Days after giving delivery to her first baby – an emergency caesarean after the twine had wrapped itself across the child’s neck – Kareena Kapoor Khan stood undressed and alone in entrance of a mirror in her bed room. “There I used to be: scarred, chubby, puffy, drained,” she remembers of that second in 2016. “I noticed the child bulge, the darkish circles, the dressing bandage of my C-incision. I can’t describe how I felt.”
The picture is stark; in spite of everything, if there’s such a factor as Bollywood royalty, Kapoor Khan is it. The daughter of Bollywood legends, usually described as among the many most glamorous ladies in Bollywood, she is married to one of the main actors of Hindi cinema and over twenty years has grow to be one of India’s most bankable stars.
Nonetheless, 20 years within the limelight has not stopped Kapoor Khan being open about elements of her life that almost all celebrities hold hidden. This has all the time set her aside in Bollywood and it’s this method that she has introduced to her most up-to-date undertaking.
On the floor, Kapoor Khan’s e-book – described as a bible of sensible pregnancy recommendation formed round her expertise of giving delivery to two sons – seems to be an uncontroversial piece of superstar publishing. But, for the Indian market, it’s a quietly revolutionary providing inside the style. The subject of intercourse and libido throughout pregnancy, for instance, is roofed extensively, together with a useful vary of advised sexual positions. Additionally, she offers with the stigmas and trauma that may comply with C-sections, which she says are nonetheless broadly misunderstood in India.
“No person wants to talk about belching and swollen ft and not feeling attractive sufficient, or hair loss, or getting such dangerous temper swings you don’t even really feel like speaking,” she says. “That’s why we talk about intercourse within the e-book. Most ladies in India get scared to deal with this difficulty. However these are issues that we ought to be speaking about.”
For all of the glitz that surrounds her life, Kapoor Khan doesn’t appear to have a celebrity ego once we meet in her condo in Mumbai, the monsoon rains thundering down outdoors. She is dressed casually in leggings and an outsized T-shirt, her face recent and makeup-free; she has simply been enjoying together with her five-year-old, Taimur. She settles in comfortably, together with her naked ft scrunched up on a inexperienced velvet couch. She could also be 41, however it’s not lengthy earlier than she is describing herself as a gobby Punjabi lady who “likes to say it as it’s”.
“I’ve by no means actually completed something in my life that’s half-baked. If I do it, I give it my all,” she says with a large smile. Till 5 years in the past, that had meant primarily throwing herself into an limitless stream of movie roles, from her celebrated debut, at 20, in 2000’s Refugee, to starring in a few of the largest Hindi movies this century, equivalent to Jab We Met, 3 Idiots and Bodyguard. Regularly billed because the “most stunning lady in India”, she has featured in commercials for the whole lot from gold and diamonds to disinfectant.
When Kapoor Khan turned pregnant together with her first baby, she felt that the unstated expectation was that she, as a girl within the public eye, would cover away for the following 9 months or so. As an alternative, she went “weapons blazing, full throttle” into a really public pregnancy.
“Most Bollywood actors, after they get pregnant, don’t depart the home as a result of they’re pressured about how they give the impression of being, that they’re now not this glamorous diva, fearful in the event that they put on some weight that individuals will choose them. There’s nonetheless quite a lot of these taboos,” she says. “However I simply needed to personal it.”
She roars with laughter as she recounts how she put on 4st (26kg) throughout her first pregnancy, having “misused it as an excuse to eat all of the pizzas and no matter I needed”. However regardless of her fears of how it might have an effect on the Bollywood profession she was decided to proceed after giving delivery, Kapoor Khan posted images on social media of her struggling to match into denims. She continued working on movie initiatives, shot varied promoting campaigns and was papped at quite a few events together with her bump on full show – a rarity within the contrived world of Bollywood.
“It wasn’t about difficult society in India as a lot as I needed to attempt to normalise issues,” she says. “Pregnancy is fairly frequent, so why are we making an attempt to cover it backstage?”
This 12 months, throughout a photoshoot for the sports brand Puma while eight months pregnant together with her second baby, Jehangir, she rebuffed any options that the images needs to be retouched. “I don’t need my images airbrushed as a result of I’m not trying as skinny as Kate Moss … I don’t need to appear to be that in my images.”
The e-book, she says, was an try to reply the questions that quite a lot of Indian ladies had been too afraid to convey up at residence; usually, they stay with their husband’s dad and mom. “A variety of the time, they will’t talk about their feelings, they don’t open up, as a result of in our society quite a lot of issues aren’t actually addressed, particularly for ladies.” Kapoor Khan’s reservations about having kids, as an bold, career-minded lady, are touched on in her e-book, as is the actual fact she briefly thought of surrogacy.
At first look, Kapoor Khan has the basic Bollywood origin story. It’s an business constructed on dynasties and nepotism and the Kapoors are sometimes described as the “founding family of Indian cinema”, relationship again to Prithviraj Kapoor, who starred in India’s first speaking image, Alam Ara, in 1931. 5 generations of the household have gone into appearing, producing or directing. Kapoor Khan’s father, Randhir Kapoor, was one of the large Hindi actors of the 70s, whereas her mom, Babita, was the romantic lead in virtually 20 Bollywood movies within the late 60s and early 70s.
By the point she was an adolescent within the early 90s, although, Kapoor Khan’s dad and mom’ careers had dried up. Her father had requested her mom to cease working in movie after they married (they separated amicably when Kapoor Khan was eight) and her father had all however stopped working after a collection of flops within the mid-80s. It was her older sister, Karisma, who impressed her to work in Bollywood.
