Karisma Kapoor: I quit because I had a burnout but I enjoyed being away from the limelight – Big Interview – Times of India

Karisma Kapoor was at the top of the marquee during the 90s as she struck a powerful partnership with stars like Govinda, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. Films like Raja Babu (1994), Coolie No. 1 (1995), Saajan Chale Sasural (1996) and Jeet (1996) established her stardom. Her association with Aamir Khan in Raja Hindustani (1996) and SRK in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) cemented her place at the top. And then she followed up with a bevy of hits in the late 90s, only to pivot her career into critical acclaim with movies like Fiza (2000) and Zubeidaa (2001) which even won her awards. But then, just as swiftly as her meteoric rise, Karisma quit acting to take care of her children Samaira and Kiaan. She enjoyed her time out of the spotlight. In this week’s Big Interview, Karisma looks back at her choice to quit with candour. She admits that she had a burn out and taking care of her family was most important. She also reveals why she hates the term ‘comeback’ and we begin the conversation by diving into her rapport and relationship with sister Kareena Kapoor Khan, who in all honestly picked the baton from where Karisma left it. Read on…
You’ve just played a cop in an investigative thriller called Brown. Your sister Kareena Kapoor Khan is also slated to play a cop in a murder mystery with Hansal Mehta. Have you and Kareena always been on the same page?
It’s not a conscious decision but I think it’s nice to be able to have the similarity. I would say we are lucky that we can bounce off ideas and discuss scripts. It’s how sisters are. Sometimes, you can talk to a friend and maybe they don’t really understand where you’re coming from. But I think Kareena and I are very lucky and fortunate that we can obviously talk about anything under the sun. Even when it comes to work, we just understand each other.

Have you two always influenced each other’s decisions whether it was in real life or your careers?
It’s how the banter turns out in the house. There’s obviously the regular sister stuff that’s going on – borrowing clothes, discussing films, talking about motherhood, being a family – that’s how Kareena and I can talk about anything under the sun. But it’s true, Kareena and I obviously supported each other and pushed each other through every phase in our lives. I think we always helped each other to hopefully do the right thing. For me, that’s been the beauty of my relationship with her.

Did a film or a character ever change your life? Were you forced to change your perspective?
Can I say something in good humour? Back in the day, during the ‘90s and 2000s, life, perception and emotions changed every Friday. Whether you wanted to or not, come Friday you had to change depending on the circumstances and the outcome of your releases. So then you kind of had to get yourself used to it. Today might be a Thursday and you might feel like nothing can happen tomorrow, but Friday would change everything. Moral of the story was you had to keep doing your best. Keep the focus, keep doing your best. And that’s all that mattered. I feel the key was to be sincere with everyone – the audience, people, film industry, directors, critics and everyone else. Just put your best foot forward and leave everything else to Friday.

When you compare the peak of your career to today’s times, how have things changed? Is the working atmosphere completely different? Is there still cut-throat competition?
It’s not about competition anymore. I think it’s a wonderful time to be an actor today. There are so many diverse roles out there today in the industry. There are so many interesting scripts on offer. People are making movies, shows and all sorts of content. It’s a very interesting time because the pursuit is about being an artiste and not about being a star. That’s the way I look at the change.

We’ve been told you don’t enjoy the term comeback. Why the aversion to that thought?
Oh my God. The word comeback, honestly, should be packed and parcelled away. Let’s not keep doing that to us actors. You tell me, when someone comes back to the office after a few years, is he or she making a comeback into the corporate world? He or she’s just back to work. And people just behave normally with that person. I think that should be the way with actors as well, whether they’re male or female. But especially for females. People tend to reference the ‘comeback’ label a little too often and too easily.

You did make your official comeback with Dangerous Ishq back in 2012.
It’s been more than 10 years. Let’s not do that. Let’s not call it a comeback. They don’t even do that in Hollywood. They never say that a particular actor is making a comeback. They just say an ex-actor is working in a new film now and how that’s cool and amazing. So, I think we should treat it like that as well.

Since Dangerous Ishq, in the past 10-odd years, do you feel you should have done more in terms of volume of work? Should you have signed more projects?
Honestly, it was out of my choice. My kids were young. I wanted to be at home. I started working at an unusually young age. I was working right out of school, literally. And I’d done so many movies back to back. I’ve worked four shifts a day and three shifts a day for multiple years. I would have 8 to 10 releases every year. Thankfully, most of them were successful. But the point was that I had done a lot of work and I think it reached a kind of burnout. And then it was my choice not to keep at it. I didn’t want to leave my home and get hurt. I didn’t want to go to an outdoor location for 100 days. It was my choice to take it easy.

Did you ever feel the need to get back into the spotlight?
I was very happy being away. People keep asking me, ‘How did you feel being out of the public eye?’ I loved that time. I would just be chilling and doing things at home. I had missed being with my family, missed doing things that kids do at a very young age. So, I caught up with all that and I enjoyed that phase. I’m very happy being out of the limelight.

Would you want to get back into the grind at some point in the future? Or will you prefer to take it easy?
As much as I enjoy being on a set, today, I need to be really motivated to go for a shoot. Let me put it this way, today, when I am offered a role like the one in Brown, I feel, ‘Oh my God, I need to go and do this’. I need that level of motivation to go to work. If you’re asking, what next? My answer would be, maybe I’ll work again, maybe I won’t. Kisko pata. I work from my heart. Whatever I’ve done in my life, I’ve done from my heart. I will continue to do that.

How much do your kids Samaira and Kiaan influence your decisions in terms of work right now?
Honestly, I think they’re happy that I am back on the sets. I think they know that mom was home for quite a while. And now, since they’re growing up, they say ‘Mom, you should work too’. I think they’re very supportive in that sense. They’re definitely pleased to see me out of the house.

Has either of them decided yet if they’re going to follow in their mother’s footsteps?
No, I think they’re too young. I like to keep them out of the limelight so they can just have a normal childhood. I think that is very important to me as a parent. I like that they have their anonymity right now.

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