Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I Love Katrina Kaif

I'm glad people enjoyed my post on Abhishek Bachchan! Vive la différence as the French say - although they are not (usually) referring to the wide gulf of opinions between Bollywood fans.

Let me clarify a couple of points about my post that certain commenters seemed determined to misunderstand.

First of all, I do not think that bad reviews mean that an actor is bad and I never said so. What I did say is that I take some small joy when the reviewers and media line up with my opinions - which is what happened with the bad reviews of Abhishek's performance. You know, when I was much younger, I did put a lot of stock in what the reviewers and critics said and tried my hardest to like only "good" movies but, as it turns out, I didn't really like "good" movies. They tend to be pretentious or (the worst crime of all) just plain boring.

(I loved No Smoking! Clearly, I don't always judge by what reviewers say.)

Secondly, I think I have seen enough of Abhi's performances to be confident in my opinion of him. I have, in fact, sat through
Umrao Jaan, in which he delivers a truly dire performance, and Drona, in which he proves once and for all that he is no action hero. "Now, Filmi Girl," you are saying, "those were bad roles in bad films." True, my friends, but a good actor can make a bad role in a bad film something worth watching. Anil Kapoor in Yuvvraaj is a good example.

Finally, a few people think he should be cut some slack
because he is the Big B's son and could, therefore, never escape the shadow of his still-active father and also that it is not fair to compare him to the strugglers because he had the extreme disadvantage of being born wealthy, with a famous name, and is married to a talented and beautiful actress. While some people might find that a sympathetic story, for me, those are not good enough reasons to cut him any slack. I just don't find it a compelling narrative. Maybe you do, and that's cool. But I prefer the stories of Akshay working as a cook while perfecting his martial arts; of Shahrukh slaving away on a soap opera before his big break; of Amitabh himself walking away from a desk job to try his hand at acting.

This leads me to Katrina Kaif. Now, I know that quite a few of you out in Bolly-blog land find her unpalatable and that's cool - we don't all have to like exactly the same things - but I thought since I explained my dislike of the Junior B, I would try my hand at explaining why I love La Kaif.

I first saw her in
Namastey London back in 2007, playing Jazz - a spunky, free-spirited English girl of Indian descent. She appears at a restaurant on a blind date, dressed in a salwaar suit and proceeds to down 5 or 6 shots of vodka while a horrified Riteish Deshmukh tries to figure out what the heck is going on. (Watch the scene here! I love how she says, "Thank you," to the waiter with such resignation.)

She won my heart right there and then. Believe me that I understand that Katrina's performance was not a tour-de-force of acting like Madhubala in
Mughal-e-Azam but she had a glow and a natural charisma that drew me in. A character that could easily have been a shrill, bratty caricature in the hands of somebody else because a sympathetic and charming young woman.

We all have different ways of watching Bollywood films. Some people don't care about the heroine at all, except as eye candy (i.e. Does she fill a bikini properly?) and others only care as far as she does or does not have chemistry with the lead actor (i.e. like Kajol with SRK). For me, though, I like a heroine with a bit of a spark and a definite physical presence. (That is possibly one of the reasons that I've never taken to Deepika Padukone - she doesn't own her space.)

I like Katrina for a number of reasons but first among them is that she is a physically present actress. I like that she looks comfortable having Akshay grab all over her in their song picturizations. I like that she will do physical comedy in things like
De Dana Dan and Welcome ( in which she carries Akshay out of burning building on her shoulders - what other heroine does that?) I like that even in films like Partner or Singh is Kinng, where her role is essentially to stand around and look pretty, she makes the camera pay attention to her. Her mega-watt smile is a powerful tool.

Katrina may not be a great dancer but she is a natural in song picturizations whether she is bopping along to Susie Q in
Jee Karda or splashing around in a waterfall in Gale Lag Ja. She makes you want to join in. She looks like she is having fun and I like that.

But what makes Katrina stand out from the other actresses who have a nice physical presence (like Neha Dhupia or Rimi Sen)? In my opinion, Katrina Kaif is good at conveying emotion without it seeming forced.
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and Namastey London are the two films she's done this best in as a heroine. But I would say that she even turned in a good performance in Yuvvraaj, which was a terrible film. She had a realness to her character that provided the only warmth in the film when she interacted with Anil Kapoor.

(Thank you to the Post Punk Cinema Club for uploading! Watch Katrina's reactions - Anil is obviously the focus point of the scene but I think she does a nice job reflecting opposite him. It's not as easy as it looks to just sit there while somebody sings and the light in her eyes as she watches is really sweet.)

I'm glad Katrina is finally getting some nice reviews for her work in things like
Raagneeti. Her performance in that was really quite nice. She does a variation on the care-free Jazz at the beginning but by the end, when she has lost everything, she becomes this entirely different person. Standing in a plain saree in front of crowd, she delivers her carefully rehearsed speech and they embrace her. Her posture and body language throughout are on point and she really is something to watch. I can't think of another starlet with the spine of steel to be able to carry that off. Prakash Jha gambled and I think he hit the jackpot.

