Karisma Kapoor: “Being a judge of a reality show helps you connect to the grassroots”

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By Jyothi Venkatesh

Today, Karisma Kapoor, who continues to be gorgeous, celebrates her 48th birthday. The versatile actress has left her footprints in the annals of Indian cinema right from the time she breezed in with D Rama Naidu’s Prem Qaidi till she opted for marriage and motherhood. To mark her birthday, we reproduce this interview where KARISMA KAPOOR tells Senior Journalist JYOTHI VENKATESH, who she knows right from Day One when she had made her debut in films, that her younger sister Kareena Kapoor and she are poles apart.

I vividly remember how Karisma was astonished when she saw me clad in makeup and costume at Film City where she also was shooting for a film with Suniel Shetty two decades ago and when I told her that I was acting in a comedy serial where I was playing the role of a South Indian, she promised to come to the sets and see me doing my part.

Frankly, I did not take Lolo seriously but she landed up on my sets nearby her sets to watch me in action and the entire unit was thrilled to see the then top actress coming for a sneak preview of the serial. She sat for fifteen minutes and left when her shot was ready and a guy from her unit came to ask her to report on her sets.

There was a kind of camaraderie between Lolo and me since I knew not only her but also her grandfather Raj Kapoor as well as her parents Randhir Kapoor and Babita. I took the liberty of asking her and Ajay Devgn, her co-star for a radio interview called Lux Sitaron Ki Pasand way back in the 90’s when they were shooting for a film at Filmistan. Karisma asked me to take Ajay’s interview first and promised to give me the interview after I finished that of Ajay, who was also a good friend of mine.

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When Lolo asked me to play the recording because she wasn’t sure whether had spoken properly, I was about to play the recording when Ajay walked in and Lolo was stubborn that Ajay should not hear the interview because she wanted him to hear it only when it was aired on Vividh Bharati. When Ajay stubbornly refuse to leave the make-up room of Karisma and insisted that he also would listen to the interview that Lolo had given to me, Karisma pleaded with me to ask Ajay to leave the room and I had no other alternative but to ask him to get out of Karisma’s make-up room. But naturally, Ajay was quite peeved with me.

It was way back in 1999.There was a big Bollywood party once and when I bumped into Karisma Kapoor at the party as she was the heroine of the film, Karisma came up to me and told me that her kid sister Bebo alias Kareena Kapoor was all set to make her debut with Rakesh Roshan’s film Kaho Na Pyar Hai and requested me to please not be harsh to her and rag her as she was a newcomer, because she cared for her a lot and asked me to be kind to her and I was really touched by the sibling connection.

I remember yet another occasion when I met Lolo after she had left Mumbai and settled down in Delhi with her then husband Sunjay Kapoor and she had sauntered in at a party hosted by the Director of International Film Festival of India in the capital. Though at that point of time both Karisma and I were very shy and were not at all used to even formally hug each other whenever we met each other every time but as she had been away from ‘aamchi’ Mumbai for quite a long period of time, the moment she saw me from a distance at the party, she came sprinting towards me and hugged me and played a peck on my cheek, to my surprise as well.

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Karisma was among the first few actors in Bollywood to take up a reality show like Nach Baliye Season 4, as a star judge. Is judging reality shows an alternative career for actresses today? I remember asking her then. Lolo had replied, “I do not think that being a judge of a reality show is a career alternative for actresses today. I consider it as yet another avenue to meet the contestants, interact with them and connect with the grass roots. Though one may take on the mantle of the judge for the reality show, I feel that once you are an actress, you are always an actress. I love dancing. I like all kinds of jhatkas and kamar matkas. I have always identified myself with all the contestants because I could empathize with what they were undergoing since people used to wait to know what kind of dances I was doing in all the movies in which I have acted  till date, be it Mere Pant Bhi Sexy Hai in Dulara or Pardesi Pardesi in Raja Hindustani.

Karisma also confessed to me that she did not have any reservations about being seen on TV. “Before Nach Baliye 4, I had already made the transition from films to TV with the serial Karishma on Sahara One. TV has been an amazing experience for me. I admire all the TV artists who do fiction as well as reality shows, because I know how tough it is to be on your toes on TV for 24 hours. Today we should wake up to reality and admit that the gap between the television screen and the big celluloid screen has been narrowed down and is very close, with every big star be it Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan in Kaun Banega Karodpati or Kya Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hai or for that matter Salman Khan in Bigg Boss or Dus Ka Dum entering the fray as the game show anchor or judge like Urmila Matondkdar did in Waar Parivaar.

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Karisma proceeded to confess to me frankly that she had turned down several reality shows earlier including Chake De. “I had been offered quite a few shows earlier either as a judge or as a participant but it did not work for some reason or the other. You feel nice when you realize that you are wanted. One of the reasons why I could not accept the offers before Nach Baliye 4, besides the money factor which did not suit me, was the fact that my daughter Samaira needed my time and attention and I could not afford to leave her side for the sake of judging a show”.

Karisma asserted that it was not at all tough for her to juggle between her home and career because reality TV does not take much of your time like say a TV serial or for that matter a feature film. I said yes to the offer to judge Nach Baliye Season 4 when Star Plus approached me only after I made sure that the time frame required from me suited me. I need to devote only one or two days every week to the show which was on air on the week-ends on Fridays and Saturdays.

Karisma says that she had never ever said that she was quitting acting after Shakti. “In Hollywood, several actors like Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep take a break from acting once in a while to rejuvenate themselves. When they appear in a film after a break, you do not say that they are staging a comeback. I think it is high time we in India also broadened our horizons towards reality. Don’t women in other professions take maternity leave and resume their work after they deliver a kid? I would say that it has been a well-deserved break for me, after working nonstop for almost ten years ever since my debut with Prem Qaidi. Your priorities in life change from time to time”.

Also read: Sanjay Dutt: ‘Always exciting to play the antagonist because you get to bend the rules, break the rules!’

Karisma says that it has been a well-deserved and great enough break for an actress like her who has had the best of both the worlds. “I am happy with the way my career has progressed. I have had the opportunity to work in meaningful films like Khalid Mohammad’s Fiza as well as Shyam Benegal’s Zubeida as well as commercial films like David Dhawan’s Hero No 1 or for that matter Biwi No 1. I would not hesitate to admit that it is an amazing feeling when I hear people tell me that they want to see me on the big screen once again. I do miss my craft because I have always been passionate about acting. The day I get an amazing offer, I’d grab it with both my hands. You know it because you have seen me from Day One as an actress.

Karisma confesses that she has been offered quite a lot of films with Kareena. “I feel that it would be a big deal for both of us to co-star in a film and hence we do not want to do just any film. It would have to be the ultimate. Kareena and I are poles apart. I am old fashioned unlike Kareena who shocks me all the time. There is no way I would have had the guts to be in a relationship with a co-star of mine or get married like her at the height of my career. However I am happy for her because she is a sensible girl and the family has stood by whatever decision she takes as far as her life is concerned.

Asked what the difference was between Lolo of yesterday and Karisma Kapoor of today, she signs off.  “There are ups and downs in any marriage. Motherhood does change a woman quite a lot. It has made me more mature and balanced because I now have a better perspective about life unlike earlier. Undoubtedly, it is the best experience a woman can go through in her life. Motherhood has made me much more responsible now as a human being than earlier when I was carefree.

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