When I think of Kareena Kapoor, what comes to mind first is her strength, her instinct, her femininity. She strikes me as unabashedly feminine, pleased with her sex, proud of her sex. Her physique is very feminine, and first those amazing lips of hers, that writhe and squirm in front of you, as if alive with a life of their own. They have been described as “strawberry lips”(here), i.e. fleshy lips you’d like to bite in and relish on your palate: true, but that doesn’t quite render justice to their fascinating movements, not unlike those of slugs (sorry for the association!), only much more lively and sexy. Then there’s her versatile eyes, which she knows how to lift, to lower, to use as questions or interrogation marks, and generally to seduce and as instruments of power.
That strength is also a pride. Kareena is a proud woman. Her physique shows it, those cheeks, those shoulders, and of course those eyes. You just have to see her be to feel that. She’s full of that self-assertiveness, that need and pleasure to pose and impress, to make people understand she’s herself, with her good and bad sides, which she doesn’t try to hide, but in a mature way, knows she has to come to terms with. She’s understood that being an Indian actress today means striking the balance between appearance and reality which both suits her and which her spectators will accept. As far as she’s concerned, specifically, I think this balance means a combination of say 80% reality and 20% artefact: she’s probably not totally KK when she’s in her roles, but she certainly believes that they gain in weight if she deliberately throws in her persona.
Then her strength comes from her acceptance of her tribe, that Kapoor inheritance. She even vindicates it: “I’m here to do what a Kapoor should, to take the legacy forward”. This rather surprising wish to define herself as an heir of the family is important to understand her: an individualistic approach to her destiny would have been perhaps more fitting, given her idiosyncratic personality; but placing herself in a clan is both justified in terms of notoriety, and in terms of personal development. Because one has an expectancy of how the offspring will redefine the species. Playing the card of one’s name is therefore a sign of how well one positions oneself in the group, and how strongly the self is being built. If Kareena had decided to be herself completely (this might still be a temptation, who knows?), for instance to differentiate herself from her sister, that reputation of hers (her loud-mouthed, brash style) might have played against her. But if she’s inside the clan, she’s more protected.
Protection: that’s perhaps the key to this other aspect of Bebo’s personality. I somehow feel that for all her strength, she’s rather fragile, rather vulnerable. That she’s in fact in need of more strength. I can’t help comparing her to the other reigning queens of Bollywood: Rani, Ash, Preity, and I tell myself: I wonder how she sees herself, how she defines herself. Here she is, a very realistically-minded woman, full of life and meaning, full of truth, and who knows the system from the inside perhaps better than any. So why is it she needs to emphasize her difference? Is it just because she doesn’t quite fit with the conventions? Is it not also because the others are so present and attract the limelights more than she does? Perhaps she has been asked at one stage to fit too well: that glam side she inherited from K3G, that “cream-cool attitude” which her personality both enjoys and despises a little.
I think she’s still looking for a completely satisfying position on the BW spectrum. Here is another quote from that interview:
“I wouldn’t give up my career for anything in the world. Marriage is nowhere on the radar. I have better roles than any other actress does today. In fact, it’s a pity that I have to justify what I’m capable of.”
Don’t these words show a certain degree of soul-searching, and resentfulness (together with the obvious note of determination and pride)? Well, from the films I’ve seen, this is partly true. K3G revealed her utter playfulness, her intelligence, her actress’s talent as trend-setter, but of course she was not the “real” Kareena she is seeking to be. In Chameli I think she does an exercise in redefinition. She is one of the few beautiful BW actresses that actually takes on the challenge of playing negative roles. That character of hers was a little too much of an experiment, but let’s says it was a very good try. It’s got the grittiness, the sadness and the glory of tragic heroines. She just needs to work on that presence. Then her role as Mira in Yuva I found excellent: she delivers a great duo with Vivek, but it’s true the film is not hers.
So there we are, KK is a fine actress with superb potential, who is very hungry (too hungry) for success and recognition, and who must first learn to accept her position if she wants to improve it. But she’s one of the most western-minded girls at the top, and as such, she’s had trouble with her audiences at home. She needs to find a stance that will unite her spunky spirit and her still hesitant originality.