At 17, Karisma had deserted faculty to pursue appearing; by 18, she was starring in a few of the largest field workplace hits of the early 90s. As a rebellious, boy-obsessed teenager, Kapoor Khan was dispatched by her mom to a ladies’ boarding faculty within the mountainous state of Uttarakhand. When she returned to Mumbai, she enrolled in movie faculty and by 2000 had landed her first main function, in Refugee; she performed the Bangladeshi romantic lead within the movie, set through the 1971 Indo-Pakistani warfare.
Kapoor Khan is dismissive of accusations of nepotism, adamant that neither she nor her sister has ever been given a task on the idea of something apart from laborious work. “When Karisma joined the movie business, she was the one one within the household working. So it was us, the ladies, who took the dynasty ahead,” she says.
Her profession was in full flight in 2012 when she determined to marry Saif Ali Khan, whom she had met on set. He was 10 years her senior and beforehand married, with two kids. It was a transfer that met with raised eyebrows in Bollywood circles.
“After I married Saif, so many individuals advised me that my profession can be over as a result of no producer wants to work with a married actress,” she says. “At the moment, no different Bollywood actress received married and then continued to work. However I simply thought: OK, effectively, if it does finish my profession, then that’s positive, that’s my future. I’m not going to not marry the person who I really like.”
Kapoor Khan believes a lot has modified in Bollywood. Equal pay for male and feminine actors, for instance, whereas removed from the norm, has lastly grow to be a part of the dialog. Actors equivalent to Anushka Sharma are difficult the truth that ladies routinely receives a commission 1 / 4 of what their male co-stars obtain; Deepika Padukone has mentioned she has turned down roles as a result of she was not paid the identical as her male co-stars.
“Only a few years in the past, no one would talk about a person or lady really getting equal pay in a film. Now there are quite a lot of us being very vocal about it,” says Kapoor Khan. Current unconfirmed information that she had requested for 120m rupees, about £1.2m, for her starring function within the Bollywood recreation of the Hindu epic Ramayana, provoked outrage in India, with experiences accusing her of greed and suggesting that she get replaced with a youthful actor. However that determine pales as compared with the 500m to 1.3bn rupees demanded by a few of Bollywood’s largest male stars.
“I make it fairly clear what I need and I believe that respect needs to be given,” she says. “It’s not about being demanding, it’s about being respectful in the direction of ladies. And I believe issues are type of altering.”
But for all Kapoor Khan’s steely willpower to communicate her thoughts, there’s one space through which she conforms uniformly to the Bollywood stereotype: any point out of the federal government and she recoils. Bollywood has all the time stayed shut to the corridors of energy in India, the place each movie requires approval from the federal government’s censorship board. Actors who’re thought of too political are sometimes perceived as a legal responsibility.
As India continues to lurch in the direction of the authoritarian proper below the Hindu nationalist authorities of Narendra Modi, strain for Bollywood to communicate out – as their Hollywood counterparts have completed within the face of leaders equivalent to Donald Trump – has been mounting. The liberty of film-makers to make politically difficult work has been shrinking below the Modi authorities, whereas quite a few wildly inaccurate “historic epics” that bolster Hindu nationalist ideology and sentiment have been produced. A lot of Bollywood’s largest names are Muslim at a time when anti-Muslim sentiment, violence and laws has been growing. Many individuals imagine Hindu and Muslim actors ought to use their highly effective positions to make a stand.
Kapoor Khan, who’s Hindu, and her husband, who’s Muslim, have been caught up on this maelstrom. They had been subjected to brutal on-line abuse by rightwing Hindu trolls over their kids’s names. The couple had been accused of naming their sons after Muslim invaders answerable for killing Hindus and Sikhs: Taimur was the name of a Turkic conqueror who violently sacked Delhi in 1398, whereas Jehangir, which implies “conqueror of the world”, was the imperial title of a 17th-century Mughal emperor. Trolls likened their selections to naming their kids after Hitler or a “genocidal maniac”.
The abuse received so dangerous that they thought of altering Taimur’s title. With Jehangir, they tried to conceal his title from the general public by referring to him as Jeh, however it leaked out. The topic remains to be so delicate that after I put it to Kapoor Khan, the publicist sitting beside her hurriedly tries to halt the query.
However Kapoor Khan holds up her hand. “It’s OK; I can reply this causally,” she says. “Truthfully, these are names that we simply preferred; it’s nothing else. They’re stunning names and they’re stunning boys. It’s unfathomable why anyone would troll kids. I really feel horrible about it, however I’ve to simply focus and get via it. I can’t be my life via the trolls.”
However does she fear about the religiously polarised India through which her kids are rising up? In spite of everything, she is a Hindu married to a Muslim at a time when a number of Indian states have nearly outlawed interfaith marriage below a false and damaging notion that Muslim males are marrying Hindu ladies so as to drive them to convert – what’s described as “love jihad”.
The publicist erupts once more as Kapoor Khan winces. “Please don’t ask me this query,” she says, trying apologetic. “You understand how it’s; it’s very difficult. I’m actually sorry.”
It’s definitely true that on the uncommon events a few of the massive names have made statements on this topic, they’ve been publicly obliterated. In 2015, Aamir Khan, a beforehand untouchable determine in Hindi movie, spoke of his fears of India’s “rising intolerance”, solely to be accused of being a part of a conspiracy to defame India. Swara Bhasker, lately a co-star of Kapoor Khan, is one of the few Bollywood actors fiercely outspoken in opposition to Modi; she faces an internet military of trolls, who harass her with each day loss of life and rape threats. Such incidents are why the comparability with Hollywood is unjust, says Kapoor Khan.
“We all the time attempt to examine the whole lot to the west, however we are able to’t do this, as a result of it’s a special society,” she says. In addition to, when it comes to anything, from pregnancy to the patriarchy, Kapoor Khan has not often stored her opinions to herself. “It’s unfair to say that we simply keep silent,” she says.