Let's look at some of the many highlights in her career that have made Kareena what she is today. We would be going through Kareena's early years in the industry which were not quite her best and how a new phase kick started in her career post films like Chameli and Yuva.
Her initial years - Not quite the best
Any actor other than Kareena Kapoor must have packed her bags and said goodbye to the world of films if the initial reception to some of her films are any indication. Reason being that Kareena's early years in Bollywood were far more being rosy. Between Refugee (2000) and LOC Kargil (2003), she had 12 releases for herself. However, the only ones which turned out to be real big hits were Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Ajnabee and Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai. In fact Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai was actually a surprise hit because it was mainly a launch pad of Tusshar Kapoor and came with an unusual subject where the lead couple didn't even unite at the end. Still, the film turned out to be a runaway box office hit and came as a shot in the arm for Kareena. Her spunky act, especially after the repressed character she played in Refugee, was appreciated by all and she continued with her Bollywood journey.
She did pin a lot of hopes on Asoka where she was paired opposite none other than Shahrukh Khan but the film was a critical and commercial failure. Jeena Sirf Merre Liye, where she paired up with Tusshar all over again, sunk without a trace while Talaash... The Hunt Begins with Akshay Kumar didn't find any takers either. In fact it stays on as one of the most unknown films starring Kareena that even she must have forgotten. Khushi was criticised for being a loud film where all that the lead couple (Kareena and Fardeen) did was scream at each other due to which audience stayed away from theatres. She did work with JP Dutta again in LOC Kargil but at the end of the day, she was one of the 30 odd characters that the war film boasted of. Also, the film didn't quite turn out to be a smash success and hence was a no gain, no loss situation for Kareena.
Amidst all this mayhem, the other success that Kareena had to her credit was Ajnabee where she played an all-so-supportive young wife of Bobby Deol. The film was a hit and kept Kareena alive and kicking in the industry. However, Kareena had decided that she wanted to do something drastically different in her career. She wanted to get out of the 'Poo' or the sweet girl next door image. She was in mood to experiment and break some norms that are typically associated with Hindi film heroines.
She decided to play a prostitute and that too in art house cinema. The film was Chameli.
A new phase. A new Kareena.
Kareena announced to the world that she now wanted to add on something new to her repertoire in years to come. Chameli was a step in that direction and what followed in quick succession were movies like Yuva and Dev that were not quite commercial and conventional cinema by any means. A new actor in her was discovered once Chameli hit the screens. A moderate success, it did make people stand up and notice the confidence with which she played a street walker. What also caught eye was the drastically different portrayal that she had in Yuva where she played an average girl next door. She was totally natural and though the film flopped, her act remained etched in audience's heart. Her Dev didn't work well either but since it was anyways an issue based subject; the emphasis was on performance more than box office success. In that context, she did gain from this film.
This wasn't all as she agreed to play a vamp soon after and that too in an out and out commercial setup where she came together with Shahid Kapoor. The film was Fida and this was the beginning of an on-screen pairing that went on to be seen in five films, right till the recent release of Milenge Milenge. Some of these outings turned out to be successful while a few were no-shows. Fida was one of them and though the songs turned out to be chartbusters, the film failed at the box office. For audience, it was a difficult theme to digest, especially for those who were expecting a romantic outing from the pair.
Kareena was seen with Shahid again in films like 36 China Town and Chup Chup Ke. Yet again, she was working with some of the best directors in business - Abbas-Mustan and Priyadarshan respectively. The songs were chartbusters again (credit that to Himesh Reshammiya). The films were average successes too but the magic that one expects from a couple which is going strong off the screen wasn't quite visible on the screen. The two worked in unison with each other but audiences weren't really impressed. They wanted a true blue romantic film that got the best out of both of them. Imtiaz Ali listened to the audiences and gave them Jab We Met.
Once the film released, it became such a rage that it grow at the box office week after week. Despite an average opening that it got for itself, Jab We Met saw a positive word of mouth spread like fire. There were talks re-ignited about chemistry, the sense of togetherness, true love and meeting of hearts. No one doubted any more that Kareena and Shahid indeed had it in them to make things happen at the box office. They were not a flop pairing in any case but Jab We Met turned out to be something that belonged to a different league altogether. No wonder, even when their half a decade long in the making Milenge Milenge released as recent as last month, the film still managed decent eyeballs for itself, all thanks to the pairing which is not quite expected to meet ever again!