By Mahlia Lone

What makes a Bollywood power couple? It takes talent, good looks, connections, lineage, box office success, awards, and an ability for self promotion and marketing to become a star. When both partners possess these ingredients then the sum is greater than the parts, as in the case of Saif+Kareena=Saifeena. Let’s take a look at these savvy stars and what they want to achieve together

“If you are in love and you are happy, then that’s all that matters. I believe in the institution of marriage. It’s like a tag to cement the relationship for your friends, family and public. And it is a celebration of the fact that Saif and I are in love and we want to spend our life together,” said Kareena Kapoor Khan speaking about her marriage to fellow actor Saif Ali Khan.

Eleven years his junior, one of the most popular and highest paid Bollywood actresses at the time of their 2012 wedding, what made Kareena Kapoor go for Saif Ali Khan, a short squeaky-voiced supporting actor and divorced father of two children, albeit a nawab? Unlike other Indian actresses who are photogenic and less attractive in real life, apparently Kareena (named by her mother Babita after Leo Toltstoy’s epic novel Anna Karenina) is tall and extremely pretty in person, just as she appears on screen. She is also Bollywood royalty, theater and film actor Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s great granddaughter and film maker/studio owner/actor Raj Kapoor’s granddaughter. Nearly all the Kapoors are or have been working actors, including in her immediate family her father Randhir Kapoor, her mother Babita, who is of Anglo-Indian descent, and even her elder sister Karisma. In fact, her parents split up because Babita wanted her daughters to become actresses, but the more conservative Randhir did not think it suitable for the women of the family. Though many of the male members of the family married actresses, they were all made to retire from their careers and become housewives, which they willingly did.

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Randhir, Karisma, Babita & Kareena
Randhir, Karisma, Babita & Kareena
Pataudi's Ibrahim Palace
The Pataudi Ibrahim Palace

Saif Ali Khan, named Sajid at birth, comes from an entirely different stock from his father’s side. He is the tenth Nawab of Pataudi, (honorary) titular head of 52 villages, who studied at prestigious Winchester College in England and grew up in Ibrahim Palace, 26 km from Gurgaon, a New Delhi suburb. Ibrahim Palace is a vast fairytale palace that looks straight out of Disney’s Aladdin and has recently been renovated and converted to a hotel. His father Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the ninth Nawab, also known as Tiger Pataudi, captained the Indian national cricket team, as did his paternal grandfather the eighth Nawab Iftikhar Ali Hussain who played first class cricket for both the British and Indian cricket teams. Saif’s paternal grandmother Begum Sajida Sultan was the daughter of the last ruling Nawab of Bhopal, while his mother is former B’wood actress Sharmila Tagore (renamed Begum Ayesha Sultana after converting to Islam uon her marriage), herself the granddaughter of Rabrindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize winning Bengali poet. She currently serves as the head of the Indian censorship board. Saif’s youngest sister Soha Ali Khan and her husband Kunal Khemu are also actors, as was his first wife Amrita Singh, who hails from a Sikh landed family.

Amrita is not only 12 years older than her ex-husband, but physically taller and broader as well with a husky voice. Though the marriage lasted for some 13 years and produced two children Sara and Ibrahim, Saif cheated on her for a considerably portion of the time, finally leaving her for a Swiss model Rosa Catalano. Rosa herself contemplated moving to India and also becoming an actress at which point the by now divorced Saif broke up with her and started reinventing himself in an effort to revamp his image and career.

in Tashan
They hooked up during an oudoor shoot for Tashan
With ex-boyfriend Shahid Kapoor in Jab We Met

Saif Ali Khan is the tenth Nawab of Pataudi, (honorary) titular head of 52 villages, who studied at prestigious Winchester College in England and grew up in Ibrahim Palace, outside New Delhi, which has recently been renovated and converted to a hotel. His father Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, also known as Tiger Pataudi, captained the Indian national cricket team, as did his paternal grandfather the eighth Nawab Iftikhar Ali Hussain, who played first class cricket for both the British and Indian national cricket teams. Saif’s paternal grandmother Begum Sajida Sultan was the daughter of the last ruling Nawab of Bhopal

