Born in Hong Kong, Kaif lived in several countries before she moved to London. She received her first modelling assignment as a teenager and later pursued a career as a fashion model. At a fashion show in London, Indian filmmaker Kaizad Gustad decided to cast her in Boom (2003), a critical and commercial failure. While in India, Kaif received modelling assignments and established a successful modelling career, however, filmmakers were hesitant to cast her due to her poor command of Hindi. After appearing in the Telugu film Malliswari (2004), Kaif earned commercial success in Bollywood with the romantic comedies Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya? (2005) and Namastey London (2007). She followed with a series of box-office hits, but was criticised for her acting, repetitive roles, and inclination to male-dominated films.
Katrina Kaif was born in Hong Kong with her mother's surname Turquotte (also spelt Turcotte), on 16 July 1983.[a] According to the actress, her father, Mohammed Kaif, is a British businessman of Kashmiri descent and her mother (Suzanne, also spelt Susanna) is an English lawyer and charity worker. She has seven siblings: three elder sisters named Stephanie, Christine and Natasha; three younger sisters named Melissa, Sonia, and Isabel; and an elder brother named Michael. Isabelle Kaif is also a model and actress. Kaif's parents divorced when she was a child, and her father moved to the United States. She said her father had no influence on Kaif or her siblings while they were growing up, and they were raised by their mother. On her father's absence in her life, Kaif stated: "When I see friends who have wonderful fathers who are like pillars of support for their families, I say, if only I had that. But instead of complaining, I should be grateful for all the other things I have". In a 2009 interview with The Indian Express, she said she was not in touch with her father.
Kaif says that her mother decided to "dedicate her life to social causes", which led to the family's relocation to a number of countries for varying lengths of time:
Our transitions in growing up were—from Hong Kong where I was born, to China, then to Japan, and from Japan by boat to France ... After France, Switzerland—and I'm cutting out many East European countries where we were for only a few months each—then Poland in Kraków ... After that we went to Belgium, then to Hawaii, which was a short time, and then came to London.
Due to their frequent relocation, Kaif and her siblings were home-schooled by a series of tutors. Although she is thought to have grown up in London, she lived there for only three years before moving to India. According to Kaif, she then changed her surname to her father's because she thought it would be easier to pronounce.
Kaif's paternal parentage has been questioned by some members of the film industry. In a 2011 interview with Mumbai Mirror, Boom producer Ayesha Shroff accused Kaif of fabricating her history: "We created an identity for her. She was this pretty young English girl, and we gave her the Kashmiri father and thought of calling her Katrina Kazi. We thought we'd give her some kind of Indian ancestry, to connect with the audience ... But then we thought that Kazi sounded too ... religious? ... Mohammad Kaif was at the top, and so we said, Katrina Kaif sounds really great". Kaif called Shroff's comments "hurtful". Kaif said it is evident she is not 100% Caucasian.
At the age of fourteen, Kaif won a beauty contest in Hawaii, and received her first modelling assignment in a jewellery campaign. She subsequently modelled professionally in London, working for freelance agencies and appearing regularly at London Fashion Week.
Kaif's career as a model led to anticipation surrounding her Bollywood debut.Boom (2003) had its first screening at the Cannes Film Festival, and was heavily promoted at the event.Boom was a commercial and critical failure. Kaif's enactment of a supermodel ensnared in the Mumbai underworld was poorly received, with Ziya U. Salam of The Hindu attributing the weak performances of the film's leading ladies to "the vacuity of their expressions".Hindustan Times reported that after Boom's release, Kaif was written off due to her poor Hindi and thick British accent. She later dismissed the film: "I don't count Boom among important happenings in my life. When I signed this film, I didn't know much about India and its film audience". Although Kaif was offered a number of modelling assignments, filmmakers were hesitant to cast her because of her poor command of Hindi. In one instance, Mahesh Bhatt replaced her with Tara Sharma in Saaya (2003) as he found her an "inconsistent performer". Subsequently, Kaif began working on her diction through Hindi classes.
After the failure of her first Bollywood project, Kaif appeared in the Telugu filmMalliswari (2004). With Daggubati Venkatesh, she played the title role of a princess forced to flee from her murderous caretaker. Kaif received a reported ₹7.5 million (US$100,000) for the film, the highest salary for a South Indian film actress at the time. Despite negative reviews for her acting, Malliswari was a profitable venture.
