From the lack of a father in her life, to the lack of a godfather in the industry, Katrina Kaif opens up to DT with both her strength and her vulnerability...
You were a little unsettled, lots of questions facing you, six months back
I think it's sort of settled down now. I am at, let's say, a calm place in my life right now. There are times in life when you are going through real highs or lows in terms of emotions, the waters are really choppy. And then there are times when the waters are still. They're just going, you have to let life unfold as it will, and these are the times I think that you have to trust in God, that there is Someone watching over you. That life will bring to you what is meant for you. And you go on.
You're happier and much more settled – or at least that's how it looks.
I am, I am. Much, much more. Yeah, it was very hectic. I realised that you can go through times of extreme happiness, but if that happiness is not coming from a deeply rooted place, you will also be going through extreme lows of sadness. And that kind of roller-coaster I feel is worse than a slightly safe, calm-ish feel of maybe I'm not extremely happy, but at least you're at peace and at comfort; it's a little more settled. I think that's better than going through extremely tumultuous kinds of equations, and you hold on to them for the moments of extreme happiness, but there are so many more moments of extreme lowness and sadness. I think that's when you should take it as a warning sign and realize that this is not inherently grounded, and it's not coming from a healthy, nurturing place, that it's not good for you.
Those people who, for a while, have attributed your professional standing to personal equations, would have expected you to be a little unstable professionally once there was no 'supporting' superstar. Do you think they've been disappointed?
See, this is where you realize that you have to learn to separate the gossip and the tabloid journalism from what the reality is. That's where you have to have confidence and belief in yourself, and know that whatever people say, no personal equations and friendships can help you in this industry. The success of a film is in no one's hands but God's. No support of one star or one director or one producer can make any individual actor a star. You have to connect with the audience; the audience have to like you. That is something that cannot be manipulated or fought for or tried for. Either they like you or they don't. And you have to know that that is the reason. God's been kind, you've worked hard, whatever be the reason, but it is in the hands of the audience whether you are – if you can use the word – a star, a popular actor. That is it. That's where you have to realize that those kinds of things (star backing) are empty conversations. There is no such thing like that.
And like you rightly said, it's a very good time for me right now. It's always been my dream to do a Yash Chopra romantic film. I remember watching " Veer Zaara" in 2004 and thinking, I want to be part of that kind of cinema – and that's happened now. So I think I have a lot to be happy for.
You said in our earlier interview that till " New York", you really didn't feel part of the process of the making of films, didn't really enjoy yourself. Now, the impression one gets is that you're more comfortable, that people are happy to have you with them just as you, without the hyphens or the associations? You seem to be working with people who want to hear what you have to say – rather than you just reading your lines and moving on.
Yeah, yeah. I think that's a very correct observation. I think that I am pretty fortunate that the people I am with now – they do not always agree with me, they do not always go by what I say – but they do want to hear what I say. And that is something I worked hard for. Maybe not for every topic, but there are certain areas where I feel that because I have observed people around me who are very senior, and I have actually put an effort into understanding it. Areas like, whether it's promotions or marketing, I can input a certain bit.
If you're working with people who don't care about or don't appreciate anything you do, that's going to be a bit disheartening.
Is this a maturing of you as a person, or as an actress, or a coming together of both?
See, to a certain extent it's going to happen, right? Because you start when you are 17 and now I am 27, and you grow and you learn from your experiences – and I've had some, some pretty – SOME experiences, actually, you can put it that way! (laughs) so you can put it that way. You have to grow. I can't be the same person I was at 18, otherwise I'd be stagnant.