Kareena, as younger sister of Karisma, a mildly successful lead heroine, had a highly anticipated film entry, though unluckily she opted out of a debut film with Hritihik Roshan’s Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000) that went on to be a big hit. Struggling to find her niche with initial box office duds, she finally had a massive hit with Karan Johar’s Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Ghum opposite Hritihik, with whom she reportedly also had an under the radar fling. Though the movie was a multi-starrer, Kareena gained a fan following after portraying an Indian version of Alicia Silverstone’s character in the hit Hollywood teen comedy Clueless. An intuitive and spontaneous actress, Kareena continued with fluff roles till she played the role of a prostitute in the film Chameli, for which she won a Filmfare Award. She started a relationship with newcomer Shahid Kapoor, a diminutive trained dancer, which lasted for three to four years and a mobile video of them French kissing went viral during this time. It was after their hit movie together Jab We Met that she broke up with him. Though she had starred with Saif Ali Khan in two movies up to this point, including the Othello inspired Omkara, they had not had many scenes together. To get over her breakup, Kareena decided to focus on exercise, weights and yoga (she can do 50 sun salutes at a time holding eacho position for 30 seconds), and diet regimen by becoming a vegetarian to get her body in tip top shape. Her size 0, 48 kg figure was then duly reported in the press and a noticeably trimmer Kareena appeared in tiny hot pants and bikini tops in the 2007 Yash Raj movie Tashaan, opposite a buffed up and goateed Saif Ali Khan. According to Kareena, it was during an outdoor shoot for this movie that she saw Saif lying bare-chested in just his jeans, sunning himself at the hotel pool that she checked him out and thought he was hot. However, according to what Shahid Kapoor alluded to in his interviews, there was some overlapping, during which time Kareena decided to dump the young actor for his older, vastly more eligible rival.

The phenomenon of Saifeena, as they were dubbed by the Indian press, was born. They announced their relationship at the Lakme Fashion Week that year.  A source reported to the press, “Bebo (Kareena’s childhood nickname) and Saif behave like teenagers in love. They constantly send each other lovey-dovey messages and even have photos of one another on their phones.”

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The chic couple at a polo match

The couple garnered much publicity that has translated into many lucrative endorsements and modeling contracts together as a couple. Kareena, who has not been averse to plastic surgery to fine tune her looks though she has never publicly accepted this, introduced her boyfriend to botox and collagen fillers to rejuvenate his middle aged looks. Saif, henceforth, started appearing in films creaseless and with a taut forehead and an expressionless face. The publicity also helped his career and he ventured into film production making moderately successful films. Not only did Kareena help him out by starring in some of these, like his 2012 movie Agent Vinod, but she has also said she helps him market his films. “Saif just doesn’t take himself seriously enough. After his performance in Love Aaj Kal (2009 movie produced by Saif’s production company Illuminati Films that he stars in opposite Deepika Padukone and that has been directed by Imtiaz Ali), I’m convinced Saif’s best time begins now. But he doesn’t know how to market himself….This is Saif’s best performance after Omkara. I’m so proud of him. Love Aaj Kal is as much my baby as Saif’s. I’m going to be completely involved in the publicity, marketing, everything. This is our first production and we’re going to make it rock.”Not content with just taking vacations together, Saif told Babita that he was committed to her daughter and wanted her to move in with him. “Kareena is my woman and we know that we want to spend the rest of our lives together.” Babita gave them her blessing and they started living together like a modern Indian couple.

   Actresses that Saif formerly had flings with, such as Priyanka Chopra, Bipasha Basu (during the fliming of Race) and Yana Gupta, Kareena is openly hostile and bitchy to, calling Bipasha, a “kaali billi” (black cat) for her dusky complexion. She said she knows that Saif has sown his wild oats, but now he has become grounded and if he ever cheats on her she threatened, “I will slaughter him.”

But Saif proved his faithfulness to her and five years of dating later, they decided that their hectic careers allowed them a short time in which to tie the knot. “Of course, I want to be with her as much as I can,” Saif said in an interview. “My regret is we can’t be together more often. We are uncannily similar people and I’ve only now begun to understand why I need to be with her constantly. She complements me, as I hope I complement her. So of course, I try to be where she is.”

During this time, Kareena’s career went from strength to strength. She’s the only heroine who can boast of starring in four hits that have grossed over Rs.1 billion each and has starred in films with all the top Khan triumvirate: Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh. The highest paid Indian actress in 2012 for Heroine, receiving Indian Rs. 80 million (PKR 127 m) and with 16 brand endorsements, Kareena stints herself no indulgence. In 2010, Kareena bought herself a seven-carat diamond solitaire. She said in an interview that the ring was bought based on the advice of an astrologer who said it would bring her stability and happiness in her life. She also owns a fleet of luxury cars including a Mercedes S class sedan, an SUV and a Lexus LX 470. Kareena never misses an opportunity to head to Europe to unwind with London and Swiss skiing destination Gstaad being her top favourite vacation spots. She believes that two actresses in the same league can never be best friends, so her pal is struggling actress Amrita Arora.  On October 27, 2011, Kareena’s wax statue was unveiled at Madame Tussauds in Blackpool in the UK. Quite the entrepreneur, Kareena also has a clothing brand and has co-written a few diet books.

