Mumbai: While an afternoon sun slants through the roof of her well-appointed house, Katrina Kaif is in a tizzy. There’s an Instagram live to be done, several outfits to be tried. She also has me to contend with and then a meal of salad and cutlets to polish off. Her business manager Prarthana hovers around protectively. Besides the much-touted Bharat opposite Salman Khan, Katrina is also slated to do Sooryanvanshi with Akshay Kumar. There’s talk that she will sign up with a topnotch Indian cosmetic brand soon. She also plans to do something with Indiaís unsung athletes. But right now all focus is on Bharat, which will have her show her acting chops after she wowed the critics in Aanand L Raiís Zero. For the longest time, her beautiful movie-star looks made her the favourite whipping girl of critics, even as she starred in one big hit after another. Last year was a lull when Thugs of Hindostan and Zero came unstuck. But she’s like the proverbial boxer in the ring waiting to feint and parry and strike yet another knockout punch
Tell me all the New Year resolutions that you’ve broken this year.I genuinely didn’t make any New Year resolutions. The year before last I made a bunch of them. But the things I’d asked for, the things I’d wanted so desperately, which I don’t want anymore, didn’t happen.
What were the things you wanted?(Smiles) No chance. No chance. That I won’t get into. But this year, I didnít make any resolutions. I’d rather speak about what I’m doing right now. Ali (Abbas Zafar) approached me for Bharat towards the end of July. I decided I’d work on this film with a different approach because as an actor you get fatigued after a while. You’ve got to excite yourself. You can’t just put on make-up and do your hair day after day. I decided until the day Bharat wraps up, I wouldn’t think an iota about the future. Even if the world is falling on my head, I’ll deal with it after the film. Luckily, the world did not fall on my head. I had the most peaceful, smooth and exciting shoot. It gave me a lot. I felt fulfilled.
In what way?Ali is a friend. Out of all the films I’ve done with him (New York, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Tiger Zinda Hai), I was with Ali the most in this one. Even if I was not shooting, I’d sit and watch the shots. But if I was in the scene, I’d understand fully what his take on it was. If there was a five-day or 10-day gap, then you can’t stop your mind from wandering. But I told myself that I wouldn’t permit that on this film. I was firm about staying in a bubble and not allowing anything to take my focus away. In the middle of the schedule, around New Year, unfortunately, I realised I wouldn’t be able to do the dance film with Varun Dhawan ( Remo D’Souza’s Street Dancer 3). He wanted to shoot on particular dates in London, which I couldn’t give. He was the right person to do a film in this space. You need his energy for this kind of a film. So, that was the only thing on my mind. Other than that, I didn’t let anything come into my space.
You seemed to have eased out a lot. Earlier you seemed on the edge
Maybe. A lot of things have changed for me personally and professionally. After my last relationship ended, I was forced to analyse many things about myself and my life and the way I was living it. Whatever was supposed to happen, happened. Everything happens for a reason. I remember I was getting on a plane to shoot Baar Baar Dekho in Thailand. It was January. There was a repetitive thought going on in my head. When you get stuck on something, it’s deeply disturbing. It doesn’t leave you alone. It was bad. It was sad. I wondered how could something trouble you to this level? That phase made me read a lot. I wanted to understand how we human beings function. On one particular night, my attitude and approach to the world opened up again.
It may sound far-fetched and crazy but I realised we have just one life and one day we’re going to die. These two things are certain. So, we can’t be doing this to ourselves. There’s anyway a lot of struggle and pain around us. There are many, who’re in turmoil. I wanted to understand what one could do about it. If I wanna look slim, I can’t sit here and eat a pizza. I’ll have to go to the gym, work out for two hours and pay attention to my diet. It’s the same with our emotions. Reading and certain things like yoga helped me. That doesn’t mean that I’ve achieved a state, where nothing affects me. I still get upset. I still get emotional. People can still play with my feelings. I still hurt. But it doesn’t keep me down for long. So, before something pulls me down in a black hole for weeks or months, I can reset my mind in 24 or 48 hours.
What has given you the strength to do that?
A sense of trust has come in. It’s not from some spiritual, hokey-pokey stuff that I cooked up. It’s logical and explanatory. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t believe every thought that comes to your mind. That’s fundamental to yoga as well. It’s about observing your emotions and thoughts. And then getting out of the grip of those thoughts that trouble you.
A lot of celebrities have begun talking about their anxieties and fears. Have you ever addressed these problems?
Absolutely. Everyone has their own battles and their own way to overcome them. Like Alia (Bhatt) has spoken about the anxiety she faces at times and said that it’s okay to not be okay. This is an important statement. Deepika (Padukone) has spoken about her battle with depression and how she reached out to certain people, who helped her. In my case, books and other things helped me understand not to be a slave to every thought that comes to your mind or every emotion you feel. You don’t need to crumble under the pressure. This complex crazy Universe is not running because of you and me. It’s running on its own. Have faith in it. Whoever is running this Universe has got your back. Put out what you want. Discard any thought that’s not constructive.
