She is three films old in Hindi cinema, and of her 20 releases, nine have been in Kannada, including Super Ranga, for which she won the SIIMA award for Best Actress (Critics). Having also done Tamil and Telugu films, Kriti Kharbanda is now busy with six assignments, three in Hindi (her next release Veerey Ki Wedding on March 2, Yamla Pagla Deewana 3, and a cameo in Karwan). She also has three films in Kannada - Dalapathi (in post-production) and two more announced - Raana and Sanju Mattu Geetha 2.
Kriti's third Hindi release, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana, has put her in the league of actors of substance, who could carry off a meaty role. Uniquely, the film took off slowly but added 100 screens across the country on public demand in the third week. As Kriti crows, "I got a hit in Hindi at last."
Flawed yet perfect
Voluble to the extreme, the perky actor loves to laugh and has the rare gift of making friends instantly. She is also uncompromising in her approach to work and determined that she is destined for better things. As she puts it, "I relate completely not only to Aarti, my character in Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana, but also to Geet in Veerey Ki Wedding. Geet is lovable, flawed, has an attitude, is arrogant, and demanding yet loving. She puts pressure on those close to her, but then, she is just being genuine - a child who has never matured."
On the other hand, like Aarti, Kriti is stubborn, a realist who knows she can get where she wants with hard work. With most A-list stars opting to work so much with new heroines, does she feel that she will soon be one of the chosen ones? "Of course, I see myself evolving into a bigger, better league," she says decisively.
"Given an opportunity, I can give whatever is needed for any character. I can go to a gym, develop a figure needed for the role, and give my 100% to the character. A director should be comfortable about visualising me in a challenging role."
Opportunities, opines the bubbly actor, are never to be frittered away. "I just did a short film for OPPO with Mohit Suri," says Kriti. "Thanks to that, many people have come to know me. So, I think that we cannot look down on any kind of work - an ad-film, a music video, anything can be a ticket to the big league. For example, Deepika Padukone was noticed by Farah Khan in a Himesh Reshammiya music video!"
So far, most of her Hindi films, except for her debut Raaz Reboot, have been comedies. How does she choose films? "One cannot judge a comedy film on paper, so I go with my gut feeling," she replies. "Frankly, I heard Veerey's... narration from producer Karan more as a friend. So I thought, my co-star Pulkit Samrat is doing Fukrey Returns, I have done Shaadiâ€¦, so we should both do a comedy together."
After Shaadiâ€¦'s success, however, Kriti's priorities have changed. "Offers have increased, I cannot lie. But I have become choosy, stricter with myself," she says. "I will not do a film now for the heck of it, or only for money." So, which of her 20 films has she done that way? "No-o-o-o! I am not telling you that!" she chortles.
What does she have to say about the title clash with Sonam Kapoor's Veerey Di Wedding and the fact that their demands to change this title were rejected by the Indian Motion Pictures Producers' Association? "Shall I say something that Pulkit keeps telling the media?" she asks. "We both came into the film after that issue was settled. And there would have been confusion only if both movies had released on the same day," she laughs.
About her next film, Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se, which is generally referred to as Yamla Pagla Deewana 3, she quips, "I am the '3' of the title." How was her experience there? "All I felt was 'S**t, yaar, I did not get to romance Dharam uncle!' because he's still so handsome," she raves.
She recalls, "At 82, he clicked photographs, standing and posing with each and every one of some 150 fans who had come to see him at Ramoji Film City, where we were shooting. People told him to do group pictures, or at least sit down, but he determinedly said, 'They have come all the way to see me. Photos to main loonga hi (I will definitely take pictures)'. And he later told me, 'They call us heroes. But these people are the real heroes. If they decide not to watch your film, producers will not get back the money they spend on us.'"
She admits that he was scared of Sunny Deol initially, but after she asked him to say his famous 'Dhai kilo ka haath' line, it broke the ice. "He keeps pulling my leg, and in two serious sequences, we both burst out guffawing at some memory, and had to do re-takes." Bobby, her actual co-star, is "like a chilled-out buddy, who likes people around him, sits on the sets between shots, and is very candid. All three are such fabulous people." Kriti nods her head vigorously when asked if she has a song with them all. "I do! I do! And I am angry also that one song is without me," she declares. So, who is the best dancer among them? "Of course, Dharam uncle," she says. "That's a safe answer to which both sons would agree."
Another unsafe question: who would she like to particularly work with among the Khans? "You are trying to land me in trouble," she says in mock anger. "Saif Ali Khan! That's a safe answer. No, seriously, I think he's the most stylised guy I have seen. And I actually dated a guy once just because he looked like Saif."
When did she start wanting to be an actor? "I did not plan anything," she replies. "But I was such a drama queen that from the time was I was two years old, my mother felt I was going to be an actor. Everyone generally thought that I would be Ekta Kapoor's biggest-ever heroine, bigger than Smriti Irani. And that was because I was so dramatic in real life. I would go to my dad, have tears rolling down my eyes, and ask him, 'You don't love me at all, na?' and he would tell mom, 'Where did you get this girl from?'"