Some of the biggest Bollywood hits in recent years have featured Katrina Kaif, who started out in the industry in 2003 and gained superstar status in a few years’ time. She speaks to Bulbul Sharma about her early-career switch from modelling to acting, her upcoming films, and her life as a fitness enthusiast.
Q. You began your professional modelling career when you were only 17 years old. Did that early start as a model prepare you in any way for your life ahead as an actor? And did you find those two worlds similar or dissimilar to each other?
A. Dissimilarities are the work hours, the schedule, the hard work you have to put in and the discipline required. But I think that having a background in modelling definitely gave me a little bit of insight into the entertainment industry. The kind of professionalism that needs to be there, maintaining a kind of physique—all this was taught to me in my modelling days.
Q. Your debut in the Hindi film industry happened in 2003. Are you happy with the way your Bollywood journey has progressed, or are there things you wish you could have changed?
A. My life has been so eventful and I have learnt so many things that I wouldn’t want to change anything about my journey, because I feel that what was given to me was right at that time. We are given what we know and what we can accept. And everything takes its own time. You can’t force outcomes when you are not ready. There are so many wonderful things that I learnt slowly over the years. The way in which I have changed and the lessons that I have learnt as an artist during my journey are so unique and precious to me. This is my journey and I don’t want to change my story.
Q. How do you think the growing popularity of content-driven cinema in Bollywood would affect your choices as an actor?
A. It is a really exciting time for cinema. I think as we progress, more platforms open up and it will continue to happen with time. These days there are platforms like Netflix, Amazon and other digital streaming services that offer so much content. We are now getting to watch the kind of content we were not able to earlier, and that is wonderful. We get to see the kind of content that wouldn’t have been made earlier. That kind of content wouldn’t have found takers even in films, but now we get to see amazing content over our television and mobile phones. More jobs have been generated for writers, technicians, actors and everyone who is associated with the industry.
The industry itself is growing and it is allowing you to exercise your choice as an actor. And that is very important because we get to choose the best content that is offered to us. We now have a wider selection of content to choose from. It will allow us to do more challenging and exciting roles, which are going to demand more from us. And that, of course, is going to be such a wonderful thing… For me as an actor, it is really important that I connect with the character that I am playing and explore who this person really is. I really enjoyed doing that in films like Bharat and Zero. I really immersed myself in these films and went through a journey of getting to know who these people really are.
Q. You have been a part of mainstream cinema since the beginning of your career. But with the advent of content-driven films, wouldn’t you want to shatter that image of a commercial film actress?
A. This label is not something that I have put on myself. Also, it is not very relevant to me… I see myself as an artist who is supposed to work and give her 100%. I want to do good work in whatever sphere of work I am in. Whether it is a photoshoot for a brand or a character that I am playing in a film—I want to do my best. I like to create what’s true and authentic for me. These labels are completely irrelevant to me.
Q. Despite several actors voicing their concern over cases of gender-based pay disparity in Bollywood, nothing much has changed in this regard. Your thoughts on this issue?
A. It is a very complicated topic, but there are people in the industry who want to do something about it. Leading actors also need to take steps to change the gender pay gap. A lot of leading male actors are co-producers of the films, too. So it becomes all the more important for them to do something about it. They can proactively take measures to close this gap, at least for the leading actresses in their films.
Q. You are currently shooting for Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi, alongside Akshay Kumar, with whom you have given some big hits. So how is it like working with him on the sets?
A. You know, we have such an amazing time watching each other on the sets. We have such a great level of comfort with each other that whatever we do, we do it with the same approach. He is a very dedicated person when it comes to work and acting, and in personal life too. The environment on the sets is good too. We always have fun together.
Q. You have recently been made Reebok’s brand ambassador. As a fitness enthusiast, do you see this association with the brand as an extension of your personal attitude and perception towards fitness?
A. Yes, exactly. It is definitely an extension of my attitude towards fitness. I think we [Reebok and I] have very similar goals and philosophies. We have a similar idea towards fitness and it is wonderful for me to have a platform where I can share the part fitness plays in my life. To share how important fitness has been in my career over the years. This partnership with Reebok is like having a platform to discuss, share ideas, talk to other women about fitness—about the benefits it has brought to their lives and about the challenges as well.
Q. How has your attitude towards fitness changed over the years?
A. Fitness, for me, has constantly been evolving. And this, I think, is a very important concept, that fitness has to evolve as time changes and as our body changes. For me, I think fitness goals started to change when I started to get physical targets for a film or a particular song for which you had to look a certain way. I have pushed my body a lot. But now that I have done it for so many years, I have learnt about the many types of exercises that you can do, the various ways you can achieve physical goals without straining your body. Those exercises are not too demanding for your body and are easy to fit into your schedule… I had a very strict mindset about training hard and that would only include functional training. I am far more open now to other types of training—like Pilates, yoga and body-pro movement classes, where they do Cardiolates and trampoline workout among other things. So I now have a lot more flexibility in my fitness programme.