It was Kareena Kapoor's fourth year in Bollywood and the thirteenth in her filmography that the actress took on the daring role of a sex worker in Anant Balani and Sudhir Mishra's directors Chameli. It came as a surprise to people that Kareena Kapoor of the illustrious Kapoor family opted for such a "risky" role so early in her career. Will her rising star fall from her with the so-called parallel cinema? Or will she win over picky critics by demonstrating her versatility? As it turned out, Kareena managed to pass the exam with flying colors.
Kareena was tough and rude like a whore who could spin strings for a few extra bucks, but she was also sensitive and vulnerable like the woman whose heart still hoped to meet her true love. The film is based on the premise of the night investment banker (Rahul Bose) Chameli, a prostitute (Kareena Kapoor), meets the prostitute, balancing on her feet to keep the audience engaged throughout the entire time of execution. What stands out is her feminine role of hers, played sexy by Kareena, who, in turn, is lewd, seductive, deceptive, and tragic.
Interestingly, Chameli first offered to others who turned down the film because they didn't want to take on her character due to her profession. But, depending on fate, the same role managed to show both creators and viewers Kareena Kapoor's ability as an actress. And remember, this was a new space for the artist, who only made most of the "masala movies" at the time. After Chameli, Kareena stopped being afraid of the experiment and went on to give a nod to projects Mani Ratnam’s Yuva and Govind Nihalani’s political drama Dev.
Speaking about the set she did for the role, Kareena Kapoor said: "To get into the skin of the character, I would visit most of the red light districts in Mumbai at night and watch the sex workers from a distance from inside my car interested in studying their behaviors, the type of clothes they wore, and how they talked to customers.
Show hard work. “Filmon me zaroor dekha hoga. Leki waha to hum Umrao Jaan aur Chandramukhi hote hain. Sachchai Kuch aur hai (You must have seen the likes of me in your movies. But there we appear as Umrao Jaan and Chandramukhi. The truth is very different).” So goes one of Kareena Kapoor's introductory lines in the movie. Presented by her Rahul Boss character. Everything is done simply, nothing glitzy or over the top, ordinary sex worker as Chameli said. Not a witch version of her type, which we've seen in fiction before. There is no embellishment associated with this Chameli, and as a result, therefore, there is nothing that seems stressful about portraying Kapoor.
Meanwhile, Rahul Bose was the perfect person to play alongside Kareena in such an intense movie. Bose installed the isolation security part which was a bit critical but sympathetic to Kapoor's Chameli. The actor recently spoke about Chameli and her experience working with Kareena Kapoor. Speaking about the difficult night session, Boss said: “Working with Kareena was very easy because she’s really talented. She was a massive star at that time and was very hardworking. Her performance was always spot on and we bonded very well. I remember we only shot at night, it was the most grueling part of the film. From the start of the film till the end, I was always drenched in the film, all the time. So, I used to just pour a bucket of water over my head and start shooting. I could have caught a cold but I didn’t.”
Starring Yashpal Sharma and Rinke Khanna as well, Chameli was honored during awards season but was not considered a huge box office success. You can watch the movie on Disney Plus Hotstar.