We can't forget meta-narrative context, however, when discussing our Bollywood stars, and Katrina Kaif has plenty of it. I've come to really appreciate her life narrative as well as her reserved personality. Make no mistake, Katrina has made it in Bollywood through her own hard work and talents (yes, I would consider dating Salman Khan to be hard work). Told she was too fat to model in her native Britain, Kat was nonetheless "discovered" by an Indian filmmaker in London, and she packed up to Mumbai and has never looked back. I love the practical and determined way she went about her career.

She is almost certainly not Indian but in an industry that requires an Indian girl for the leads, she was willing to change her identity. She hooked up with Salman Khan long enough to let his influence open a few doors for her, which is itself something of a feat. Salman Khan is without a doubt the toughest, most bad-ass man in Bollywood and he is more likely to dominate his lady-friends than do things for them. Katrina Kaif does things on her own terms. She's not posing in bikinis and getting breast implants - Kat is working for her mother's charity. She's not concerned with size zero, she is concerned with getting the dubbing right for

Katrina Kaif has a work ethic. She has determination. She has undeniable beauty and charm. And I think she has talent as an actress - talent that has grown over the years.

I honestly believe that Kat is one of the most promising actresses in Bollywood right now - and given a chance to do more than stand around and smile, I think she will do great things.

And, seriously, folks, all disrespectful comments will be deleted. You can disagree with me but I don't want to see her or any other actresses bashed.


Ness said...

See, this is what I find interesting!! You see things in Katrina that I just...don't see. Yet. I don't hate her, I won't not watch a film because of her, but I don't love her. I just don't 'get' her. Maybe I will one day - I have certainly been known to warm to people (ahem, Sallu!) over time. But right now, we disagree.

I'm okay with that; you're okay with that. I don't need you to like the same people I do, you don't need me to agree with you. We DON'T NEED TO SPEND TIME ARGUING ABOUT IT because any opinion either of us have, on anything, ever, is necessarily going to be influenced by countless variables that are IMPOSSIBLE to even guess at or replicate: our backgrounds, the context in which we are experiencing...whatever..., personal taste, etc etc etc.

The thing that disturbed me about many of the comments that appeared on the Abhi post yesterday was that so many people seemed to take AN OPINION so personally. We all love Bollywood, or at least FILMS, right? So it troubles me that people can get so nasty over not liking the same star. Sigh. Who cares, really, in the end? What does it matter?! I don't think you were slandering anyone - it was clear that you were expressing a PERSONAL OPINION.

Sorry for the rant!

For the record, the one movie I did think "Hmmm, Katrina is VERY likeable and I can see what rabid fans see in her" was Humko Deewana Kar Gaye. Not the greatest film ever but I dunno - there was something about her performance that clicked with me for once.

K8yR said...

I always love reading your blog...agree or not. I too just love Katrina Kaif. I'm newer to Bollywood films and the first one I saw was Jab We Met. Loved it and forever will love Karina Kapoor, no matter what she does in the future, how obnoxious she may be in interview or what others say...to me she's Geet and I will always love her. I feel the same about Katrina Kaif. After Jab We Met my next films to love starred Akshay Kumar, whom I adore. She was in every one one of them and I loved her right along with him. Nameste London and Humko Deewana Kay Gaye were the first Hindi films that I purchased. I looove Welcome. I think it's just so darn hilarious and she's a delight in it also.

Now, my most favorite-ist is Kokona Sen Sharma! She's brilliant!

Looking forward to your next insights!

batulm said...

Filmi Girl,

I've always liked Katrina Kaif, but never really been able to figure out why, except for her brilliant smile. You've analyzed her charm so well, yes, she does own the space she is in. She looks self-assured yet vulnerable, innocent and yet very strong.

I think she has a long way to go as an actress, but at least she comes across on screen as a real person. Not just a plastic doll.

Anita said...

I agree that Namastey London was her best work (haven't seen Raajneeti yet so I won't comment on that) but everything else was just downhill for me. In fact you mention her physical presence whereas I am almost NEVER focused on Katrina Kaif if there is another person on screen. I guess I feel the way about Kat as you do about Dee and vice versa and nothing will ever change that. *shrug*

And I feel like if we're talking about work ethic or using anything she has at her disposal to get ahead, Priyanka Chopra is a more impressive example for me. She worked DAMN HARD to get Miss World, then had that whole deal with Akki that pushed her ahead and now she's really found a place for herself.

I'm not saying I'll never like Katrina. I didn't like Kareena in the beginning but she proved herself. Hell, I even adamantly maintained that Rani was over-rated until Black. So if she proves herself by making me sit up and say "wow!" in a movie I will be the first to admit it.

I just hope that day comes and that it comes soon!!

eliza bennet said...

I love Katrina and this is a great post.

