Kareena Kapoor Khan Vogue India January 2018 Issue

Updated : 8th Jan 2018

In a career spanning nearly two decades, KAREENA KAPOOR KHAN has navigated her fame deftly, wearing her success (and her failures) lightly. In her first interview to Vogue since becoming a mother, she tells RENUKA JOSHI MODI how life has changed Photographed by ERRIKOS ANDREOU Styled by ANAITA SHROFF ADAJANIA

What’s most remarkable about my first meeting with Kareena Kapoor Khan is how unremarkable it is. Exactly on time, she answers the door, herself, in sweatpants and a T-shirt. There are no delays, no waiting around and no publicists as she lets me into the bright and inviting home she shares with her actor-husband Saif Ali Khan. The apartment, which the couple decorated themselves, is packed to the rafters with all the trappings of their life together. A large wooden desk takes pride of place in the living room, the bookshelf is spilling over with page-turners by Jo Nesbø, while a Shakespearean quote makes for interesting bathroom reading. There are piles of fashion magazines (Vogue, of course, is right on top) stacked on the floor, and photographs of the children (Taimur with half-siblings Ibrahim and Sara) hang between quirky illustrations and candid wedding photos. “This is our piedà-terre. Karan [Johar] calls this our museum. Everything in the house has been collected over time; most of it is Saif’s—he loves collecting books, paintings and lithographs,” she says, adding that they’ll start thinking about baby-proofing the home soon. Somewhere in the background you can hear strains of ‘Deck The Halls’. The holidays have already arrived in the Kapoor-Khan household. “I love this time of the year. It’s one of my favourite seasons. My mother is part Catholic, so Christmas has always been a big deal for us. Taimur was born on December 20, so he was around last year, but this is his first real Christmas, so it’s very exciting. There’s a tree, family comes around, there’s lots of good food and wine. It’s very festive, very private and very intimate,” she says, apologising for the cold she’s been nursing all day. Intimate. It’s a word that Kareena will use often through this interview. It’s how she explains her life at home, here with Saif and their one-year-old son, Taimur, who is already breaking the internet, but more on that later.

