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January 22, 2001


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Karisma Kapoor Professionally, she's got the best of both worlds.

Perhaps it is that knowledge and the resultant self-awareness that sees Karisma Kapoor absolutely sparkling.

On the one hand she is busy doing a Dharmesh Darshan film and, on the other hand, she has a prestigious project like Shyam Benegal's Zubeidaa.

She is not overly worried whether this foray will be accepted or not. Just content to take joy from the fact that she has been able to act in these kind of roles when she is still considered one of the top three actresses.

She says that she has been getting similar offers (like Zubeidaa) of the similar kind, she is at a point where she can choose what she wants to do. She is still waiting for a good role to come her way. Meanwhile, she continues with her commercial films.

Sharmila Taliculam spoke to Karisma:

How do you think people have reacted to Zubeidaa?

Karisma Kapoor So far, the feedback has been absolutely tremendous. Many people from the industry, journalists and family have seen the film, and they have really appreciated it. And it's not just my performance. The whole film seems to have worked.

All that's needed to be seen is whether the audience at large will appreciate it.

Fiza did well. Do you think that will reflect on Zubeidaa, since this is your second 'different' film?

It's not a matter of Fiza being a hit or not.

The important thing is the film was appreciated and my performance was liked. I think everybody in the film was liked.

You can't work in films like Fiza or Zubeidaa expecting them to be a hit or a flop.

They are dream roles for any actress. What more could I have asked for?

I have had enough hits in the industry. Enough commercial success in the ten years in the industry.

But people will remember me in these films whether they are hits or flops. Fiza was a hit in that sense. People liked us in it. With Hrithik's success, the film was thought to be a blockbuster. That wasn't the case. It's just that one of the actors became an overnight success and people started to think of it as a blockbuster.

Did you feel that Fiza started out being your film and then ended up Hrithik's film because he was such a success?

I don't think so. It was a dream role for me. I couldn't have asked for anything more from Fiza. It worked on every level. The music was popular and the performances were appreciated and that was what I wanted finally. Karisma Kapoor

Did you have any apprehension about doing a sister's role opposite an actor who was such a sensation then?

Not at all. I must tell you that today's audience is different. People are intelligent. They want to see good, quality work. They are more interested in your acting and seeing you in a character which is interesting.

Look at Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. They acted as brother and sister in Josh. And then, some days later, they were paired romantically opposite each other in Yash Chopra's Mohabbatein though it was a special role and not much of a role, the fact is that they were cast in a romantic film together. People accepted that. I don't think filmmakers feel that way anymore or the audience.

Let's go back a little. How did you get Zubeidaa?

Shyamji called me, saying he had a role and would I be interested. I said sure and went to meet him. I was absolutely floored by the story. Maybe another actress in my position would have felt that she could do ten other commercial films than give dates to films like Fiza or Zubeidaa.

But today, when I go to a party or a restaurant, people come up to me and tell me that they loved me in Fiza and they are looking forward to Zubeidaa. Now that gives me a high. That is important to me.

I have been here so long, I have done everything. Lead roles, supporting roles, everything. How do I grow as a performer? If I keep doing commercial cinema, I will stagnate and I wanted to grow.

How does it feel to share the popularity platform with a filmmaker like Shyam Benegal?

Karisma in Fiza The only thing different about this film that a filmmaker like Shyam Benegal is making a film with a hardcore commercial actress like me. But I think that is so beautiful about it. People tend to differentiate cinema, but this blend of commercial with the so-called parallel is something unique. Shyamji directing me and me giving a good performance is the best thing about the film.

Were you nervous about doing a role that spanned so many years?

Actually, other artistes have done this kind of role, too. But this particular role has me right from a 14 or 15-year-old. The actual time span of her life is very short, with extreme high and lows. This young girl is so innocent, so free spirited.. and it covers the enormous trauma and emotional upheavals she goes through at that young age.

I am lucky to get this when I am still at the top. I didn't have to wait when I was about to retire from the industry. The film has come to me at the right time where I am playing a young girl, and then my age. And this is not a cameo role, it's the title role. The character is so beautiful. She is completely different from, say, Fiza, who is an angry young woman. Zubeidaa is innocent and free spirited.

It is a compliment to me that somebody like Shyam Benegal has chosen India's most commercial actress to do such a role. A great compliment.

You must have worked hard on the role since it was also a period film…

Yes, of course. The character is vast. The clothes, the look, the hairstyle, the make-up were completely different. This is a period cinema so all that had to be kept in mind. A lot of research went into it, as also a lot of planning, and how best to etch the character -- how to maintain her innocence, yet at the same time portray her as an elegant princeess.

Karisma Kapoor How was it working with Rekha and Manoj Bajpai?

It was absolutely wonderful working with them. Rekha has known me since I was a baby. She acted with my father when I was born. She treated me like a baby!

Manoj is a wonderful actor. So when you have good actors working with you, you do better, too. The give-and-take is better and the chemistry is better.

How different is it to work with somebody like Benegal and somebody like David Dhawan?

Well, it's different! Their style of cinema is different. But I enjoy doing both. My commercial films I will always cherish, they are a part of me.

But working with Shyamji was the most enriching experience of my life. I got to learn a lot. The person that he is, the way he talks, the way he explains his shots... It was great.

Have you been getting more such offers?

Plenty. But I haven't decided anything yet. This is one thing I want to consider well and then go ahead with.

The Zubeidaa review

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