And I guess I was not clear on what I meant about cuttin slack. I never thought to say that you should cut Abhi some slack, what I meant was that Abhi is doubly critised for some of his performances when an actor of a less fortunate back ground maybe forgiven for his/her performances and not so readily critised. So in that way Abhi's background is not as good an advantage as it may seem (after all the main thing is that how many fans you have no?)

Rum said...

I'm definitely with you on this one, because Katrina just lit up Yuvvraaj and turned out such a sympathetic performance, instead insincere ire-inducing ones like Salman and Zayed! She definitely has that star quality now because her great role in Raajneeti, and I give her kudos for putting up with Salman all those early years, and of course Hehehehee putting up with Sallu hiring a lookalike Zarine Khan with him in Veer!

Filmi Girl said...

@Ness Thank you! Did you watch any of the clips? Or have you seen Yuvvraaj already and were unimpressed? Part of it could be, also, just different ways that we see Heroines in general.

For example, if Kat swung my way, I would not hesitate to tap that - a sentiment that I'm assuming only a small segment of the female population shares. Which is maybe why she doesn't have more female fans.

And, yes, I don't understand when people are mad that I state my opinions. I'm not an objective news service and I don't blog as a public service! Now if somebody was going to pay me to objectively report the news, I would be happy to do it but until then, I'm going to opinionize away!

@K8yR Thank you so much, sweetie! I'm happy to oblige! :D

And you make a good point about the film we star in first making a lasting impression. Maybe people who saw Boom are less forgiving of Kat.

@batulm I'm glad you agree!! She just comes across as very real on-screen and I like watching her. She does always seem to be having fun. :)

@Anita Hee! I'm so surprised to hear you say that you thought Rani was overrated!! But we can all change our minds. :) After Wanted, even Salman has redeemed himself for me. :DD

@eliza Oh!!! I see your point now. And, yes, that is probably the case. :) But I guess the logic is that since he had every advantage - time, money to hire teachers, access to the best scripts - shouldn't he be held to a higher standard?

@rum I'm so glad you agree!!! I really fell for Kat in Yuvvraaj! I wonder how many people who saw it thought the same... :)

Ness said...

Haha I haven't seen Yuuvraaj, but I have seen pretty much everything she's been in with Akki (because I love me some Akki) plus of course Partner and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. And it's not like she wrecked any of those films for me, it's just I don't really...enjoy anything about her.

And I think you are so right, actually, because I DON'T find her remotely attractive, and I think our lists of Hot Bollywood Women are probably quite dramatically different! Kat just doesn't float my boat and as SHALLOW AS THAT MAKES ME FEEL, lol, I just don't really enjoy watching her much if I don't even have lustful thoughts to keep me entertained, HA!

Ness said...

And OK so I just watched a bit of that clip. OMG I am going to have to see Yuuvraaj. It looks terrible. So I'll probably love it and have to retract everything I ever said about Kat. LOL.

Filmi Girl said...

@Ness Ha ha! Yuvvraaj is a combination of sublime, so-bad-it's-good, and just plain bad. (That would be Anil, Zayed, and Salman, respectively.) You might actually enjoy it - be warned, Kat often looks like she would rather be anywhere than in the same frame with Salman and I can't say I blame her because he is AWFUL in this! :D

And I think for Heroines, the attractiveness thing does matter because they are so often playing just that "smile and look nice" role. If they aren't even giving that for you, then there is nothing there.

That is a large part of why I dislike the plasticy, overly-thin Heroines - I can't imagine ever squishing them, you know?

Natty said...

I absolutely love Katrina and I just cannot explain why/what so I am glad you have. Namastey London is one of my favorite guilty pleasures and I watch it again and again because i love Katrina's character. I agree that Katrina has great potential and in some years she will shock the naysayers with a mind-blowing performance.
-- natsan

Shell said...

Kat is one of those actresses that I can't seem to warm up to. That being said, I think you have done a wonderful job outlining all the things that she brings to the table, so far as her acting goes. There are moments, like in Gale Lag Ja, where I totally see her appeal. I keep waiting for that aha moment to come, and I'm sure one day it will.

Christine Menefee said...

Still catching up here (what fun to have so much FilmiGirl to read at once!) Thanks for this. You bring into focus the very things that make Katrina appealing to me. I think I've liked her since the first thing I saw her in, which must have been Namastey London (love that scene!)(I also get a kick out of how Reteish acts like it's perfectly normal to rehearse his conversation, when the waiter comes over - great deadpanning). There's just something about her that I like and I think it has something to do with grit, and self-deprecating humor, that has a real-ness to it that you rarely see in actresses in any country. And as a person she seems admirable too. Not here, but elsewhere, I've seen people be very mean-spirited in portraying her as not Indian enough, for having an American accent and not a British one, for her Hindi (I read that Saif Ali Khan also had to learn Hindi, but nobody's mean about that), in much the same way they make racist cracks about Kareena being "white." Both women carry off their careers with tremendous grace and professionalism and I've come to admire them for it.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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