x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Katrina Kaif: A true Bollywood beauty

Interviews with Bollywood actors have always been somewhat precarious.

It was a lightning trip to India - the kind that foreign journalists take advantage of, and write travel pieces such as a "36 hours in India" or "A walking tour of Delhi".

I was about to embark on a fascinating journey - something I didn't quite grasp until I was staring at Katrina Kaif. The statuesque actress, whose latest sultry number, Sheela ki Jawani (Sheela's youth) has the entire Indian subcontinent (and possibly every expat in the world) drooling over the video, launched a global dance competition last week. Entrants visit the Next Stop Bollywood Facebook page, dance to the music that is hosted there, upload the video and wait for votes. The prize? Lots of money and goodies from Etihad, along with a chance to have lunch with Kaif.

My late-night flight to Delhi was packed with people not going to pay a Bollywood star a visit. In my years in journalism, interviews with Bollywood actors have always been somewhat precarious. If they are in a good mood, that's fantastic. Otherwise, waiting for one of them can stretch for hours. Sometimes, there are monosyllabic answers and there are also occasions when some of them can be outright rude and obnoxious, or simply unprofessional.

Most of Bollywood's actresses should thank their entourage of wardrobe people, make-up artists and lighting assistants because no matter how beautiful an Indian woman is, most of them were not born with the kind of allure that Kaif brings about naturally.

This, I have discovered is not proportional to their ability to rise from being a decent actor to a great one. In the latter category, Shah Rukh Khan comes to mind: humble, interesting and genuine. I'll refrain from naming the bad ones. It will spoil the fun of the guessing game.

However, always with every one of these interviews, what has always struck me was how much smaller such stars are in person. It is said that the famous are always smaller in real life. That is true of Khan, who, unlike the muscled character who appears on screen, is rather diminutive in person. Akshay Kumar is slender, almost thin, even though when he takes his shirt off on screen and fires a dozen guns at the same time, it does not seem that way.

This applies to everyone except Kaif. Without inserting exclamation marks here, she is the first impressively tall Bollywood actress I have met. And that face? Well, the camera does not do it justice. It is a pity because if this is the future of Bollywood, then a readjustment to the technical tools is in order.