Katrina Kaif on getting to the top and her latest film Phantom

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‘Does the media need to pry into the private lives of stars at all?’: Katrina Kaif on privacy, getting to the top and her latest film Phantom

The buzz around in the five-star conference room is trademark Bollywood.

A publicist is spiritedly guiding the hotel staff on how a table and chairs should exactly be set up, for the one-on-ones to follow.

The I-mean-business star manager briskly marches in, ensuring the AC is adjusted just right.

The preferred brand of Tuscany mineral water should be on the table too, before her boss walks in.

Her boss Katrina Kaif has always known to be a diva, I remind myself. Except that she is not when you come across her.

Half way through the interview she has surprised you with disarming talkativeness one does not normally associate with Katrina’s stand-offish image.

She is on the chat mode dissecting life, destiny, and even the business of cinema, besides of course her new film Phantom.

Prod her on love life though, and chat mode makes way for skip mode. She smartly evades any talk of Ranbir Kapoor, live-together or marriage.

“Does the media need to pry into the private lives of stars at all? I tell you, why don’t you try a simple test? Stop writing about our personal lives for a year.

“I am 100 per cent sure your readership won’t drop and we will continue to be where we are,” she declares.

Then, taking a breath, she lets on the awful truth, almost to herself: “I know that is unlikely. It never happens that way with actors anywhere in the world.”

Privacy of celebs, she tells you, is an issue at loggerheads with itself right now.

“On the one hand there are stars who prefer guarding it.

“On the other hand, there are stars who don’t hesitate posting the most private of pictures on social media.

“One cannot really blame the media for the way it reacts,” she shrugs.

If Katrina has avoided joining the social media bandwagon she would rather give “no particular reason” for it, not even if it has created an impression that she is a cold sort of a person.

“I have lived with this misconception of being a cold, stand-offish person forever.

“It came from reactions that certain sections of the media managed to extract out of me by provoking me on public platforms.

“Such things mostly happen at press cons. I have never been someone who is not fond of journalists.”

But there is always the infamous bikinigate to contend with, right? Leaked snapshots went viral showing Katrina on a bikini vacation in Spain with Ranbir, and soon the pretty superstar was shooting off an open letter decrying bad press behaviour.

Katrina would contend you have to have “a tough skin to endure all that comes your way”.

It is a theory she applies even to the criticism she had had to fend against over the years, one that alleging her acting is never upto the mark.

“Rating myself as an actor is not important. The most beautiful thing about art is it is a matter of opinion.

“When you become an actor you put yourself in the public domain, open to opinions of all,” she says, adding: “My point is if my films are doing well and if filmmakers continue to cast me, that is my biggest validation.”

Superstar Katrina has intelligently played the field by tapping the right network points in the industry all along.

Her career graph almost neatly cuts itself into two halves — the first, when she was associated with Salman Khan, was all about getting to the top.

The second half, when she has often made a splash as Ranbir Kapoor’s girlfriend, has been about her battle to maintain stardom.

“Getting there was all about the vision before you. Chasing that vision had its own joy. And then one day you find you are there, and people’s perception about you has changed.

“Staying at the top level is something you cannot take for granted. Both have been equally difficult.”

She calls herself “a religious person, a big believer in destiny”, and accounts these traits as reasons she managed to tide over the brief spell of struggle she has seen. Katrina calls her struggle an “internal” one.

“It is something I had brought onto myself, but I don’t worry about it now,” is all she will say.

The reason perhaps lies in her next line: “Life has given me so much and I am thankful for it, so why look back?”

The past couple of years have been a see-saw on the work front, actually. Most of her films got delayed, and yet when they released, they did succeed.

“If some of my films have gotten delayed lately, they were destined to be. I look at the brighter side.

“All these films including Phantom have shaped up in the best possible way,” she says.

She is happy with the way Phantom has been promoted.

“Promotions are important, but only in the right proportion. Smart publicity helps communicate to the audience that you are convinced about your product.

“It is important to gather attention of the audience so that they come and see your film.”

For someone who has been in the top bracket of female earners in Bollywood, how does she react to the fact that actresses are underpaid?

“The fee of a star should relate to how much he or she is contributing to a film’s success.

“In case of heroine-driven films, the industry first has to ensure a business model where more such films actually recover money,” she signs off, flashing that dazzle between her lips, immediately shifting from chat mode to superstar mode.

X-Factor could indeed be her middle name.

How different is Phantom from other thrillers that also have a political backdrop?
Phantom is based on S. Hussain Zaidi’s book Mumbai Avengers, and the film creates fiction using the reality of 26/11. No one is advising that India’s response to the tragedy should be what the film shows but, as the poster tagline says, it is a ‘story you wish were true’, now that we have evidence to know who the culprits were.

Tell us something about your role?
I play an ex-RAW agent named Nawaz Mistry. She is a Parsi, maybe just so there is no religious connotation to her. She is disillusioned with the system. Nawaz is meant to represent the average Indian’s shock, anger and humiliation after the attacks.

Is this your strongest role?
It is one of my most serious roles, but then just because a role is serious does not mean it is stronger than a comic role.

Did your experience of working with Kabir Khan earlier help?
I worked with Kabir twice before so I am familiar with his approach and style. My first reaction was Phantom’s script is very well written. It has emerged a clever film with no convenient twists. It is a thriller of an unusual genre I wish people watch.

In a departure from image, your big dance is missing in this film?
The film did not need songs because the story moves very fast. It has just one song, Afghan jalebi, and that works well for the film. The song happens at the right moment.

Your comment on the film being banned in Pakistan?
The issue that rankled everyone is how could the Pakistani censors ban a film apparently by just seeing a promo. That seemed strange.

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