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Karisma Kapoor speaks about her three decades in showbiz, lineage in movies and more

Recently, the charming Karisma was in Calcutta for the inaugural event of Ladies Study Group’s 2024-25 session, titled Bollywood and Beyond, at Taj Bengal

Priyanka A. Roy Published 09.06.24, 10:06 AM
Karisma Kapoor

Karisma Kapoor

For those growing up in the ’90s on a diet of Bollywood films, the name Karisma Kapoor is almost nostalgic. Be it her on-screen presence, stealing the show in her films with the Khans, or her glamorous off-screen appearances setting style trends, she inspired dreams and became an idol for many. With the all-pervasive Instagram influencing life so strongly now, for millennials and the Gen-Zs, too, Karisma is no less of an inspiration. Whether living life in zen mode as seen on Insta, exuding positive vibes or styling up attractively simple, she never fails to be at the top of her game. Recently, the charming Karisma was in Calcutta for the inaugural event of Ladies Study Group’s 2024-25 session, titled Bollywood and Beyond, at Taj Bengal. The diva spoke in her inimitable candid style, about her life in Bollywood, shooting in Calcutta, her love for food, staying cool and more.



The Kapoor family has been an integral part of the Bollywood film industry across four generations. Be it their appealing screen presence or unique acting skills, their contribution to the industry are undeniable. Starting with the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor, followed by actor-director Raj Kapoor, the lineage continues till today. Karisma Kapoor is the eldest grandchild of Raj Kapoor. At the LSG event, on being pointed out that she must have been his favourite grandchild, the actress showed a shy acceptance of the remark. “I don’t know if I was his favourite, but I had this connection. I have his eyes. It was just him and me, and now, Taimur and Raha have it. This is the lineage of the eye colour. He gave us a beautiful value system, which I have tried to pass on to my children, and hopefully, some talent, too,” said Karisma.

While growing up, Karisma’s Sundays were spent at the R.K. Studios watching his grandfather make films. The bug of becoming an actor bit her there, she said. Recalling the moment, she shared: “We used to go to his place for lunch on Sundays. If he were shooting a movie, I would go to R.K. Studios. Once, they were shooting Prem Rog at that time… I was seven or eight years old and there was this trolley shot with Padmini Kolhapure… he was explaining the shot and I was so intrigued by the way he was explaining. It was a very intriguing shot going on in a haveli set. I just thought to myself that this is such a cool profession. And maybe I want to be hanging out on this set someday and maybe I also want to contribute like my family. That was when the germ came out that I would also like to be an actor. I was 13 or 14 when he passed away and by that time I also told him that I wanted to be an actress. And he was like ‘It is not going to be an easy job. Are you ready? It is not a bed of roses. Here, you are coming on a Sunday to watch shooting but it is going to be a path of thorns. You have to walk on the thorns to reach the roses.’ He was the first one to give me the advice that it is not going to be an easy ride.”

The Kapoors are a close-knit family and their Christmas lunches have always been a talking point within and outside the industry. Talking about the gala lunch every year, Karisma said: “Shashi uncle’s wife Jennifer aunty used to host this Christmas lunch. After she passed away, Shashi uncle did and then when he was no more, his son took over… Kunal Kapoor. Now, thanks to the family, all of us look forward to it. Unless we are shooting or it is a very important commitment, all of us always gather. Everyone makes an effort though everyone is busy.”

Her favourite Kapoor? It was a tough question but after a second’s hesitation, she promptly said: “Obviously my sister (Kareena Kapoor Khan). I am closest to her. But I would say Taimur and Jeh baba (Kareena’s sons), too, my two little ones are my favourites.”


If not an actor, what would Karisma choose to become? “Not an option. Nobody forced my sister and me to become actors. It was purely for the love of cinema. We used to talk about it in the home and family but nobody said that we have to continue this. It just came from within us and it was purely from the love for performing. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Karisma.

