'I am infamous for being choosy and taking too many breaks,' quipped Kritika Kamra to me. When was the last time you heard an actress make such a frank confession at the drop of a hat? Well, that's exactly what sets her apart from her contemporaries! It's her candour and infectious smile which makes her every interviewer's delight.
Kritika who become a household name with popular TV shows like 'Kitani Mohabbat Hain', 'Kuch Toh Log Kahenge', 'Reporters' is now gearing up for her big Bollywood debut with Nitin Kakkar's Mitron.
In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Filmibeat, the actress bares her heart about making her big screen debut, dealing with social media bullies, why she has chosen to remain tight-lipped about her personal life and much more.
Over to the stunning lady-
Kritika, you have completed almost decade in the industry now. I am sure you must have been bombarded with film offers before. What made you debut with a film like Mitron?
I wasn't bombarded at all. (laughs) If you ask any TV actor, they will tell you it's a 50-50 kind of a situation. People think we are assets because we have a certain following because of our work on television. At the same time, they also think that we are over-exposed and subscribe to just loud acting. People assume we don't have cinematic sensibilities or can't look urban. There are a lot of challenges. So everytime, the first meeting for anything has always been about having to prove that there's more to me than what you see on TV. So, that's a challenge which still happens. I hope Mitron changes that and gives me an even playfield where I am judged just like any other newcomer. If I lose out on merit then I can go home with that and be happy with it.
Having said that, in the past I have been at the brink of making a film debut a couple of times. Some were big films. Unfortunately somehow, sometimes the film didn't take off or it got postponed and by that time I took up another project. Sometimes I was offered things where I thought they weren't meaty enough. Something was not fitting in like before Mitron. Like they say, the best things happen to you when you are looking away. I got a call for Mitron and I am so glad. Today when I look back, I say, 'Jo hota hai acche ke liye hota hain'.
I am really happy that Mitron happens to be my first film because I coudn't have asked for a better director, a better script, a better team and a better start as a female actor. Honestly, how many strong female characters do we have in films? And especially, being a newcomer as far as films are concerned, it's difficult to crack a role where you are not playing an accessory or not just restricted to a song-and-dance. I am extremely grateful for being able to play a important pillar in the film and I am thankful to Nitin Sir (Nitin Kakkar) for giving me this opportunity.
A lot of your contemporaries like Radhika Madan, Mouni Roy from the TV industry are also stepping into showbiz. Does that bring in a sense of competition for you?
I am actually feeling more a sense of clan. I am so proud of everybody. A lot of people look at it as a new trend. They think that suddenly Bollywood has become so accepting of TV actors. The lines are blurring definitely in the heads of the audience. They love characters. The audience gives same amount of love to any character; be it on small screen or big screen. It's just the industry which is stuck with a certain perception. Which is why a lot of us want to do films as well because we want to explore all kinds of medium and be able to do this content which is happening only in films right now.
I can go out on a limb and say that if you ask any of these TV actors, some of them whom I know personally, they will tell you that there has been a journey and a bit of struggle before this. It's not suddenly that we are being showered with roles. Everybody has had their journey before this. I am sure that they must have also auditioned and done meetings.
Mouni has been working for longer than me. She's like a little senior to me in that sense. On the other hand, Radhika had shot for other film which was supposed to be her first film, which hasn't got the Indian release yet. Apparently, it's a great film which has been winning awards all over the world. So, everybody has had their own share of journey that has co-incidentally lead to this year where so many releases are happening.
People must have had a certain perception about you on the basis of the TV shows which you have done in the past. Are you nervous about how they are going to react to Kritika 2.0 on the big screen?
I chose my shows very carefully. I have never done any show that goes on and on for four-five years. You know, the ones which start with something and become something else with three-four leaps happening and the characters turning into animal or whatever. I think somehow subconsciously, I took up roles that I as an audience would like to watch. So, I have always chosen roles that reasonate with the youth and consciously have been part of shows where I am a character with purpose.
Of course, I have played a beti, a bahu on screen. But I am not defined by that. I have a purpose and ambition. I have my own views and live life on my own terms. This isn't a drastic change for me. I was never a sari-clad bahu. What's different here in films is the attention to detailing. Nitin Sir is such a beautiful filmmaker. I am a fan of his first film. So, I was quite excited to meet him for the first time. He made me unlearn a lot of things. Ten years of television and the amount of work that we do there, the number of hours that you put into it! Of course, because you are in love with what you do, you like to be on the sets and polish your craft; it has its pluses and minuses. I have no problem in memorizing lines. I can improvise really fast because there wasn't any breathing space on TV. But what happens is that, if you keep doing something regularly and continuously, you are bound to get a little mechanical. I had to strip off all those things in this film. The only instruction for all of us was to keep it real. This opened new doors for me in terms of performance.
As an actor, I don't really have a process or a method. Instead, I am very instinctive. My prep is very internal. I am one of those students who shuts their books early in the night and then just approach the question. I think that's what gives me a high. I think this approach really worked for me where Nitin Sir gave us so much space and at the same time, just taught us to not make it conversational.
You don't fear to call 'a spade a spade' and always has the most sassiest reply to all the social media bullies. But don't you think it's high time people realize that actors are human beings too?
You know that's fine. I don't really get so perturbed about it. If you think I am sassy, I am sassy because that's how I am. I enjoy that witty humour and subscribe to that. Somewhere, it just comes to me. (laughs) Sometimes when I reply to these trollers, there's dry humour in it. But that's just because of who I am generally. It's not because I am so affected by what people are saying.