How much has your family contributed to the change in you?My mom (Suzanne Turquotte) has been involved in charitable work even before I was born. She was not around as much. So, we didn’t get that individual attention one normally receives from their parents. My mind was free to perceive and understand the world without any parental or outside influence. I was always a dreamer and procrastinator. I’d daydream about things I wanted to happen in life. I was always creating things. I was too young. If you have exposure, it teaches you not to keep yourself isolated from people. It teaches you the importance of being out there in the world.
Did you miss having a strong male influence considering your parents had separated?Yeah. Not having a father figure does create a certain vacuum and makes any girl feel vulnerable. When I have kids, I want them to have the experience of being with both parents.
Can you recall an instance where you felt the vacuum the most?
Each time I’ve gone through something emotionally hard, I was compelled to reflect that it must be nice for those who have a strong fatherly support from a male figure, who loves you unconditionally.
Did you look for strong male figures in your relationships or even outside them, maybe in a friend or director?I don’t think I did that. People say you are lucky if you can count your true friends on your fingers. My trustworthy, inner circle of friends know me well. They understand where you’re coming from, your fears and your insecurities. Of course,
my parents being separated had a part to play. My mom had a family of seven daughters and a son.
Do you ask her what she was thinking when she gave birth to seven girls?(Chuckles) Ya, I did. I asked her what were you thinking when you had so many children and how did you do it on your own. But in the last few years, what my mom had to say about life, has been much more helpful to me. It bears more weight. Now that you can see things from a distance, you realise it must have been tough for her.
Did your sisters have ideological differences and stormy rows as teenagers?No, I was a quiet girl, who kept to myself. I was an extremely introverted Cancerian. I don’t know how I managed to become an actor. Sometimes, people tend to lose their identity in a relationship.
Did you ever go through that? What has your last relationship taught you?I don’t have regrets about anything because that was also an experience, a journey. Had it been balanced, calm and stable, I wouldn’t have come to learn so many things. These are just wonderful experiences. My last relationship was an experience, which was extremely important for me at so many levels. I’ve gained a lot more maturity, more understanding. Now, I don’t have any fixed plan that this is how it has to go or this is how I have to be. That’s the openness I want to maintain. I don’t want to burden the other person or carry any baggage. It’s important for a person to maintain their identity, have your own goals and purpose in life and to protect the friendships you have.
So you’re saying your life revolved around your male companion?
We’re all responsible for how we behave. But I allowed myself to not maintain a balance in all areas of my life. That obviously doesn’t result in something healthy. Having said that, there’s no assurance that had I maintained a balance, the outcome would have been different. So, it doesn’t really matter.
How have you managed to remain friends with your exes, be it Salman Khan or Ranbir Kapoor?
You have to respect anyone, who has been in your life in the past. You’ve shared something with that person and you respect that. Also, holding onto past bitterness weighs you down. Life can be difficult enough; it can be trying enough on its own. Life’s going to bring obstacles and tough times, ups and downs. I’d rather go through the journey with a light backpack than a heavy suitcase of grudges and resentment. It ages you because your cells hold on to so many things.
So you’ve made your peace?Some things can still upset you. But that’s fine. I face it. I stare at the ghost in the room until it just fades away. When something triggers an emotion, I let it happen. Like one day I came across something, which I kept pushing away. But it hurt me and bothered me. While I was doing yoga, my teacher asked, Are you okay? I said I was fine. She said, But you’re crying. I had actually begun crying. It had to come out. Now, I don’t try to push things away. I stare at them. What you resist, persists.
Does age help in dealing with challenges?Not age, it’s the experience that helps.
Did the failed relationship leave you cynical?If you’re bitter and cynical, do you feel good about yourself? No. So why be so? It’s in your own interest not to be bitter. Either you allow someone to make a mess of your life or you believe you know better than the whole world. Itís your choice, the way you want to see it. It’s hard. I have to work on this actively every day. You don’t succeed every day. But isn’t it a nicer way to live with the trust that a force is watching over you? Rather than wanting everything to be in your control.
Are you in a new relationship?I am single.
You said you were single when you were dating Salman Khan and later Ranbir Kapoor as well…
I did not.
Of course, you did…(Laughs) We all make mistakes and I may not have been entirely honest. And my punishment is that when I’m telling the truth, no one believes me. I am single.
Because you’ve always been in denial
Earlier, I had said, until I get married, I’m single. I still stand by that. If you have a boyfriend, you’re not single. If you’re in a serious relationship, then you’re not single. I am single.
It means you’re not in a serious relationship but youíre getting there?
Nope, that’s not what it means. It means I am single.
Okay, coming to your work, you got a stupendous response for Zero
(Grins) Which Filmfare didn’t give me an award for. You should have. How sad!