The most important thing I have noticed is no matter what I have gone through, when people say, this was a low phase, a bad experience, a sad point in your life, would you like to change it – I'm like, no, I wouldn't. I would never change it because I now know that you get over it. And it gets better. You really DO get over it; you can be at the lowest point where you just think that you can be crying your eyes out till you think you have no more tears left – and you get over it. And learning what all you can overcome as a person, as a human being, is very important. It's very important to understand your strength. Which is not to say you become hardened, or bitter. No. I am still sensitive. I am still waiting for that person, for everything to come together maybe, for someone who is going to be in your life and support you, and I want that. I do need that. It's not like I am this strong person who doesn't need that and is fine being on her own, no. but you do realize that you do have some amount of strength and you do recover and you do rise above things.
At 22, you wouldn't see it this way.
NO, no! I would like, oh my God, I'm gonna die, what's gonna happen, I'm never gonna get over it. I would cry my eyes out. Because you're young, these are new emotions, new experiences for you. After you've seen it, you realize that life is filled with these kinds of moments. It's filled with happiness, it's filled with disappointment, it's filled with extreme love, extreme anger, extreme sadness, extreme hurt – and everything gets over!
I remember my mom saying to me, three years back, when I was really at the end of my tether in some ways, I was really upset – and she said to me, I promise you, you don't believe me now, but I've lived 40 years longer than you, and I am telling you, you'll get over it, it passes. And it's the truth. And that's what I have learnt out of these experiences.
Not the most pleasant reference point here, but your mom has lived through the bulk of her life without a strong male support.
Yes, yes. I think that has been very instrumental in forming the person who I am today. Whether it's responsible for some of my weaknesses, but it does make you feel a slight lack of belonging, a slight sense of lack of completion. You're kind of looking for that finality in everything you do, you're looking for that last stamp of approval from your father. So growing up without a father has, I think, made me look for that nod of approval, that seal of approval, from somewhere. And now when I think about it, since I've not got that in my personal life, I've gone looking for it in my work, wanting it from somewhere. If it's not from here, it should be from there. You want that sense of security, that sense of approval, from people you work with.
Which is why I would never like to have – while I know there are some strong and amazing women who have children on their own, and done a beautiful job of it, hats off to them. Some have done it out of a lack of a choice, but if I have a choice in the matter, I would always try to make sure that your child grows up with his father.
If you're profiled a decade from now, to my mind, wouldn't the core mystery remain your karmic connect with India, with capturing the public imagination in a country where you hadn't spent a day till you were 18 or so?
I actually feel the opposite way! It's very hard for people to understand here. Because when I'm here, you see, I'm considered very Western-looking. My dad is Indian, but I am not considered very ethnic looking in the industry. But growing up, I was very overly aware of the fact that I was Indian. I was darker, and all my friends use to be girls who were fairer and with blonde hair, and I used to feel very out of place. I was never really noticed –the girls with blonde hair and blue eyes got all the attention in school. I always grew up feeling inferior, to use one word. So if you ask me what is the karmic connect, I honestly feel that this is the end of a circle of that. I always grew up feeling that I was not attractive, that I was never getting any attention, and that I was a little different. And when I came here is when I for the first time... I had that sense of – I remember that so vividly – that people here actually appreciate me. They think that I am beautiful, that I am something special. And that was the first time in my life that I did not feel inferior, for the first time in my life I felt very wanted.
There was this side of me that I felt uncomfortable with, growing up, my whole life, and that side is what has now given me my life, what I am now. It was in India that I found my identity, my sense of belonging.
And that's why you've been touchy sometimes about people making snide remarks about your passport, ethnicity, surname?
Yes. Because people are insinuating that there is something wrong in it! Please understand that I am not – I assure you, I promise you – I am not the only half Asian half British person alive on this planet! My passport's copies are with every news channel in this country – don't ask me how they got them. Everyone has my name, which is my mother's name, on the passport. It's never been hidden, that, or my date of birth, or where I was born – I was born in Hong Kong, for all those who've missed that part of the breaking news – and I just find it so funny. Am I supposed to be ashamed that I am half Asian, half European? I mean, no! Rahul Gandhi is half Indian, half Italian. So? I am very proud of what I am and I just don't understand the confusion – as if I'm trying to hide the fact that my mother's British. Why would I?