I think today, our lives are totally on social media. We have signed up for this. Of course, you can choose to not be on it. But, if you have subscribed to be on it, then you have to realize that you are putting your life out there for scrutiny. Being an actor, I am not scared about getting judged with the kind of rejections that I have been through during auditions. We are used to this in life. We are giving exams almost every day with TRPs every Thursday and with films every Friday. There are some boundaries, of course. When it becomes about your family and your loved ones, that's off limit. Otherwise anything else that people want to say and think, that's fine. They also know that we are humans. But it's we who put ourselves out there. We are the products at the end of the day and it's okay if people have a view or opinion about it.
But then, if you are going to be nasty in the sense that you are going to talk about my b**bs or my a**, then even I have a right to reply. I can just take to rough commenting, which I love these days. (laughs)
One thing which I have always admired about you is that you have always been very vocal about your relationships whenever you have been into one. But then, don't you think that can have a negative impact when you are in showbiz, where people do tend to invade your privacy?
You are right. I have learnt that. I was very young when I started my career. I am a complete outsider. I wasn't even based in Mumbai before joining showbiz. I came from a place where it was cool to be yourself. I have been always taught and brought up like that where I have been told to be myself. My parents knew about all my relationships. I have lived my life like that. Even when I came here, I didn't really make a point to hide anything. Whether if I was dating somebody or a co-actor, it was out there.
But then, you know somehow all those things happened and coincided suddenly with the popularity of Kitani Mohabbat Hain. You are unaware about things when you are inside the studio. But when you step out, you realize that people really connect to this and start following everything. Of course, people start taking interest in your personal life and they keep a tab on what you are doing, where you are going, who you are hanging out with. I didn't make an effort to hide it. I think that's maturity that now with time, I have realized that I want to keep things which mean too much to me to myself. They say, 'travel and tell no one'. There are some things which you shouldn't tell anybody because people spoil it. So now, I guard my personal life. But, I have learnt from my mistakes in the past. (laughs)
Looking back at your journey, are you content with how things have shaped up for you? Are there times where you sit back and retrospect?
I am a realist. In fact, my mother and everybody else urges me to be an optimist. I try to be as objective as I can and prepare for the worst. Over the time, I have learnt to keep my expectations low. So now, I expect very minimal and keep it realistic so that I don't regret anything. Because then, everything that I have got just makes me happy. Everytime when I doubt myself or have low days, I look back to where I have come from. There was no chance for a small-town girl like me from Madhya Pradesh who was changing like hundred schools to get basic education to be on a platform where so many people watch me or look up to me. I don't take this granted for all. As long as I make my parents proud, I am going to be proud.
What's next for you after Mitron?
I have met a few people, but am yet to sign anything. I want to take it slow. I used to do this even on TV. It is because of my choices in the past that people look at me in a certain way and maybe I got this chance because of that. Personally, a lot is riding for me on this film because my first film will determine what kind of work comes to me after this. I hope to do more films and web. I am not even shutting the doors of television. I just hope to do good content which I believe in.
Mitron is an honest film made from the heart. I want to do more work like this because I think the audience is very smart today. They are spoilt for choices. So, good content is winning now. I want to be a part of good content which is why I want to see how Mitron fares. I want the report card on this film and not just in terms of numbers. I am a producer's actor because I am a TV actor and I understand the cost and value of every minute. So, I know people need to make and recover their money. I hope that happens. But at the same time, I also hope that the industry enjoys what we have made this small little film of ours and I get more chances to be in films. I want to see how this unfolds and then see what's on my platter and choose the best.
Do you watch your shows? Because a lot of actors say that they don't watch their work. Some of them believe that it's because they don't relate to the content but enjoy enacting it as an actor. Where do you stand?
Somehow, I have always attracted roles where I see a little bit of me in them. When you play them, by the time the project finishes, you have a little bit of that character in you. It just stays. I don't know how that happens. Maybe again, because I am an untrained actor. I know how to switch on and off between takes. But I have somehow chosen parts where there's a connection. That doesn't mean I am like the character. But the character speaks to me. I do watch my work. But, I am very critical about myself. When I watch myself on-screen, I don't enjoy it as an audience because I am constantly analyzing myself.
Like you mentioned that you are very critical about your work, who else is your biggest critic?
Definitely not my parents because they are my biggest fans. Even in my heart, if I know I haven't done something well and then if I ask them, they say they loved it. So, I am like, 'I am not even taking your opinion anymore.' (pauses) I think there's nobody as harsh as me when it comes to critiquing my work.
I have different people for different aspects of life. I usually rely on my directors, Touchword, I have been lucky enough to work with directors I completely have belief in. I believe film is a director's medium. It's their vision. So, if the filmmaker is right and whatever he said okay to, I will leave it up to him because it's his vision.
Last but not the least, how open are you to criticism?
I am fairly open to criticism. I like honest feedback. I think that's one thing that you have to have. If you can't take that, then you are in the wrong profession. There is no place for fragile egos. I want to keep growing and improving. I am very interested in the process of film-making as a whole. The first time I stepped on the sets, it was film making that I fell in love with and not acting. There's so much to learn. I feel my entire lifetime would be less. I can only learn when people point out and tell me what to change. I like feedback and don't shy away from it. In fact, I am scared of people who are just saying good things probably to not hurt me sometimes or protect me. I keep telling all my loved ones to be honest. So, I have a little group of people whose opinion really matters to me.