Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tiara trio

Kareena Kapoor is in Dubai shooting round the clock for Main Aur Mrs Khanna with Salman Khan. “They only have me till the end of the week, so we have to wrap up work,” she says briskly. Priyanka Chopra is in and out of cinema halls with director Madhur Bhandarkar checking audience reaction to her new film, Fashion. “I was really nervous about shouldering a film on my own, so I’m glad it worked,” she says as she walks away from the event. Katrina Kaif, just back from a shoot in Philadelphia, is in the middle of shooting an advertisement for Nakshatra, a brand where she has replaced Aishwarya Rai. “My own time? What’s that? I guess only when I’m in the car, listening to my iPod in between shoots.” With 18 days for endorsements and four movies a year, it’s clear why. They’re Bollywood’s tiara trio, women who are opening movies, pushing brands, making public appearances, and keeping news television and colourful tabloids alive. All in between fittings for movies, photo shoots for magazine covers and power partying. Kareena’s latest release, the Rs 25-crore Golmaal Returns, a no-brainer comedy which starred four men, had her at the forefront of the publicity, powering two music videos for the movie’s promotion. The movie has already made Rs 35 crore in the first week. Priyanka’s new film, released in the same week, had her in almost every frame, tracing her arc from a small time wanna-shine to supermodel and back. The film has practically no recognisable male lead, and those who are well-known play gay. Yet the Rs 17.5-crore Fashion made Rs 20 crore in the first week. Katrina, who has successfully played arm candy to Akshay Kumar in a series of blockbusters, Namaste London, Welcome and most recently Singh is Kinng, is now practically the face of Subhash Ghai’s new film Yuvvraaj.
Even as she looks very fetching in an updo and a cello, it’s almost easy to forget that the movie features three male stars, Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor and Zayed Khan. It’s not unusual. Four years ago, Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukerji and Preity Zinta were the gilded lilies. Between them, they had the finest directors, the best endorsements and the tabloid space. But that was then. Now Kareena is working with Rajkumar Hirani in 3 Idiots opposite Aamir Khan, Priyanka is wrapping up a film with Vishal Bhardwaj and about to start one with Ashutosh Gowariker, while Katrina, in a huge departure from her sensuous swan image, is playing a “very simple girl” in Rajkumar Santoshi’s Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahani and a “no make-up part” in Prakash Jha’s Rajniti. Kareena has seven brands, Priyanka is the face of another seven while Katrina pushes six products.It’s not been easy. All of them often work 14-hour days, if not more, and make sure they’re surrounded by the right people to advise them. Priyanka’s “fantastic four” has a manager to handle her films, another manager to look after her ads, a publicist and an assistant for “the personal stuff”. Kareena and Katrina share the same media company and endorsement agency, apart from separate secretaries who manage their film schedules.
Clearly, they’ve learned to delegate to keep their brands alive. As Priyanka says, “There was a time when I would try to do everything on my own, whether it was reading a film script, looking at the ad storyboard or checking a poster. But I make sure I have the right people to advise me now that the scale is bigger.”
Indeed. Kareena has waited eight years to get to a point where she can carry a film, and is now looking for her very own Erin Brockovich. She’s also smart enough to know not to accept the blank cheques that are sometimes offered to her. “They’re a lot of people out there who’re ready to make a glamorous Rs 40-crore Kareena Kapoor movie. I’ve got to be careful. I’d rather work in something like A Wednesday,” she says.
So careful she says that she hasn’t had a holiday in a year-and-a-half. “I haven’t met my dad in nine months and he’s a little upset with me. Even when I’m in Mumbai, where I live with my mother, I get home at 2 a.m. and am out again by 8 a.m. Sleep is a luxury I can’t afford.” Which is why come December 25, she’s going to unplug her phone and take off for a vacation with her family. It’s the same with Priyanka, who says sleep is such a waste of time. “I work 18-hour days. I’m lucky I have such an understanding family and friends. They’re always dropping by on the sets. And when I’m outdoors, there’s nothing more I like than my mom waiting for dinner in the hotel room,” she says. Ditto Katrina.


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