Kareena is keeping it real for every working girl – Not one to be deterred by childbirth, Kareena Kapoor Khan is very much open for business
(Right) Kareena Kapoor Khan continued to remain social and visible throughout her pregnancy and post-delivery; (left) show-stopper for Anita Dongre (Yogen Shah)
Just 45 days after Kareena Kapoor Khan gave birth, she graced the grand finale of the Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) Summer/Resort 2017 as show-stopper for designer Anita Dongre. The 36-year-old sashayed in a delicately embroidered dull white and gold jacketed chanderi gown, messy bouffant and minimal makeup.
“I love the way she walked the ramp, with her chubby cheeks and no corset to trim her body fat,” gushed a veteran Bollywood journalist. “She never hid her body during pregnancy or post-motherhood but stayed her glamourous best,” she says, adding how she loved the olive-gold gown the heavily pregnant Kapoor wore for LFW’s Winter/Festive 2016 as designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s show-stopper.
Tag the bump
This commercialisation (some might say) and glamorisation of her pregnancy is an important step. She works in an industry where her acting capabilities come second to her sex appeal, and actresses have very short careers as protagonists. Yet at 36, she’s elasticised her career more than those who came before her — Rani Mukherjee, Kajol, Preity Zinta, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
Job insecurity begins nipping at the heels of female actors the second they get married. While Rai, Kajol and Mukherjee went underground when they were expecting (the movie releases came down to a trickle after marriage), they surfaced only for endorsements related to motherhood — not sexy women still in the mating game.
Clothes that spoke
Kareena worked through her pregnancy like all ambitious women who love their job. Her public appearances were chic, not puffy-face. She remained a viable commodity — attractive and sexy. Instead of picking the beatific content mother goddess narrative, she picked the Amazonian Warrior visual story — her clothes were not pastel-coloured smocks with polka dots. She kept the colours saturated with jewel-tones, the cleavage ample, the accessories sharp and the heels, spiky.
The side-effect was that it put pressure on women without her resources to look rosy-cheeked and pouty-lipped. The antidote to this is to appear in public without camouflaging the adipose. It’s a strategy that’s worked before: After receiving flak for setting the wrong example with her ‘Size Zero’ turn in Tashan, she quickly advocated that ‘real girls have curves’ and promoted eating healthy instead of crash dieting.
“I may not be size zero right now but as long as I look great, I can take that walk,” Kareena told a newspaper before the ramp walk. Notably, Lakmé Cosmetics is one of her most lucrative endorsements and as its ambassador, she’s been the show-stopper at the finale for more than five seasons of the fashion week.
This normalising all stages of childbearing through visibility is a signal that she can still do her job and will do it for as long as she wants. Two days before her delivery, Kapoor lunched with Karisma and BFF Amrita Arora. About her active social life, Kapoor told a publication: “In India, women are conditioned to hide themselves till they get back to the ‘right’ size… If you’ve put on a bit of weight when you’re pregnant, it’s okay. It’s the only time you can proudly flaunt the extra kilos and say ‘I’m a woman, and this is what God has made, and it’s such a beautiful thing.”
There’s no escaping the pressure though. “I’m a little less nervous about the rest of my pregnancy as I am about getting back into shape,” she told a newspaper. And so the casual appearances continue — dinner and lunches with family and friends; salon visits are documented by paparazzi.
Plan of action
Kapoor didn’t resort to a Beyonce-in-knickers-announcement that the stork’s paid her a visit. While Saif issued a simple statement to the press, Kareena just continued to do her ads, films – Udta Punjab and Veere Di Wedding and brand endorsements – 16 brands and each Rs 3-5 crore as fee. The day after she gave birth, the ad for a home pregnancy test kit that she endorsed, featured in leading newspapers. “I’ve been keeping myself so busy that Saif says ‘You’ll have this baby in Mehboob Studios!’ she told a publication, adding, “Being pregnant doesn’t give you an excuse to be lazy. I’ve always been a fit girl, and that’s key… I’m dressing up and feeling good.”
When asked about work plans, she retorted why nobody had asked Saif whether he would continue working after the baby.
Industry watchers think Bollywood will churn out enough meaty roles for this new mother, because for starters, she never went on maternity leave. “With Kareena, there is no ‘intermission ke baad’,” says Chandrima Pal, film journalist and author. She adds that Kapoor has perfected the art of staying in circulation.
Pal points out that she’s escaped patriarchal plans — she escaped the patriarchal Kapoor clan when her mother walked out of it and also marrying into a moneyed family who wanted a trophy wife, like her sister. “She’s got huge aspirational value because, a. She’s a good-looking, fair-skinned Kapoor; b. Married into royalty; and c. She chooses interesting roles,” says Pal, listing Kapoor’s chemistry with a younger actor in Ki & Ka as example.
However, a freelance film writer says Kareena can learn to stay afloat from none other than mother-in-law and former censor board chief, Sharmila Tagore, who played the lead in Aradhana, Mausam and Amar Prem, after her marriage.
Another journalist says that she doesn’t see Kareena become a housewife, run a boutique, turn fashion designer or launch candles. “I can only see her acting till the last day.”