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.