Kriti Kharbanda: Shooting star from the South
Every time the song Pallo Latke from Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana plays on music channels on television, we witness a rather vivacious Kriti Kharbanda deliver the typical Bollywood moves with much panache alongside Rajkummar Rao. It's quite a different delineation from her first Bollywood film - Raaz Reboot. Perhaps, the only visuals Hindi audiences remember from the horror flick are those of a terrified Kriti. Her second film, though a comedy, Guest in London, didn't even get noticed at the box office.
All the more reason why, Kriti's latest film, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana that releases today, is critical for her proposed long innings in Bollywood. Yet, the young actress, who turned 27 this October and celebrated with a Halloween-themed party, seems prepared for whatever the outcome. In her chirpy, carefree voice, she tells us over the phone, "The fact that two of my films didn't work came to me as my biggest challenge. Now I have to make it work, there is no way I am going to compromise on that." Directed by debutante Ratnaa Sinha (director Anubhav Sinha's wife), the story is about a small-town girl who is ambitious in life and wants to achieve her dreams. At the same time wants to get married. Though everything seems hunky-dory, a sudden twist in circumstances on her wedding day leads her to a different path. Kriti plays this girl Arati Shukla opposite Rajkummar Rao, who portrays the role of Satyendra. Unlike her previous two Hindi films, Kriti's role in Shaadi... is closer to the ones she's played in South Indian movies. "When I gave the screen test for the film, Ratna ma'am initially was quite apprehensive, she said, 'I want you to play a small town girl's role, I don't know if you will be able to pull it off,' that's when I shared some of my pictures from South films in which I had done simple and unglamorous roles. Then she was like, 'Achcha! you can look like this as well.' Additionally, my good command over Hindi worked in my favour and I got this role," says Kriti.
The Raj effect rub-off
The biggest highlight of the film is certainly, Rajkummar Rao, the actor who has given a hit after hit this year in Bollywood. Despite his films being small budget projects (including this one), all his films have managed to rake in the moolah. Working with this powerhouse performer is another reason for Kriti to be positive about delivering a hit at the box office. She fondly remembers Rajkummar for being a great co-actor who has helped her simplify her approach to acting. "I used to ask him about how easily he slips into a character and makes it so believable. That's when he said, 'you can't have too many personalities in yourself at once. You just need to be the character.' That was it for me! Now I feel a lot like Arati though I am nothing like her in real life but I think Raj's trait has rubbed off on me," says Kriti, adding further, "Raj is the perfect co-actor because acting is about reacting and he helped me get it right." Now that the film has already garnered enough attention, Kriti is confident of a positive reaction from the audiences. She believes, it's the realistic characters that will certainly strike a chord with audiences across small towns and cities in India. Whether the film does well or not, Kriti is here to stay but it doesn't mean she has bid adieu to South films.
Journey up North
For someone who started her career with absolutely no connections in any of the film industries, be it South or Bollywood, the youngster has certainly made a mark. She debuted with the Telugu film Boni in 2009 which didn't impress the audience, but it got Kriti enough recognition and projects not just in Tollywood but also in Sandalwood. Since then, till her debut in Bollywood in 2016, Kriti had managed to consolidate her position as one of the sought-after actresses of the South Indian film industries. But it wasn't something she was satisfied with, "It had turned out to be my comfort zone and that's where a person will never grow. I was growing as a star, my money was getting better, but I felt I wasn't growing as an actor. I couldn't challenge myself anymore. It had become very easy. I was getting great roles and I performed. But after a point I felt there was no new challenge."
Kriti who had interacted with Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma during her modelling days was encouraged by their journey to Bollywood. But moving to Mumbai didn't mean she had luck on her side from day one. Kriti has had her share of struggles and two flops. But this hasn't cowed her down. In fact, the actress is quite frank when she says that the struggle was important to keep her rooted. "If I had been successful when I was younger, I would have gotten carried away and would have thought no end of myself. Today, everything I do is a challenge. I would never leave a place because I have failed. I genuinely don't care what people think about me. I will not go back from Mumbai because it hasn't worked. I am going to make sure that I succeed and do whatever I can, not to prove to the world but to prove to myself that I can do it."
Nevertheless, the actress is still keen on acting in Telugu films. Though offers had stopped coming to her from the time she moved to Mumbai, Kriti is now listening to Telugu scripts and has signed a Tamil film. For her the South film industries will always remain special because that's where it all started. "The Telugu industry has always been and will be my first love. That's where I found the actress Kriti in me," she says. But before she made up her mind to be an actor, Kriti's dream was to become a homemaker and a mother.
Another side to Kriti
Not many people, and certainly not her fans, would know that Kriti's ultimate dream was to get married and settle down in life. Coming from a family where most women were homemakers, Kriti's idea in life was, "To be a housewife, that was my dream! Everyone laughs when they hear it but that was the truth. Till the age of 25 all I wanted to do was to get married and have kids. But that's not what I want anymore," says the actor whose priorities have certainly changed in life. And the most important one being to get enough sleep! Kriti who has been busy promoting the film shares on a lighter note that she would like to break the world record of the person with the longest sleeping hours. "I don't get enough time to sleep, so even if I get half an hour's break, I catch a nap wherever I am," she signs off.