Sujoy Ghosh’s adaptation of Keigo Higashino’s acclaimed mystery novel The Devotion of Suspect X has been in the making for close to a decade. Titled Jaane Jaan , it originally starred Saif Ali Khan as the introverted mathematician who defends the woman he loves when she gets embroiled in a crime.

Jaane Jaan now stars Khan’s wife, Kareena Kapoor Khan, as the object of the mathematician’s devotion. Jaideep Ahlawat plays the role originally intended for Saif Ali Khan, while Vijay Varma has been cast as a police detective. The Hindi-language film will be premiered on Netflix on September 21, which happens to be Kareena Kapoor Khan’s 43rd birthday.

Ghosh has tweaked the source material to give Kapoor Khan’s Maya D’Souza greater play. Among the movie’s highlights is a scene at a karaoke bar, where the harried Maya has a rare moment of enjoyment.

Jaane Jaan is the latest milestone for an actor who has been consciously juggling glamour with depth. After headlining many movies, Kapoor Khan swerved towards productions with ensemble casts in recent years, such as Udta Punjab, Veere Di Wedding and Good Newwz, while ensuring that her contributions never went unnoticed. She had an extended cameo in Angrezi Medium, and was one of the best things about the movie.

Kapoor Khan’s upcoming releases include Hansal Mehta’s The Buckingham Murders, which will be premiered at the 67th BFI London Film Festival in October, and Rajesh Krishnan’s caper The Crew, where she stars alongside Tabu and Kriti Sanon. Balance, a diversity of roles, and an enjoyable shooting experience are among her pursuits at the moment, she told Scroll in an interview.

What did Sujoy Ghosh tell you about Maya D’Souza, and what was your own interpretation of the character?
I hadn’t read the book, although I love watching crime thrillers. That’s one of the reasons I did the film.

Sujoy has given my character a little bit of weightage. We have been talking for over a decade. We were looking for a script that we could do together. When he came with this script, I saw that he had given a lot of prominence to the female character. Also the combination of Netflix, Jaideep, Vijay and us – it was interesting for us to come together.

It was kind of tricky. You don’t know what Maya is thinking. Performing in a thriller like this is intense – how much can you show and how much can’t you? And it’s also important to be likeable, you have to root for Maya. As an actor, I enjoy playing these kinds of roles.

Jaane Jaan (2023). Courtesy 12th Street Entertainment/Northern Lights Films/ Kross Pictures/ Balaji Motion Pictures/Netflix.

Jaane Jaan uses a lot of intense close-ups. What was the shoot like?
Close-ups can be unnerving. Sorry to say this, but if you’re a bad actor, it can really be the other way round.

The film is a mood. When Sujoy and I were chatting, I said, let’s make a film that you can watch five or ten years later. If it is for Netflix, it’s there for posterity. People can curl up and watch it years later. Sujoy has created that mood and atmosphere.

I have worked with so many directors, but I truly feel that Sujoy is a master of his craft. He is really sharp, very astute, an intelligent guy who makes slightly different kinds of movies, where you have to use your mind. That’s what he told me – let’s perform it in a way where you want the world to root for you even though you are doing what you are doing.

We did a bit of reading before the shoot. I believe that when you are on set, there is that instant chemistry. Something just happens when the camera is switched on if you are a good actor. You don’t really need to do 80,000 workshops because you can’t be taught how to act. Ultimately, I think acting is an emotion and a feeling – at least I go by that. You bounce off the energy of your co-stars.

Did you discuss the project with Saif Ali Khan?
He was very gung-ho about The Devotion of Suspect X. He was like, you must do the part, you will enjoy doing it.

He was offered Jaideep’s part. He told me, Jaideep will be perfect and absolutely spectacular, the chemistry between three different actors who are so good at their respective genres and come from different worlds will be amazing. So he actually pushed me to do the film.

The sequence in the karaoke bar is one of the film’s highlights.
It was challenging because Sujoy said I had to sing. I was like, I can’t sing. He told me, it’s karaoke, just be yourself.

It looks so real because we were shooting in a local bar. It was intimidating but it was also nice. I like the scene because you see Maya smile, it’s the only time she is looking beautiful because the rest of the time she is distraught.

The Jaane Jaan title track.

Have you seen filmmaking methods change over your lengthy career?
Yes, definitely. People are experimenting with filmmaking, and actors like me are looking for a different kind of dimension. Especially after you have worked for so many years, you want to be seen in a different light. You have to have fun. The director, the artist, the entire atmosphere has to be fun.

So you have to be really careful in your selection. At this point in my career, I am doing different kinds of roles because I am enjoying this different approach to storytelling. Jaane Jaan is coming on Netflix. The Buckingham Murders will be at the London Film Festival and will be released in cinemas later. It’s very different from Jaane Jaan. It’s 80% English and 20% Hindi.

And has your approach to acting evolved over the years too?
I am enjoying acting a lot more over the last decade. I am reading such interesting scripts, but I can’t do so many films – I am parenting as well as working, so two [projects] are what I can do.

There is a difference between being a 20-year-old and a 43-year-old. There is a lot more experience, a lot more gravitas, which one can add to characters.

It’s important to keep changing yourself. I am a lot hungrier as an artist. As you grow older, you also want to be known as a serious actor. That has always been the case. The whole commercial aspect, the stardom was there, but I have always worn it on my chin. I don’t take either my success or my failures seriously. So I am enjoying this phase of focusing on being more of an actor.

A lot of people are looking at talent in an actor rather than just a star. I can also strike a balance – I am doing The Crew, which is very commercial. It’s completely different from Jaane Jaan and The Buckingham Murders. So I am always going to try and strike that balance – and still look hot at 43. It’s a mix of both.

Angrezi Medium (2020).

Your look has changed – more sleek, minimal make-up depending on the role.
If a role demands raw appeal, I have never shied away from that. In fact, I often tell producers and photographers not to Photoshop me to look 20 because I am not, and I don’t want to be. I have been there, done that. I have done everything before anyone else, so please let the lines show.

You have been a part of multi-actor projects. The 2022 release Laal Singh Chadha was an exception. Are you also looking to get back to lead roles?
Most of the films that I choose will have me as the central protagonist. The Buckingham Murders is that kind of film. It’s mainly me and local British actors. I had the opportunity to work with Keith Allen, who is absolutely amazing.

Then there is The Crew, which is three of us [Kapoor Khan, Tabu and Kriti Sanon] because it’s a heist film. I like the fact of Tabu, Kriti and me in a comic caper. Nobody will have a bigger or a smaller role – we are all together in it.

But I will also be a part of the big-ticket Bollywood movie with a mammoth star cast. I also have to do that, because that is part of my repertoire. But I am obviously looking at things where it is about me.

The end of 2024 will mark the birth centenary of your grandfather Raj Kapoor. What does it mean to be a part of one of the most famous film families in Indian cinema?
What the legacy has meant to me, to Karisma [Kapoor, her sister], also I am sure Ranbir [Kapoor, her cousin], is the fact that we are all standing on our own two feet. Every one of us, all my cousins, are all individually very strong and different actors. We take the legacy forward by our choices and our dramatically different career paths.

We’re different from our forefathers and our parents, and we hold that with great pride. We are doing our grandfather proud, but we are also very individualistic. You do know that I come from this family, but you also know that I am Kareena Kapoor, the actor. That has been a conscious effort.

Good Newwz (2019).