September 19, 2002 
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Karisma Kapoor
Who is Karisma Kapoor?
Ronjita Kulkarni meets the actress for a few insights

Being Karisma Kapoor has its perks.

You get to relax in your own air-conditioned van and refuse to mingle with the press: that is the price of exclusivity.

When you do decide to come out, you get to excuse yourself, chatting with someone on your cell phone. The fact of the matter is the phone in question has been switched off. An actor is a good illusionist, it has been said.

You also get to ask questions, instead of being asked questions. "I want to ask you journalists," goes one particular outburst. "Why are you so biased against actresses?"

Shying away from that missive will only make you, that is, Karisma Kapoor, madder.

And to an innocuous question like why the lesser workload these days, you get to cry out, "There is so much discrimination in our Hindi film industry! When an actor does a select few [films], no one questions him. But if an actress does the same, people expect her to get married soon. The truth is I am doing lesser films out of choice. If I were to sign all the films that come my way, I would have appeared in Satish Kaushik's Badhaai Ho Badhaai, Naresh Malhotra's Kranti and David Dhawan's Hum Kisise Kum Nahin this year."

Somewhere about now, you, the mortal, begin to have serious problems connecting the Karisma Kapoor of Sarkailo khatiya (David Dhawan's Raja Babu) and Sexy sexy (Iqbal Durrani's Khuddar), with the Karisma Kapoor of Khalid Mohamed's Fiza, Shyam Benegal's Zubeidaa and Krishna Vamsi's Shakti -- The Power.

While Karisma considers herself lucky working on the intense roles in the aforementioned woman-oriented films, she is just about ready to call it quits with those intense roles. Three films, it would appear, is three too many. "I've done too many intense roles in my career. I want to do happy roles now," she declares.

On the heels of that comes another resolve, "I want to strike a balance between commercial and serious films. Of course, I will still demand good roles but I wouldn't mind if the film did not revolve around me."

As if to prove her point is the film she is now shooting for: Tinu Verma's Baaz, which also stars Jackie Shroff, Suniel Shetty and Dino Morea. The former action choreographer's project has the word potboiler written all over it.

Karisma has decided to come out of her van and chat. Hair flying loose and straight, wearing a cotton paisley-printed white blouse over earthy maroon jeans, Karisma is the picture of cool. Her van is parked a little off a mansion surrounded by manicured green lawns and a swimming pool.

This is the mansion that an interior designer (take a bow, Karisma), has designed for the Nainital mayor (enter Shroff) in Baaz.

All of which overlook the resplendently rolling hills of Khandala, the picturesque hill-station just three hours off the carbon-fumed concrete jungle Mumbai. In the rains, the gently curving mountain chain of the hill-station wears a verdant green glow.

Karisma Kapoor Of course, Khandala doubles up as Nainital in the movie. Artistic license is alive and kicking in Bollywood, a place where Karisma hopes to dig her heels in firmly, with Shakti. Her last two outings include the disastrous Haan… Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya with Abhishek Bachchan and Akshay Kumar, and Ek Rishtaa with Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan.

Shakti has a chequered history, what with it being slated as Sridevi's comeback vehicle. She opted out when she got pregnant with producer Boney Kapoor's second child. In stepped Kajol, who in turn found she could not run with the movie thanks to some personal issues.

Karisma it was meant to be, then, to play Nandini. "I'm a huge fan of Sridevi as I have been watching her films for years. Working on this film is an honour for me," she says.

Set in equal parts in Canada and gritty, interior Rajasthan, Shakti stars Sanjay Kapoor, Nana Patekar and Deepti Naval. Canada-based Nandini marries into a fundamentalist Hindu family headed by Nana Patekar. She tries to make a run with her son after her husband is killed, but is held prisoner by Patekar. She finally escapes with the help of Shah Rukh Khan (in a guest appearance).

The film is a remake of Krishna Vamsi's own Telugu Anthapuram, starring Soundarya, which in turn was inspired by Brian Gilbert's Not Without My Daughter, starring Sally Field.

When the English film released, Karisma was still a schoolgirl. "I remember watching the film all cuddled up. It left such an impact on me. I felt very bad for the mother and child. I wondered what it would be like for them.

"Later, when I heard Sridevi was acting in the film, I knew she would do justice to the role. Finally, it came to me. It's come full circle."

The same perhaps can be said for Vamsi. "I enjoyed working with him," Karisma vouches. "He's a very good director. If I wanted to change my lines or walk differently, he would not restrain me. He gave me a lot of freedom."

She appears sanguine about the fact that Aishwarya Rai seems to be enjoying prominent poster visibility on billboards and television in India. Rai has a one-song appearance in the rather raunchy Ishq kamina. "It is the only song-and-dance number in the film. It is such a coincidence that I had [former] Miss Universe Sushmita Sen dance in my film, Fiza and now, [former] Miss World Aishwarya in Shakti."

Karisma Kapoor For her part, Karisma had a gruelling time. "The heat, sweat and [fake] blood," she trails off, remembering. "I had to really brace myself. It was strenuous. Besides, running in the hot desert sands with a child in your arms and getting beaten by people is tough! The film left me physically and emotionally drained."

So drained, perhaps, that she is not too worried about the box-office fate of Shakti. "I know people will empathise with my character," Karisma affirms.

Just as she did with Jess, the football-crazy heroine of Gurinder Chadha's recent Bend It Like Beckham. Karisma confesses she just loved the film. Incidentally, Karisma was to star in Chadha's Hindi film London starring Sunny Deol, which was shelved halfway. Deol later helmed the project, renamed it Dillagi, and took on Urmila Matondkar and Bobby Deol for the project. The film tanked at the box-office.

In store for Karisma next are Inder Kumar's Rishtey and Suneel Darshan's Mere Jeevan Saathi.

Choosy. That is what you can be if you are Karisma Kapoor.

Of course, you can also shriek with round-eyed delight, "Aag lag gayee!", when the exhaust pipe of your makeup van catches fire.

She jumps up and down. She bursts out laughing. She is enjoying herself.


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