3 Idiots? Gimme!). But sometimes I have to wonder..

The thing is, what with her previous controversial statements and the fact that she does sometimes come off as a highly privileged star kid, even though I normally don't enjoy allowing off-screen personalities affect my opinions of stars, Kareena always makes me examine my views on nepotism. It's one of those things every Bollywood fan will find themselves commenting on at some point in time. Most of us like at least one star who's got family in the industry and even worse, most of us like at least one star who "learned on the job". The automatic reaction is to condone it, or at least not oppose it vehemently - after all, if your favourites are kids of stars or big producers, who are you to say they shouldn't have gotten the break they did, entering the industry themselves?

But at the same time, it seems so wholly unfair that for every son/daughter/niece/nephew of producer Y or actor X, there's a guy or a girl struggling in Bombay, taking acting lessons, dance lessons, borrowing money and rubbing elbows, just trying to catch their own break. There could be some real talent there, among the kids who are not blessed to be a part of a handsome Bollywood lineage. As a viewer, would I rather watch a starkid struggle to emote in a crappy film or a newcomer actually knowing a thing or two about acting?

Even as I say that, I admit it is somehow easier to watch a starkid, crap or not, than to give a film full of total newcomers a chance.

So yeah, I'm torn on the issue, and more so when it comes to Kareena than say, Abhishek, whose rich famous kid privilege has never come out in interviews so obnoxiously as it has with Kareena or some other stars.

Ending on a bit of a sour note, but hope you enjoyed reading despite.


Nicki said...

Awesome post on Kareena. I understand your feelings towards her because I used to feel that way too. The only difference is I actually have seen most, if not, all of her films. She was the actress who I loved to hate but I did finally warm up to her and liked her since Asoka.

I think what makes a lot of people dislike her is her snobby attitude...but that shouldn't make judgement on her acting. Regardless, she's one of the best actresses of the new generation.

Katie said...

When I first started watching Bollywood films, I ended up watching a lot of films with Kareena in them, and at the time, I didn't like her very much. She played the same (heartless, over-the-top, spoiled) character in film after film, and often failed to bring anything human or even anything original to the role. Truth be told, she wasn't a very good actress, and when she spent all of her spare time causing problems in the tabloids, I became even less impressed.

Several years later, Kareena has had a lot of growth, both in terms of maturity and in her acting. She has done a wider variety of films and roles and has grown into those more complex parts. Now I know that I can watch a film with Kareena in it and expect at the very least decent acting. You see this same kind of thing, though, with a lot of young actresses, regardless of nepotism. When you start acting at 17 or 18, you usually don't have the experience, emotional depth, or maturity to handle anything more than a very superficial role. I'm just glad that these days, Bollywood seems to have more roles for older and more mature actresses that truly feature their better developed acting chops. That was something you didn't see much of when I started watching.

Filmi Girl said...

Interesting bit on nepotism - it is a difficult thing to grapple with. The way I look at it is that those will talent, drive, and charisma (like SRK and Akshay) will rise to the top no matter what. For the rest, a filmi connection will get you your first and second roles but after that, you are going to have to build up a persona that audiences want to see. I think this is what happened with Kareena - she has made her own connections in the industry.

And, honestly, I would rather watch Babita's daughter be mediocre in a role than some actress I don't know. People like familiarity. :)

As for Kareena, she has definitley grown on me and I find her interesting because while she's very pretty, she's not a glam beauty queen. If nothing else, star daughters - Sonam accepted - are allowed to be a bit... unusual looking - like Soha or Konkona or Karishma or Kajol.

ajnabi said...

Really? She's the first actress? For some reason I thought there was a post on Preity a while back. Anyways, I really like Bebo. I just came into Bollywood a year ago, though, so I didn't have to suffer through watching her onscreen and offscreen growing pains. ;-)

veracious said...

Nicki - Yep, she's one of the best of the new generation. Definitely.

Katie - Great analysis. I think that is largely what happened. They put these kids out there into the world and they're unprepared to deal with the press as well as have any maturity for some roles.

FG - You're right, but sometimes I think just that first nudge, that foot between the door, that's advance enough. Plus the hype of being a big name debutant which might be enough to make the film a hit -> new movie contracts -> a chance to continue in films. So while star kids do need talent to make it, just that initial push allowed by the nepotist system is so much more than regular strugglers get at all.

ajnabi - Oh, you're right and know my blog better than I do! :D I also came in too late to hear about her bitchy comments and whatnot, but sadly I did witness the crappy films.. Though not for long, gladly!

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right about a lot of talented actors struggling to make it big coz of the nepotism factor in hindi films. It is a sad state coz some real talent that needs nurturing is mising out. In the long run it is not good for the industry too.

A few talented ones are lucky like SRK & Akshay Kumar (with no filmi connections) - however these are exceptions to the rule.

Kareena Kapoor did a good job in Omkara and Jab We Met. But that is after years and several mediocre films.

I think other actresses such as Konkona, Gracy Singh, Kangana Ranaut, Amrita Rao etc are far more talented.

lapetitediva said...

Re: nepotism - I would rather watch a newcomer than a star kid simply because I like rooting for the underdog. I have a much longer reply brewing in my head, but I don't want to hog your comments section with my blather.

Re: Kareena - I'm not as into her as I used to be, but I like her, bitchy attitude and all. I haven't watched very many of her films, but acting-wise, I thought she was rather good in Chameli. I might have to check out Omkara and Jab We Met, even though Shahid Kapoor does absolutely zilch for me. Personally, I think she and Saif make a better pair(if they're still together, that is. I don't keep up with what's going on in Bollywood).

memsaab said...

I've always enjoyed her acting, but her off-screen antics were often pretty miserably bratty. However, I think she was in the spotlight at a pretty young age (and having a privileged upbringing maybe retarded her spiritual growth somewhat), and she seems to have really grown up over the past few years. Raju Hirani (3 Idiots director) told me that she has been a delight to work with on that film---thoroughly professional, and he's very happy with her performance. So I'm looking forward to that one too :)

larab said...

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