Kaif's career prospects changed in 2007, when she appeared in four Bollywood hits. In an interview with The Indian Express, she called Vipul Amrutlal Shah's romantic comedy Namastey London a milestone, saying that "for the first time, [she] had a dominating role". Kaif used her life in London as a reference for her role as a spoilt British Indian girl intent on marrying her self-centred British boyfriend, despite her parents' disapproval. Although critics expressed mixed views on the film, Sukanya Verma wrote that Kaif "suits the role to the T" and "brings the zingy mix of her character alive with style and substance". Kaif's chemistry with co-star Akshay Kumar was particularly well received, with Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India calling their casting "refreshing". Taran Adarsh from Bollywood Hungama mentioned "Katrina is a revelation. The actor surprised you with a confident performance in Humko Deewana Kar Gaye and now, in Namaste London, she comes up with a spirited performance yet again. She handles the complex part with remarkable ease."
In 2008, the actress had three releases, the first of which was Abbas-Mustan's action thriller Race, a story about two stepbrothers-turned-rivals who are in contention for their father's insurance money. Kaif played Saif Ali Khan's secretary, who is his stepbrother's (Akshaye Khanna) lover. Nikhat Kazmi was appreciative of the film, praising its "super cool look [and] testosterone-high action sequences" but found Kaif "too pale" in her role. After Race, Kaif rejoined Akshay Kumar in Anees Bazmee's action comedy Singh Is Kinng. The film earned ₹1.25 billion (US$17 million) worldwide, making it Kaif's sixth consecutive box-office success. However, she received mixed reviews for her performance.Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN reviewed: "Katrina Kaif is an eyesore ... her acting so weak you want to urge her to watch everyone from Madhubala to Madhuri so she might pick up a few tricks".
Kaif's final film of the year—Subhash Ghai's drama Yuvvraaj—was a major box-office failure. In preparation for her role as a cellist she practised her playing with orchestra members. Her portrayal of a girl forbidden by her father from marrying her poor lover was well received by Sify's Sonia Chopra: "Katrina is wonderful, plays the cello convincingly, and looks ethereal". Despite the film's mixed critical reception, its screenplay was added to the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its artistic merit.
Before New York, Kaif's voice was dubbed over by voice artists in most of her films due to her lack of fluency in Hindi and other Indian languages.[b] Although she appeared in a series of successful films, critics noted that she had little to do in them as they were generally male-dominated. Her performances were also largely criticised. About her series of glamorous roles, Kaif said that her "first few films were really a process of learning ... There was no target". Kaif participated in Shah Rukh Khan's "Temptations Reloaded" world concert tour in 2008. Also featuring Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal, the tour began in Amsterdam in June and ended four months later in Dubai's Festival City Arena before an audience of 15,000.
New York and widespread recognition (2009–2013)
After a string of films in which she was cast to add glamour, Kaif appeared in Kabir Khan's terrorism drama New York (2009). Featuring John Abraham and Neil Nitin Mukesh in lead roles, the film tells the story of how three friends' lives are changed when the former is wrongly detained after 9/11. Kaif played Maya, a college student who later marries a terrorist. The actress said that she identified with Maya, since she experienced similar isolation because of her skin colour when she was growing up in London. Kaif also remarked that she was tired of "arm candy" roles and was looking for more substantial parts.New York did well at the box office and received favourable reviews. According to Subhash K. Jha, Kaif "comes into her own as an actress of substance ... From the carefree effervescent campus girl to the anguished wife, Katrina makes the journey look plausible all the way". A reviewer for The Times of India considered it to be the "best performance of her entire career."New York brought Kaif her first Filmfare Award nomination for Best Actress. She then appeared in a cameo for India's first underwater thriller Blue. Kaif starred with Ranbir Kapoor in Rajkumar Santoshi's hit comedy, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009), as an orphan forced to marry a rich man.Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama wrote, "Katrina Kaif continues to surprise ... She scores in both emotional and light scenes" and called her chemistry with Kapoor "electrifying". Her final film of the year was Priyadarshan's comedy De Dana Dan. She performed with Akon at the closing ceremony of the 2009 Indian Premier League at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg,
In 2010, Kaif appeared in Prakash Jha's political thriller Raajneeti as part of an ensemble cast which included Ranbir Kapoor, Ajay Devgan, Arjun Rampal, Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai and Sarah Thompson. The film took inspiration from The Mahabharata and Mario Puzo's 1969 novel The Godfather. Set in Bhopal, the film described a fiercely fought election campaign by two parties attempting to seize power with manipulation, corruption and treachery. Although there was media speculation before the film's release that Kaif's character was based on Sonia Gandhi, the actress denied this. In preparation for her role as Indu (a politician loosely based on Draupadi), she watched Priyanka Gandhi's election campaign videos to study the body language and interaction of politicians. The film received mainly positive reviews from critics. Rajeev Masand found Raajneeti "thrilling and gripping", though Namrata Joshi was more critical and expressed her disappointment over the film's depiction of women. Nikhat Kazmi considered Kaif's performance to be "carefree and camera-unconscious" and wrote that she "seems to slip into the high-powered shoes easily". The film was highly successful at the box office, receiving a total collection of ₹1.4 billion (US$19 million).