Her grandfather, Raj Kapoor, had been her screen idol and next is her sister, Kareena Kapoor Khan. “He was very inspirational. The kind of films he made, the personality that he had, the life he made, the camera he had, the kind of things he taught to his children who taught us that, has continued so strongly…. And the other person is my sister. I really feel she is extremely strong and has worked throughout both her pregnancies, worked during her Covid pregnancy. So she had an incredible journey,” said a proud sister.

Looking back at her career so far, Karisma said: “I feel so grateful that not only have I been able to have a 30-year-long career but people remember those movies even today. In Dil To Pagal Hai, the character was so ahead of her time, she did not get the guy at the end…. I hope I have been an inspiration to the younger generation and people look up to me. People come up to me and say that. The award is an extra reward for me. The audience’s love comes first. Making my movies blockbuster and making them ahead of their time so that we can talk about it today… thanks to all of you guys. You are that jigsaw on that road that made it possible. I am very thankful for all the awards. Even the National Award was a huge excitement. I have my National Award framed at home.”


She started her career at the young age of 17. Six years later, Yash Raj Films’s Dil To Pagal Hai got her the National Award for the best supporting actress, and immense popularity. Her dancing talent was much appreciated, too. “Every actor had refused to do this movie, including me. Because nobody wanted to dance with Madhuri Dixit. Obviously, I grew up watching Madhuri and being such a great fan of hers from Ek do teen… and then Yashji and Adi again came to me and they were like ‘You have to do this movie’. I had not even heard the script. Most actors refused it, so I thought I shouldn’t do it either. Then when I heard the script I was like I have to do this and I must do this. It was my mum (yesteryear actress Babita) who really encouraged me and supported me and pushed me to do the kind of dances that I did. Obviously, an iconic movie with Shah Rukh, Madhuri and Yashji. I didn’t think I would get a National Award. But the role was so unusual. It was ahead of its time. Normally, in those days you had to be the heroine and win the hero. You had to get the guy. And here there’s an actress who was at the top of her game but not getting the guy. There were emotional scenes and she was so human that the audience really felt that and she became an iconic figure,” recalled Karisma.

Recalling her Dil To Pagal Hai popularity, she further said: “Dil To Pagal Hai brought about the concept of the fit heroine. I really didn’t do much. As a child, I have always been a dancer and swimmer. It happened naturally and we were wearing these fitted athleisure clothes and it really became a trend.”

Actors didn’t have an easy life back then. Pointing out how vastly the times have changed, she shared: “I worked at a time when we used to go behind the bushes to change. To go to the bathroom, we had to walk and walk and everyone used to see us walk and go. We used to knock on the doors of unknown houses and ask if we could change costumes because we had a song going on outside. From there to a time where 35 trailers are parked outside, the best of digital media… earlier we just dubbed for movies... we couldn’t see ourselves before it was on the 70mm screen. The growth that happened in Indian cinema… I am lucky enough to see it from close quarters. I think the thinking of the audience has changed a lot. So many films are doing well today. So many kinds of actors are being appreciated. I think we have only grown from strength to strength.”

Talking about her co-stars, Karisma said: “I am lucky and privileged that I got a chance to work with the Khans in multiple movies. We were all young and just starting out together and every actor and every human being is different. They have their own qualities. Like Aamir, who is a perfectionist, will perform after multiple rehearsals. While Salman is just the opposite. Then there’s Shah Rukh who is very helpful and takes care of the co-actor. When I was young, I would pick up from them. Govinda was such a nice dancer. I kind of learnt how to keep up with him. He was so fantastic that I had to be on my toes all the time. He used to push me to be my best all the time. We call him Chi Chi-ji and I was a huge fan of his from his Khudgarz days with Neelam. I had told my mom that I needed to go and see him. There was a stage performance in Shanmukhananda Hall and she had to take me there. I was awestruck seeing Govinda. He came up to me and said ‘You are a very special girl and something great will happen with you.’ I didn’t know I would be doing so many movies and dances with him. I did 12 of David Dhawan’s movies. Today the most important thing is it made everyone laugh. I am so glad that this genre of movies got that appreciation. People liked my dancing and I kept doing more and more. There are beautiful memories with David, Govinda and Salman.”


