Bollywood superstars Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor came into Deadline’s Red Sea Studio at the Red Sea International Film Festival this week to discuss their careers and opportunities and challenges facing the Indian cinema market.
Kapoor, who has starred in projects such as Chameli, Singham Returns, Bodyguard and Good Newwz, said that the Bollywood industry is “moving in a direction where actually it’s not about being an actor or an actress today, it’s about being a lead or just any form of a character.”
She added, “Women are leading the pack if I may say.”
This summer, the actress finished shooting her first title for a streamer with Netflix’s Devotion of Suspect X, an adaptation of a Keigo Higashino’s Japanese book of the same name, and noted that a decrease in streaming prices across India had recently seen a surge of subscribers in the market.
“The streaming giants also have reduced the cost of streaming [in India] and people are watching it on their phones and at home and the content has been amazing,” she said. “I think that you can be slightly more freer and liberal with the content on a digital platform and I think that’s also more exciting for actors to do something absolutely different rather than stick to the typical song and dance genre. So, I think everyone is into this phase of experimenting – a lot of Indian actors are.”
Ali Khan, who has starred in hit Indian titles such as Hum Tum, Salaam Namaste and Ta Ra Rum Pum and starred in Netflix’s first original Indian series Sacred Games, talked about his future project Ramayana, a multilingual period saga where he’ll play the role of a 10-headed demon king called Lankesh.
“It’s a film that tends to get made every 15 years when there’s a big change in technique and this is going to be a modern, technical version of the same story,” he said.
The charming duo – who are also married – both expressed that the industry challenges being felt in Bollywood also mirror those of Hollywood: “I think people have become quickly selective,” said Ali Khan of the challenges of getting audiences back into cinemas.
“And less tolerant of bad movies,” added Kapoor.
While the actors have previously acted together in movies such as 2006 crime drama Omkara, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello, the couple have yet to share the screen since they got married.
“I would love to work with Saif, you never know,” said Kapoor.
Ali Khan quipped, “I think I’ve grown personally as well as professionally so I would probably do a better job of it now.”
He added, “We’re definitely open to it.”
Speaking of his thoughts on the Saudi Arabia opening up to the world, he said, “I think that initiatives are being taken to be a little more, perhaps to modernize in certain ways and embrace equality, which seems to be still an issue in so many places in the world. The fact that these people here in Saudia are trying to do these things and liberalize, so to speak, is to be encouraged and respected and I hope it continues.”