Kareena Kapoor Khan On Her Gritty Role In ‘Suspect X’; Making Her Streaming Debut & Upcoming UK-Set Feature

EXCLUSIVE: One of the leading actresses in the Hindi film industry, Kareena Kapoor Khan is making her streaming debut in Netflix original film Suspect X, an adaptation of Japanese author Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion Of Suspect X, which launches worldwide on the streaming service today (September 21). 

Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, the film also stars Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Varma and is produced by 12th Street Entertainment and Northern Lights Films in association with Kross Pictures and Balaji Motion Pictures. Higashino’s novel has previously been adapted into Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Tamil versions. 

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Kapoor Khan plays a very different character to the glamorous Bollywood roles that we’ve previously seen her in. Dressed down and without make-up, her character Maya is a woman living peacefully with her daughter in a remote town, until her abusive husband finds her.

Her neighbor, a talented mathematician who has a crush on her, uses the power of logic to help her out of an unusual predicament following the husband’s reappearance, while also avoiding the attentions of a visiting cop.

Confessing a personal love of crime thrillers, especially adaptations of Harlan Coben novels, Kapoor Khan says she decided to take on the role because it gave her the chance to experiment: “I’ve always thought that for my debut on a streaming platform, I should try to do something that is slightly different to what I’ve done on the big screen,” she tells Deadline. 

“Audiences are used to seeing me in the typical Indian song-and-dance style movies. But with the changes in cinema and the emergence of OTT platforms, content has become so different, and so actors are exploring a lot more.” 

She adds that she’d also been looking for a project to make with Ghosh for more a than decade. Ghosh is known for writing and directing thrillers with strong female characters – his career really took off with Kahaani in 2012, about a pregnant woman searching for her husband, which was also a career-defining role for lead actress Vidya Balan. 

“I’d discussed a lot of scripts with Sujoy that didn’t work out, but there were so many elements in this story – the location, the fact that she’s a mother who runs away and ends up in a remote setting. And I think Sujoy is one of the finest filmmakers I’ve worked with – especially for thrillers, he knows exactly what to keep in, and what not to use, to keep everything fast-paced. He also writes really interesting parts for women.”

She also credits Ghosh with helping her dial down her performance from her usual larger-than-life Bollywood roles to play this complex character. “I’ve always said an actor should be able to mould themselves according to whatever the director wants. And Sujoy made it easier by guiding me into exactly how Maya would think and how to make the role more hardcore and quite intense.” 

Describing the character, Kapoor says: “She’s mysterious. You never really know what Maya is thinking, the way Sujoy wrote it, you’re always wondering, what exactly happened, what is she thinking, is she actually bad? I liked all those nuances that Sujoy brought to the script.” 

Kapoor also credits her co-stars Ahlawat and Varma for helping bring out her performance. Both are associated with heavier roles in specialty films and streaming content – Ahlawat as the weary cop in Prime Video series Paatal Lok, and Varma for content-driven films such as Pink, Gully Boy and Netflix original film Darlings

“This is the first time I’ve worked with them, and that also added a lot to the film, the fact that we all come from different worlds – I’ve been a mainstream actor, they’ve been doing slightly different kinds of cinema. When we were on set together, it brought a different kind of energy that reflects well on my performance. So I’ll always remember this film as an experience where I was learning from them more than anything else.”

Another star of the film is the mysterious and mist-shrouded locations – the film was entirely shot in the towns of Kalimpong and Darjeeling in the Himalayan foothills. “Sujoy was so clear that he wanted to shoot there, he said he needed the fog and the mystery, and I kept asking why we needed to go all that way, but we understood as soon as we arrived.”

“There were some challenges, because sometimes you’d have to wake up early to catch the fog, or it would get in the way of the shoot. But Kalimpong is a spectacular place and in the end we didn’t want to leave,” she says, adding that her husband, actor Saif Ali Khan, and their two children came to visit her during the shoot and also loved the location. 

She also gives a special mention to the film’s cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay, who has won National Film Awards for Sardar Udham (2023) and Bhalo Theko (2004). “The way he shot it, most of the time the camera was in his hand, his cinematography is really one of the stars of the film.” 

Kapoor is also trying something different with her next film – Hansal Mehta’s thriller The Buckingham Murders, which was filmed in the UK and is 80% shot in English. Produced by Balaji Telefilms, and also starring Keith Allen and Haqi Ali, the film is will receive its world premiere at the upcoming BFI London Film Festival. Kapoor plays a grieving mother and detective who is assigned a case of a missing child.

When asked if the character is similar to the one she plays in Suspect X, Kapoor says: “She’s grief-stricken and the role is a lot more emotional and softer. I took a lot of inspiration from the part that Kate Winslet played in Mare Of Easttown.”

Of course, she also has several big-ticket Bollywood films coming up, including a new instalment in the Singham franchise, but says there are still other acting challenges she wants to consider: “I’ve done every kind of commercial film, but always try to do something different in between. I’ve never made a movie in South India, and they’re doing some amazing work down there and some really interesting pan-Indian films. So I’d never say no to the right project.”

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