One of Bollywood’s most successful actresses, Katrina Kaif has been roped in as Reebok’s new brand ambassador and will be imperative in the brand’s push to position themselves as champions of women empowerment in the fields of fitness and sports.

In the public consciousness, Kaif is known for her stunning physique and good looks and not necessarily for her acting skills. Nevertheless, the fact that she has survived in the industry for as long as she has is proof of her professionalism and audience pulling power. When I first put together the questions for this interview, I added about two questions on her personal life – her image as being a private person and how the heated debates about her love life affect her.

Of course, it is but natural that Kaif is tired of these questions and she makes it very evident from the get-go. She requests me to ask questions about fitness and cinema instead of on her personal life. Fair enough. I consider myself schooled and begin asking her questions on her ambitions, the sexist belief in Bollywood that actresses have a shelf life and the kind of cinema she wants to venture into.

You come across as a very private person.  So, what has led to this personality trait?

It’s very hard to tell how things look like from an outside perspective because I can only see things from my perspective. So, I don’t see any change, I am being true to myself at each time in my life and as life evolves and introduces me to varied experiences. I am true to who I am and I do what I feel is right. Having arrived in the industry at 17, it has been a good many years, and, my journey has been in the eyes of the public. It is like I have grown and evolved, where my audience has been mixed, ranging from the low, big to the hits and misses. It feels wonderful for them having been with me throughout my journey.

Talking about cinema, what makes you choose the kinds of movies that you pick?

Wow! Right now, I am extremely excited about playing characters that give me a chance to explore something new. I acted in Bharat and it was one of the most incredible experiences, which was so enriching, so fulfilling, and it just inspired me at various levels. That showed to me and I got that feedback from the audience. It gives me the encouragement and I strongly believe, if you follow what your instincts, it will lead you to the right place. That doesn’t mean every film you’re out there to shatter new ground but you know that that’s where my heart lies now.

At this point in your career, what kind of cinema do you want to do?

For me, it’s not the kind of cinema but the characters. If someone comes to me with a story about a woman who’s struggling to raise two kids and her incredible journey like the film that Charlize Theron did (Tully), I would love to do a film like that. You have a film called A Private War which is about a war journalist which came last year as well. That’s really what I’m looking for – strong, interesting characters that I can play.

In the industry, you are considered a successful actress who guarantees box office numbers. Do you feel yourself receiving mainstream roles because of this reputation?

You know, it is something I have often wondered about, where I have tried understanding the difference made between ‘niche actors’ or ‘stars’ which people have termed. As an actor in the Industry, you are not able to dictate what we are. The audience decides that for us. So, from my perspective, I just choose from the best of what is given to me. I am not trying to follow a path or create an image, I am trying to be true to myself, my choices, and the person I am at that time. If you asked me eight years ago what appealed to me and if you bring me those choices today, my choices will be different today because we’re not the same person.

How do you deal, when your films don’t work as well as you had hoped?

When you look at that as a time for a little bit of analysis or introspection, one thing with cinema is, it is unpredictable and you have to be prepared for that. If there was a formula, we would all use it and crack it all the time, right? I think, sometimes you realize that ‘Okay, this is what you tried to do and it didn’t connect. Let’s move on.’ One thing, which I always do at the end of every film before it releases is that I really feel it. It’s not like I need to take time, I know it. I really understand if I given everything to that character, have I explored the character till its depth, have I done my proper homework, and, if the answer is yes, you feel content and ready for the journey. There may be moments where you may feel doubtful over your preparation and connectivity with the character but, if that persists, there will always be a question mark.

Have there been moments in your cinematic journey or life where you felt that you could have given something more?

Oh, absolutely. It has happened to all of us. As artistes, we all go through times whereby, sometimes, you are not your 100 per cent and we need to get up, try again and give our best.

As an artist, how have you felt yourself change when you are approaching a role now as compared to the time when you first began in the Industry?

It is very different for me today. With the experience, working with such incredible teachers around me and artistes, you just learn and you experiment as to what connects you at a deeper level, what is the character’s objective and how do we connect with it. It has been a lot of trial and error, a lot of learning and wanting in the last few years to really relearn and further my growth and knowledge and my skill set as an actor.

Out of all the filmmakers in the industry, who are the ones you want to work with someday?

I would love to work with so many people. You know what, there are so many new directors coming up, and it’s fantastic. So many of them come and I am like, ‘Wow, where did they come from?’ I am very open. For me, what is really exciting is a strong script. I love filmmakers like Raju Hirani, Aditya Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and they are and all are incredible filmmakers. I’d love to work with Zoya (Akhtar) again.

At this point in your career, you are a pretty established actress. And, what I want to know is that, are you okay doing something risky with a more edgy or young director who may not have that much to his or her name?

I would absolutely love to. You know, it’s a very important thing to me. I feel almost every script that comes to me and unless I feel that there’s a certain vibe I’m not connecting with when they brief my team, then maybe no. But everything it comes to me, if it comes properly with a concept note and they reach out, I hear. I am completely open and always been from the beginning because you never know when you’re going to connect with someone. Everybody has to start out somewhere. Every big filmmaker started out somewhere and you never want to lose out on that opportunity.

We cannot deny that there was a sexist belief in Bollywood that actresses have a shelf life.

Of course, yeah.

Do you think that is still the case?

Absolutely not and I think it’s the case if you believe it’s the case. If you don’t believe it’s the case, then it’s not the case for you. It’s your vision for your life, work and career. For me, I don’t think I like that and I know what I want to create and I know what I want to do. I know the kind of opportunities that are out there and the kind of cinema that is being made. I’m, you know, so excited about it and for me, it’s the beginning of an exciting journey which I am on. I’m looking forward to keep evolving on this journey, you know?

10 years down the line, where do you see yourself and what do you see yourself doing?

I really wish I knew. I know that I would like to be a part of interesting things. I would like to start a film under a production company, as in have my name.

(Header credits: Getty Images)