KEEPING IT REAL It’s been 17 years since Kareena Kapoor Khan played Poo in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), and over a decade since Geet told the country that she’s her own favourite person in Jab We Met (2007). But her last film, the critically acclaimed Udta Punjab (2016), saw her in a role unlike any other. It wasn’t the ebullient Punjabi girl that we have come to love of her—instead, the no-makeup Dr Preet Sahani was a kurta-clad doctor on a crusade to eradicate drug abuse. Of late, her career, like her life, is taking a new turn. In the year and a half that she’s been on maternity break, she’s shot five ad films, managed several brand commitments, travelled with her husband and turned designer for her son’s nursery. Since having Taimur, she’s taken some well-deserved time off but is now raring to go, having just finished Veere Di Wedding, an ensemble film co-produced by Rhea Kapoor that will hit our screens this May. It might be over a year since her last release but the country’s obsession with the actor persists. At last count, there were over 100 Kareena Kapoor fan accounts on Instagram, and her many fan pages on Facebook come from places as far and diverse as Sierra Leone and Algeria. On Vogue.in, she continues to be one of the most searched celebrities, month on month. The internet is routinely buzzing with news on the star—this week it was photos of her at lunch with her girl gang as well as those seen supporting sister-in-law Soha Ali Khan at her book launch. She looks amused when I ask her about this constant curiosity and scrutiny into her life. “I guess people are curious because they don’t really know that much about my life. I’ve always been honest, but I’m also ferociously private. I’m not on social media, Saif isn’t on social media. I don’t want to put stuff out there. I’ve worn my success lightly, and also my failures. It’s all a part of the journey that’s made me who I am and brought me to where I am right now,” she says. And right now, having just finished shooting a film, spending time with family and friends is where she’d like to be. Her happy place is one with a perfect balance—where family, work and wellness all find the right equilibrium. Physically, Kareena’s in the best shape of her life. Much column space has been dedicated to her changing shape over the years, from the much-debated size zero in 2009 to her pregnancy look more recently. At size zero, she was definitely hot, but today the new mom is fit—still glowing, despite that cold. “I don’t know how the size-zero thing started—but I was only 27 and I wanted to do it for a role. It looked amazing, but that was then. I’ve been in the business for a long time since, and I’m more mature— now, it’s about being fit. I’m definitely comfortable in my skin right now.” The 20 kilos that Kareena put on during her pregnancy are long gone, thanks to a diet of healthy eating and regular workouts. “I’ve never been fat, but I’m a Punjabi girl—I like my food. I ate well when I was pregnant— sometimes too well. I’d put away six parathas, and eat white butter. But I avoided all processed foods and kept myself super active. Two months after Taimur was born, I started working out, first with light workouts, then to cardio, yoga and Pilates a few times a week.” Former model and Kareena’s all-round bestie since they were teenagers, Amrita Arora Ladak says that despite all the drama surrounding her, Kareena has always found a way to keep it real. “She doesn’t let it affect her at all. There’s no sense of grandeur about Kareena. She’s always been really normal, doing regular things, surrounding herself with real friends, not sycophants,” explains Ladak, who, along with her sister Malaika Arora and Kareena’s own sister Karisma Kapoor, is part of the trusted inner circle that surrounds Kareena.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE The conversation soon turns to the real star of the family—baby Taimur, who just celebrated his first birthday. Taimur has been the focus of much attention, ever since he was born, and everything about him (including his parents’ choice of name for him) has been dissected and discussed at great length by the country’s press. Surprisingly, and tellingly, this doesn’t bother the Khans. They have bigger and better things commanding their attention: like how they want to bring up their son—quietly and well. Both Saif and Kareena were themselves raised by highprofile parents, but both were consciously kept out of the limelight growing up—Saif was sent to school in England, while Kareena’s parents tried to keep it as normal as they could for someone born into Bollywood’s first family. Those were different times, though; the paparazzi was not as aggressive and intimidating as it is today. In a phone conversation, Saif tells me how little it bothers him: “Attention is a funny thing,” he says, “The more you avoid it, the more chaos it creates.” He also tells me how much he’s enjoyed watching Kareena transform over the years from a young girl to a very-much-in-control mother. “I love that she’s such a committed, concerned mother. She’s always been a very loving person, but having Taimur has just brought a different love and warmth to her. When she carries Taimur, he looks so much like her; he’s an extension of her.” But the couple don’t always agree on their parenting
approach. “Saif is quite English in his approach. I’m quite the Punjabi—I’m always cuddling my son. Saif has to tell me off for squeezing him till he can barely breathe! But he’s only one and I want to enjoy this as much as I can. It’s important for us to create a happy atmosphere in which Taimur can thrive. Obviously, as a working mum, I want to make sure we raise a happy and independent child,” she adds. Crucial to her child’s happiness, she says, is for his parents to be happy. And an important part of Kareena’s happiness is to be able to control her career, picking roles that are worth her while. “I’m hesitant to call Veere Di Wedding a comeback film, because I never really went away. I’m fortunate enough to still get plenty of great scripts to read, ut when Rhea [Kapoor] came to me with this film, I was excited at the prospect of working on a film that is produced by women and stars four strong women.” Saif is quick to compliment his wife’s ability to multitask. “Kareena is brilliant at time management. Sometimes, I don’t even realise that she’s made a movie and come back home!” Between work, the couple tries hard to coordinate schedules so that one of them is around to watch their son. “I took him with me when I shot recently in Delhi, and his grandmother was around, so it was good for him,” says Kareena. But there are times when she won’t take Taimur—like during this Vogue shoot at the Amanpuri beach resort in Phuket, when Saif took charge at home. But with a child and their careers, it isn’t always easy to find that much-needed down-time. In fact, Kareena says she has barely seen her husband the last few months as he’s been busy shooting Sacred Games, a Netflix Original series based on Vikram Chandra’s book by the same name, even as she wraps up Veere Di Wedding. They’re now looking forward to their annual vacation to Gstaad, where the couple has been holidaying for the last decade. “We love the anonymity that we get in London, or in Switzerland. Friends from London join us, and we can do regular things like going for a run or sitting around a fire. We’re also excited about introducing Taimur to snow,” she adds. We’ve been talking for over an hour, and not once has Kareena checked her phone. I could continue for longer, but I’m mindful that there’s a baby in the nursery who’s waiting for his mother. “Not to worry,” she says, adding that she’s got nowhere in particular to go. The stops enroute, though, have been worth the while.