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At the age of thirty, Kareena became Mrs. Khan in a lavish wedding with five main functions spanning two cities. Unlike prior Pataudi Begums, she refused to covert from Hinduism to Islam or give up her lucrative film career. With his father already deceased, Saif did not demur and indulged his bride in all her wishes. The starry Mumbai functions, a Sangeet, a Mehndi and a Reception were hosted by Kareena’s parents. It was reported, “The Sangeet evening was marked with music, dance and masti. The terrace party was held at Kareena’s Bandra residence. Buddies Malaika Arora Khan, Amrita Arora, and Tusshar Kapoor shimmied to well-choreographed moves by Karan Johar. There was an array of dance performances to popular Bollywood numbers dedicated to the lovely couple. The terrace venue was covered to prevent media getting a snoop….Kareena in a pretty sari set the tone and note for the mehndi ceremony, where Saif looked dapper in a tuxedo. The mehndi ceremony was coupled with a private dinner for family and friends, which took place in Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The bride chose to wear ensembles made for her by her favourite fashion designer, Manisha Malhotra and especially created diamond and gem encrusted jewellery. A simple Nikkah and signing of the marriage registry was held at Saif’s residence in Mumbai. This was a personal affair to which they donned shalwar kameezes and waved to the press from the balcony. Kareena had refreshingly minimal makeup on. It was reported, “The after-marriage bash was a vibrant affair. Around 150 selected guests attended the celebration. B-town celebs like Shah Rukh Khan with wife Gauri, Sonam Kapoor with dad Anil Kapoor, Amrita Arora with husband Shakeel Ladak, Priety Zinta, Karan Johar, Tusshar Kapoor, and many more upped the starry quotient of the evening. Family members including Randhir Kapoor, Babita, Karisma, Rishi Kapoor with wife Neetu Singh and son Ranbir, Soha Ali Khan, along with Saif’s daughter Sara and son Ibrahim were seen in a joyous mood.”

“After marriage, love becomes bigger, better. There’s greater understanding and respect. Saif admires me for being a working woman. A partner should help you fly. Saif’s perfect!…I can’t breathe without love. It gives me energy, a feeling of belonging, the need to GO out and conquer the world,” said Kareena

Then, the wedding moved to New Delhi where Sharmila hosted a grand Dawat-e-Valima in true Nawabi style at the Ibrahim Palace. All the top politicians and remaining royal families of the land attended. The Pataudi relatives from Lahore flew in as well. Kareena wore traditional gold jewellery that complemented a gharara, replicated by ace Delhi fashion designer Ritu Kumar from a vintage one worn by Begum Sajida Sultan at her wedding to the eighth Nawab Pataudi. Then, the Begum passed it to her daughter in law Sharmila, who wore it at her own wedding. Saif wore a Benarasi brocade achkan that had been copied by menswear designer Raghavendra Rathore from achkans worn by Saif’s father Mansoor Ali Khan in his lifetime. Saif carried the ceremonial family sword and wore a traditional pagri on his head. Even the paans served at the valima were special crafted according to an age old recipe. Sharmila wanted to impress the Kapoors with the Pataudi family’s pedigree, royal traditions and aristocratic connections, which she did so, sparing no expense or effort. “Celebrities from the world of cricket, Bollywood and politics graced the Mughal-themed reception. The cream and gold décor with antique props, jasmine floral arrangements and traditional brass hanging diyas added a delicate spice and romance to the wedding ambiance,” it was reported. Against the glittery, B’wood wedding, the regal Delhi wedding festivities made quite an impact. No glitzy hotel or palatial bungalow could compete with the newly renovated splendor of the Old World and regal Ibrahim Palace. Upon attendance to their new step mother at the wedding were teenage Sara and Ibrahim. Saba and Soha Ali Khan, Saif’s younger sisters, also fittingly played prominent roles at the wedding.

The couple returned to their respective film sets after the wedding and it was a little before they could take off for their honeymoon.

Spotted at Maldives Airport, Kareena, Saif, Soha & Kunal on a family holiday

Kareena has maintained that she will continue to act and may not have children till the age of 39. Kareena likes to cook for her husband, while he plays the guitar for his ladylove. She has also carefully cultivated a close relationship with his daughter Sara. Kareena said in an interview. “They are the most well brought up children. I always remember Sara standing up and doing adab (greeting). Both Sara and Ibrahim are like that. I am like a friend for them…. In fact, we’re like best friends. Saif refuses to come out with us. Sara’s my bar hopping partner. I enjoy my equation with her…. At times Sara and I chat over a glass of champagne. That’s the way Saif wanted it and that’s the way I wanted it. Whenever she wants to call me she does at time when Saif isn’t around and she doesn’t want to talk to him. She talks to me.’’

In another interview, Kareena said, “’After marriage, love becomes bigger, better. There’s greater understanding and respect. Saif admires me for being a working woman. A partner should help you fly. Saif’s perfect!’ She pointed out that she’s given a lot of time to the marriage, in fact to every relationship. ‘I can’t breathe without love. It gives me energy, a feeling of belonging, the need to go out and conquer the world,’ she stressed.”
“I understand people want to put our relationship under a microscope. They want to know about our relationship,” said Saif thoughtfully in an interview. “But there’s only so much that they can know or perceive. What Kareena and I feel for each other, only the two of us know.”

Good Times


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