How did you feel when biggies like Zero and Thugs of Hindostan didnít do well?
My part in Thugs of Hindostan was more like a special appearance. So it was easier for me to accept its fate. My role in Zero was also small. But the intent with which you do the role is also important. Aanand (L Rai) was clear about my chapter being a game-changer in the film. It was a chance for us to create something. The feedback is hence understandable. We poured our heart and soul into that. Same with Bharat.
Your look in Bharat is interesting
When I read the script, the character got me crazily excited. Someone else would have found it something theyíve already done. But for me it was new.
When Priyanka Chopra declined the film, were you expecting it to be offered to you?
No. I wasn’t eyeing it.
Didn’t you expect Salman Khan to call you any minute?No. Ali is a strong director and has a strong voice. He’s had 200-300 crore films to his credit. So, he takes his own decisions and everyone respects that. When Ali sent me the script, I loved the character. He hadn’t written it for me but we said let’s do it as it is. Salman had genuinely nothing to do with it. The first day he was shooting a mine sequence while we were doing a costume fitting at Yash Raj Studio. ‘Hello’, he said and I was like, ‘Yeah hi, remember me?’
As an actor how has your relationship with Salman evolved?Salman is receptive towards what you bring as an actor. When I came on the set, I was a 1000 per cent prepared. Salman accorded me respect for that. He acknowledged that I had put in so much effort. We share a respectful equation. Honestly, I don’t cross the line with him. People outside may not understand this. Ours is a healthy equation.
Does your personal relationship get in the way?Not at all. There’s no unnecessary baggage. Ours is a respectful friendship.
Do you consider marriage as a patriarchal concept?Not at all. I believe marriage is a wonderful thing. Romance is wonderful too.
Did you hit your issues when your colleagues Anushka Sharma, Sonam Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra got married?
No ya, it’s so nice. It’s such a wonderful thing to be in love and enjoy companionship.
You also attended Deepika Padukoneís wedding.I wanted to. I’ve known Deepika ever since she walked her first fashion show. Before that, she was associated with the same talent management company as mine. I remember we having a chat about ramp walking. That time she was starting out as a model. Deepika and Ranveer (Singh) had extended a wedding invitation to me. So I wanted to attend. I didn’t analyse anything. People analyse too much.
Obviously, because you two have history
I don’t get all this at all. What does one gain out of it? Sitting on a mountain and holding on to what?
You’re a less guarded person now
Arrey dost, my life has nothing to hide. Maybe, before I had to defend and protect. You felt like it’s you against the world. But I don’t feel like that anymore. Now I feel the world is with me.
Actors tend to get influenced by people around them as they don’t step out in the real world
Yes but I try to maintain that balance. I guess actors in America do this more. They live in the real world. Be it Nashville, Alabama or New York, they make an effort to experience it all and put it out in their work. Here, because of the nature of our lifestyles, we can’t just go and walk down the road. Or maybe you can. It’s a catch-22 situation. But it’s important to get out there and travel, switch off from everything, get off the phone… If you can’t do it here at home, go to Europe, walk the streets, sit in a book shop, a coffee shop, travel, read, talk to people. Fill yourself with life experiences so you can pour that back into your work.
If you come from a narrow space, how is your work going to feel open?
Earlier, I didn’t get feedback for a few films perhaps because, my mind, my emotional centre, was so tightly closed. The camera is not just a technical thing that captures physical movement. It captures emotion. You have to resonate that enthusiasm, those experiences. (She then scrolls down her phone) I’m trying to read you something that Meryl Streep said…
Take a broken heart and make art. Is it that?
Wow that’s nice. Thatís what I’ve said earlier in the interview but in a different way. Get out there, experience, interact, feel… Take that experience of your relationships and put it into your work. Pour your life into the character. That’s something I started realising and doing now. Before I was just a positive light. During Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Rajneeti, I just brought my natural self. That was also a phase. Now, I bring along what has happened in life.
But then what made you sign an out and out commercial film like Sooryavanshi?
I’m a person, who does things in extreme. Having said that, Rohit Shetty is a sensible filmmaker. He makes a particular genre of cinema. But he’s not a senseless maker. He’s created a whole universe on his own. He’s given us films like Chennai Express, which we remember for the characters. I thought out the decision of doing this film. I’m teaming up with Akshay Kumar after nine years (after Tees Maar Khan). Our onscreen pair has received a lot of love and success. As a team, weíre trying to create something special this time too.
Is it true that you actively sought Akshay and Rohit for this film?
No. As far as I’m aware, Rohit sir always had me in mind as his first choice. He’d approached me with a few films before too.
Admirably, you’ve never spoken about the films you’ve refused in the past…
It’s pointless. If I’m not doing it, I’m not doing it. Oh ya, now, I remember that Meryl Streep quote, Put blinders on the things that conspire to hold you back. Especially the ones in your head. So, do your own investigation and find out for yourself what works for you.