Kaif collaborated with Akshay Kumar for the sixth time in the slapstick comedy Tees Maar Khan (2010). For her role as an aspiring actress, Kaif appeared in a popular item number titled "Sheila Ki Jawani". The song was choreographed by the film's director Farah Khan and for the belly dancing portion of the song, Kaif was trained by expert Veronica D'Souza. "Sheila Ki Jawani" was often compared to another item number released the same year "Munni Badnaam Hui" from Dabangg. Despite the song's popularity, Tees Maar Khan was panned by critics and underperformed at the box office. Kaif's portrayal was not well received; Renuka Rao of Daily News and Analysis said that her "drama queen act is performed ... poorly", but noted that she "does full justice" to the item number.
The following year, Kaif was paired with Hrithik Roshan in Zoya Akhtar's coming-of-age dramedy Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. The film narrates the story of three friends on a bachelor trip, and how the workaholism of one was overcome with the help of Laila (Kaif). The film was a critical and commercial success. Richard Kuipers of Variety commented that she is "delightful as the sweet-natured girl who inspires everyone to look in the mirror and do something about it".Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was one of the most awarded films of the year and received numerous Best Film accolades.
Kaif then featured in Yash Raj Films' romantic comedy Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011) with Imran Khan and Ali Zafar. She was cast as Dimple Dixit, a "talkative", "unpredictable" girl, a role she described as challenging as the character's personality contrasted with her own. While the film earned mixed reviews, Kaif was generally praised for her portrayal. The book Mother Maiden Mistress called Dimple one of the more interesting female characters of the year. Gaurav Malani of The Economic Times said the film was watchable because of "Katrina's live-wire energy wherein she never goes overboard and keeps bustling with vivacity through the runtime". For this performance, Kaif received her second Filmfare nomination in the Best Actress category.
In 2012, Kaif appeared in "Chikni Chameli", an item number in Agneepath that incorporated dance steps from the Lavani genre (a Maharashtrian folk dance). The song was filmed over a ten-day period and, according to the actress, "It was hard work. It was very fast and it was not a style I was used to, but I took it as a challenge". Kaif appeared next in Kabir Khan's espionage thriller Ek Tha Tiger as a Pakistani ISI agent who falls in love with an Indian RAW agent. Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express wrote about her performance: "Katrina is an able, animated foil to Salman, her long legs making her leaps and kicks credible". The film received predominantly positive reviews, with Aniruddha Guha of Daily News and Analysis calling it "smart and stylish". With worldwide earnings of ₹3.1 billion (US$41 million), Ek Tha Tiger was the highest-grossing Bollywood film of the year.
That year Kaif also appeared with Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma in Yash Chopra's swan song, the romance Jab Tak Hai Jaan. About working with Chopra, she remarked that he "undoubtedly is the king of romance and I have always admired the way he presents his heroines. It was always a dream to work with him and the reality is even better". She played Meera, a woman who promises God to end her affair with her comatose lover if he survives. Although the film received mostly positive reviews, Kaif's performance had a mixed reception. CNN-IBN wrote: "Meera's role was a difficult one and Katrina falls short in emotional scenes. It seems Katrina still doesn't feel very easy in front of the camera and has difficulty with complex expressions". Commercially, the film proved a box-office hit with revenues of ₹2.11 billion (US$28 million) worldwide.
Kaif next appeared alongside Ranbir Kapoor in Anurag Basu's comedy-adventure film Jagga Jasoos, which was released in 2017 after multiple delays. The film opened to mixed critical response and was a commercial disappointment.Mayank Shekhar from Mid-Day said, "Honestly, I know no two faces as pleasant as Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif on the Indian screen. They naturally shine before the camera." In the same year, Kaif reteamed with Salman Khan and reprised the role of Zoya in the Ali Abbas Zafar's action thriller film Tiger Zinda Hai, sequel to the 2012 film Ek Tha Tiger. The film released on Christmas weekend and opened to strong box office collections, collecting over ₹1.1 billion within three days of release. Rachit Gupta of Filmfare wrote, "The screenplay goes easy on [Kaif] by not giving her stand and dialogue. Instead, she does the bulk of the hand to hand combat and gun fights and she looks the part. It's invigorating to see a lady kick-ass with so much élan and pull all the punches like they're real."
