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Katrina Takes Control Of Her Life Again

Subhash K . Jha

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Last year at this time when  Katrina Kaif celebrated her birthday things couldn’t have gotten worse. Her love life was in a shambles, what with her relationship with Ranbir Kapoor coming to an end, and her career which had put on hold for love, going nowhere.

This year she has a lot to smile about on her birthday.

Katrina dislikes the way her unparalleled success ratio is undermined by being dismissed as a  matter of luck, really gets her goat.

“It’s not as if I was just lucky to be in successful films. Of course, I’ve been lucky. But I’ve also worked very hard to get where I am. And please don’t forget I chose those films that went on to be successful. So please grant me with that bit of intelligence,” she had once told me.

Before one could react to that she quickly added, “And by the way, I was  advised by friends  not  to do many of the films that have eventually turned out to be hits.”

She admitted that she sought the help of Salman Khan initially to decide what films to do.

“Not just Salman, I also took the advice of people like Sajid Nadiadwala and David Dhawan. But finally the films I did were my call,” said this transparently honest and unpretentiously beautiful girl who tries to underplay her intelligence simply to fit into the Bharatiya Nari mould. “Oh, one has to work very hard on it. Men don’t like to be around women who can talk back. I  like to make my point. But I don’t like to be aggressive and insistent in my attitude. At the same time, you won’t see me knocking on producers doors at odd hours to get work. I never have I never will.”

Katrina is the happiest when audiences see her as full-on desi heroine, often more so than the Size- O heroines who seem to belong to another hemisphere. “It’s because I grew up in a large joint family filled with seven sisters and brothers. The atmosphere at home was very Indian. We were brought up on values that are very Indian. I guess that explains why I’m so Indian in my outlook although I’m half-British and half-Indian birth.”

Katrina’s struggle started in 2000 when she arrived in Mumbai. “I came to Mumbai to be a model. I had no inkling at that point of time that I was going to be an actress. I first met photographer Farrokh Chothia who put me on to the right modeling agencies. Soon the modeling assignments began to trickle in. I was soaping my face while people watched the soaps on television. I was also introduced to (glam-photographer) Daboo Ratnani who did my portfolio.”

Ratnani’s photographs were circulated in the film industry. Soon Katrina landed with her first film project. “When I did Boom in  2003 I was clueless about my intentions, camera angles, language, the works. I’d say my film career started with Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar in 2005 followed by Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya. That’s when my real initiation into acting began. I was kinda getting bored with modeling and ramp walking. I sensed I had reached a saturation point there, and needed to move on. Acting seemed the next natural step.”

Katrina describes her early days in Mumbai as lonely. “To begin with I lived in a two-bedroom flat near Rizvi College. The entire day I’d be visiting modeling agencies. In the evening I’d return home to a lonely house. I’d miss my sisters’ presence around me. But it was okay. I don’t want to romanticize those days. I didn’t really have to struggle hard. Nothing untoward happened to me. No one made any sleazy suggestions.”

What  really bothered Katrina  initially  was  not her lack  of  knowledge of Hindi. “In any case everyone in  the modeling world spoke  English, so that wasn’t a problem, except when I had   to  haggle with auto-rickshaws to avoid being cheated  and  to  find addresses  in Mumbai. That was  tough.”

Also awkward  were   the  gawkers.  “Because I came from London I dressed  in  a certain casual way that was not  quite acceptable in Mumbai . You know, stuff like  shorts and tops, or just the kind  clothes that are  considered  trendy  among college kids but  somewhat  bold for working girls. People would simply stare. I had  to  change the way I dressed.I also  hired a  tutor Mr Mohit  to  teach me  Hindi and I  started learning Kathak  dancing from a  guru recommended  by filmmaker Dharmesh Darshan. Both  Priyanka Chopra and I  learnt  classical Indian dancing  from the same man.”

Katrina  now  looks  back on   her nine  years  in Mumbai with  much affection.  “The city has given me  a  lot, and I  today  feel I am fully a  part  of  the  Indian entertainment  industry. I’ve done  films  not  only  in Hindi but also in  Telugu and Malayalam. Is there a sense of satisfaction  in what I’ve achieved? There is  , there most certainly is.  I’ve worked very hard  to  get where I am. There are days when I  don’t get more than  3-4  hours of sleep.  But  then  all the hard work pays off .I  feel I’ve  earned  my  next holiday whenever  it might be.I  look forward to  taking  periodical breaks to be with my  siblings and mother. ”

There aren’t too many friends in Mumbai.Katrina  finds it hard to  get along with  her female colleagues. “It’s not as  if I  haven’t tried to make friends with….whoever.  It never works out. There’s always that edge  of competitiveness.  ”

One  of  the main reasons why  she wholeheartedly embraced  Salman Khan’s family  was because  they  provided her with a comfort zone  in  a city where she was all alone. Katrina’s  bonding  with   Salman’s family goes  beyond  the  fair-weather relationships of   the entertainment industry. The Khans  really welcomed  Katrina into  their  family .

Says  Katrina,  “Salman   helped me  a   lot to find my bearings in  Mumbai. He  guided me  , helped me  choose the right roles and to find my place in   Mumbai.  He was there for me  constantly. With Salman and his family around I never  felt alone  in Mumbai.”

Katrina  confessed  to me that she often ends up subconsciously  looking for a father- figure in her male company.  “We  sisters  grew up without a  father in  the house. So  I  guess I  do  look  for  sensible wise male company. I get bored with giddy-headed guys my own age.”

Beyond that Katrina won’t talk about her personal life.  “It’s very simple. I’m a friendly girl. I don’t like  to offend anyone. But  in  pleasing others and not offending them I won’t compromise  with my own inbuilt sense  of  right and wrong. I  know what I want in life. And I won’t take any short cuts.”

Now of course we Katrina and I don’t talk any more. We  haven’t spoken for many years.But the mutual respect  remains.I wish her well always. There is no other way one can wish for her.

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