After enjoying popularity, love and recognition for over 30 years on the big screen, Karisma is now creating a buzz with her OTT appearance, too. Talking about her working experience on both platforms, she said: “I have been fortunate to do several different kinds of roles even earlier in my career. I think today it is about what touches my heart. People ask me what movie I am going to do next… I tell them I don’t know because I don’t even know if I will do a movie again! I work based on my instinct and from my heart. I don’t plan anything. So, in my upcoming OTT show, you all will see me in a very different role. It is obviously about doing something different which is creatively satisfying and also creatively different. It is amazing that the OTT platform is there for so many actors who were maybe not doing films earlier, are getting an opportunity. I love doing OTT. My show will be coming, which is based on a book of Calcutta… hopefully by the end of the year. But I feel the magic of cinema is what it is. Which, I feel, we can’t deny. I think OTT is the cherry on the top where actors are getting the amazing opportunity to maybe portray roles that are not getting made in the movies. But I think my first love would be going on a film set because it is very different. In OTT, the pace is different because we get to learn. The pace of a movie is very different from an OTT set. It is much tougher, much more fast-paced. When we are doing OTT shows, we might be doing scenes of multiple episodes in a day. You have to pick up the graph and do your homework to go on set.”

Speaking about women’s roles on screen today, she said: “I have a different theory to this. Women are being portrayed in a different light. The roles have improved. Today there are roles for a 17-year-old to a 73-year-old. There are actors today like Zeenatji working and there are newcomers. There’s so much out there and there’s so much available today to all the actors. But I have a different theory. There were movies like Mother India made at that time with such a strong character, today biopics are so popular but I did biopics in movies like Zubeidaa and Fiza, where women are very empowered and very strong. Like I said, they are improving but those key roles have always been around. Maybe they were fewer but they have been around and they have been really legendary roles.”

Talking about her uber-cool and active social media presence, she said: “Social media is a part of our lives today. I enjoy the platform and whatever I like to share, I share. We should take social media for what it is and not take it too seriously. I love doing yoga. I am not a huge gym fan. But you’ll never see me in gym clothes. It is my private space. Honestly, I am just myself. I don’t take anything too seriously. When I am in my home, I am in my pyjamas and even in my oldest T-shirt possible. Even if I have a day off, I will be lazing around at home. That pressure doesn’t exist for me. It is very important that I go to the market and walk on the road. I like to be normal. That’s something very important for me and it keeps the family grounded. Some are on this side and some are on that side.”


Talking about her career break, Karisma said: “I took a break out of choice. I wanted to be at home. I am lucky and privileged that I got the chance to make that choice. I wanted to hold back and be there. I feel kids grow up fast and you miss those moments and I wanted to be there. Because when we take up a movie it is going to take up nearly 100 days of our time and I didn’t want to lose out on those moments for both my children. I continued to work. I did endorsements but movie-wise I didn’t take up a very big project at that time. It was my choice and I really enjoyed that. I did a radio show. I wrote a book. I was trying to change the tide which is popular today like podcasts and radio and so many avenues but I did it 10-12 years ago. And this book is important to me. Why this is called the My Yummy Mummy Guide is because after you have a baby, life is not over. It is amazing that you had a baby. It gives you insight and inspiration. The idea was to empower women and make them feel good.”

On her speed dial are her sister and her daughter (Samaira). “I am super-protective of my sister. Till today we are very protective of each other. She has such a smart personality, she as a child also knew what she wanted to do. She always had that vision. But I am very protective of her. She is my first baby. Then Samaira and Kiaan, Taimur and Jeh. I have many children!” said Karisma.


Talking about the causes she likes to lend her voice to, Karisma said: “There are various causes but something that is important to me today, I think post-Covid I realised, is child safety. Also, I think, people getting old is something people don’t take seriously and I think old age and being there for our parents and grandparents, I feel strongly about it. I am looking into this area. After Covid, so many people were left alone that this is one topic that I want to pursue. There are so many of my friends who organise things, I will always take part. As someone who is a known face, it is so important for us to lend our face and voice wherever we can.”

Pictures from the LSG session: Rashbehari Das

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