In 2018, Kaif played a supporting role in the periodaction-adventure film Thugs of Hindostan, marking her second collaboration with Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and director Vijay Krishna Acharya. Kaif was also a female lead, alongside Anushka Sharma, in Anand L Rai's Zero, playing an alcoholic actress and marking her second collaboration with Shah Rukh Khan and Sharma (after 2012's Jab Tak Hai Jaan).Zero received mixed reviews from critics, but Kaif's portrayal of an alcoholic actress earned her critical praise, with Udita Jhunjhunwala of Mint crediting for her for delivering "what could be considered her most authentic performance". She received a nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. However, both Thugs of Hindustan and Zero were commercially unsuccessful.
In 2019, Kaif once again collaborated with Salman Khan and Ali Abbas Zafar in the drama Bharat, an adaptation of the South Korean film Ode to My Father (2014). She replaced Priyanka Chopra, after the latter opted out days before filming her scenes. The film became one of the highest-grossing Hindi films of 2019.Anupama Chopra of Film Companion wrote, "Madam Sir, a woman with courage and conviction, is the most memorable character in Bharat. I’d love to see contemporary history told from her perspective.
Kaif has a close relationship with her family, and the lack of a father figure in her life has given her a sense of responsibility towards them. While Kaif's mother is Christian and her father is Muslim, Kaif was brought up to practise all faiths and says she is a "firm believer in God".The Times of India reported in 2009 that she visits Siddhivinayak Temple, Mount Mary Church, and the Sufi shrine Ajmer Sharif Dargah before her films are released.
Kaif's personal life has been the subject of extensive media attention several times. She is reluctant to discuss her romantic life: "I have always believed that there is life before marriage and after marriage. Before marriage ... you are termed a single woman and I choose to conduct that part of my life with absolute dignity and discretion". Although rumours of a relationship with Indian film actor Salman Khan first emerged in 2003, it was not until after their 2010 breakup that Kaif spoke of it, calling it her first serious relationship. They have remained friends, and the actress credits Khan for giving her confidence and guidance.
The reported reason for their breakup was Kaif's increasing closeness to Indian film actor Ranbir Kapoor during the filming of Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. Although this was denied by Kaif and Kapoor, the nature of their relationship was scrutinised by the media because they were thought to be involved with others at the time. In August 2013, photographs of Kapoor and Kaif on holiday in Ibiza were leaked by Stardust; the media interpreted this as confirmation of an affair. After the appearance of the photos, Kaif published an open letter to the media saying that she was "upset, distressed and invaded" by the breach of privacy. She later acknowledged Kapoor as "an extremely important part of [her] life". In February 2016, the media reported that they had broken up.
According to an India Today article, despite her dissimilarity to a conventional Bollywood heroine, Kaif "turned every adversity into opportunity and climbed the slippery pole of stardom". Although she is one of the most commercially successful actresses in contemporary Bollywood, she has received mixed reviews for her acting prowess. Writing for Firstpost, Anuya Jakatdar wrote that Kaif needed to "take on role[s] that actually challenge her" instead of "coasting on her co-star's box office appeal" and criticised her inclination towards glamorous roles. Kaif's dancing ability is better appreciated, with Meena Iyer of The Times of India calling her "one of Bollywood's best dancers". Kaif's Bollywood success has sparked an influx of foreign talent hoping to establish themselves in the industry.
Kaif is cited in the media as one of India's most beautiful celebrities, and has ranked highly in polls choosing the most attractive Indian celebrities. Kaif was named the "World's Sexiest Woman" by FHM India five times from 2008 to 2013, and appeared on Verve's list of most powerful women in 2009 and 2010. The UK magazine Eastern Eye called her the "Sexiest Asian Woman" from 2008 to 2010, and again in 2013. Kaif was named The Times of India's "Most Desirable Woman" in 2010, and was later ranked second from 2011 to 2013. The Indian edition of People described her as "India's Most Beautiful Woman" in 2011 and three years later she topped Maxim India's "Hot 100" poll.
Kaif is a celebrity spokesperson for a number of brands including Slice, Nakshatra, Lux, Panasonic, Lakmé and L'Oréal.The Economic Times ranked Kaif India's second most prominent endorser in 2012.Hindustan Times reported in 2014 that she received ₹50 million (US$660,000) to ₹60 million (US$800,000) for each endorsement, making her one of India's highest-paid celebrity endorsers. In 2013, Kaif was ranked ninth on Forbes' list of India's best-known entertainers with an estimated annual income of ₹638 million (US$8.5 million). In 2010 and 2011, Mattel released two sets of Barbie dolls inspired by Kaif. In 2015, Kaif became the eighth Bollywood actor to have a wax figure installed at Madame Tussauds in London. She is the first Bollywood star to be featured in Peruvian photographer Mario Testino’s Towel Series.