It’s not easy to get an interview with Kajol, because the actor hates giving interviews. But when she finally goes for it, there’s no stopping her. She just flows — free, frank and enjoying herself hugely. Kajol has been turning heads quite often these days. Looking lighter, fitter and gorgeous, the once ‘beautifully plump’ actor is on a style high. She’s 18 kilos down and feeling great about herself and her life.
“Happiness enables you to take on many things. I was never bothered about my appearance in the past, but I figured it’s not that tough. And my resolve has borne fruit,” says Kajol, smiling radiantly. And we believe her.
But what we can’t believe is this. Yashraj Films, which had produced several blockbusters starring Kajol, hadn’t bothered to invite her to the star-studded premiere of the late filmmaker Yash Chopra’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), last Diwali. We also can’t begin to imagine how flustered director Raju Hirani must have been when he approached Kajol with the offer of a role in the movie 3 Idiots (2009), and was hit with so many demands that he had to cast Kareena Kapoor instead.
That’s Kajol. In a career spanning 20 years, she has always set her own rules and stuck to them. In an industry that is growing more politically correct by the day, the actor is a revelation. And our interview, conducted in her husband Ajay Devgn’s office, involved much laughter and occasional deviations for Kajol the mommy to attend to her children Nysa and Yug.
You never spent so much time on your appearance as you seem to do now. Any particular reason for this?
Earlier, looking lighter or slimmer never mattered to me. Frankly, I didn’t care. I had more important things to do. But when I figured that it’s not that hard and I have the time, passion and patience to take it up, I jumped onto the health-wagon. I started working out. Also, the world is changing and you have to change with it or else you will be swept aside.
Suddenly people are noticing the brands you wear and how you look, something I find very absurd. In my entire life, I have never bothered about what brand I wore, let alone what other people wore. All these things were irrelevant. But being a movie star, how can you escape the ‘brand wagon’? You won’t believe it, but I am still not brand conscious. If I like something, I will pick it up from anywhere and wear it. I don’t believe that only branded stuff looks good on you. If it doesn’t look good in my eyes, I’ll never wear it.
You said you like shopping on your own. Does this apply to household shopping as well?
Shopping was never an issue with me. I go crazy in grocery stores and chemist shops. Not the local grocer, but Nature’s Basket and Food Mall are my kind of grocery stores. And you may find this weird, but when Ajay and I go abroad, we spend the maximum on medical shopping. I check out the latest vitamin, calcium and iron tablets, painkillers and medicines for other illnesses. I spend five times more money at a chemist shop than I would at a fashion boutique. Clothes shopping is optional for me, shopping at a chemist store is a must.
How is life at 38 for you?
I am in a happy space, proud of myself and my age. I wouldn’t want to be 16 again because I am much prettier and thinner right now than I was at 16. As for me the actor, I have a distinct idea of what I want to do. I would rather not work than do a bad film. A good script is still eluding me.
Aren’t you being too choosy?
I have always been very choosy, but as you grow older your tolerance for crap becomes less. The role I will do today has to justify the time I take away from my kids and my husband. I love them, spend a lot of time with them and love doing things for them. So to go away for three to six months, I need something equally powerful.
Your co-stars Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, SRK and Akshay Kumar are still ruling, whereas the girls are fast vanishing. Is the film industry biased?
It’s got to do with perception, with the kind of cinema that’s produced, than with being biased. We are not Hollywood, and even if we are, let’s face it, a woman-oriented film even there will not do the same business as The Avengers (2012). Pretty Woman (1990) has not done the same business as Spider-Man (2002), has it?
So you mean the movie industry across the world is male dominated?
It’s not male dominated as much as it is economically dominated. It’s all about money. Look at the last five films that went into the R100 crore club. As viewers, we have a certain kind of idea about what entertains us. And that’s popular cinema, which makes maximum money at the box office. I wouldn’t say that Kahaani (2012) or The Dirty Picture (2011) haven’t made money, but that’s an anomaly. How many Kahaanis do we make? Also these days a movie is made in not less than Rs. 90 crore. So when you have that kind of money at stake, you have to recover it also. Let’s be realistic. Ninety per cent of superheroes are male. Personally, I prefer Superman, Batman and Spider-man to Wonder Woman. Not that I don’t like female superheroes, but watching male superheroes gives me a high. For me, men and women are different. A man is genetically gifted to pull more than a woman. But at the same time, I don’t consider women to be any less than men. In fact, I feel we are far more intelligent than them.
Do you feel Ajay is an unsung superstar?
I believe everyone is where they ought to be. If he is unsung today then he wanted it like this. He has three National Awards. I haven’t heard of any mainstream actor with three National Awards. He has been consistently good in all his movies. You are doing more endorsements than movies. The endorsements that I am currently associated with have been there for a while now. They may not be immensely satisfying to an actress, but the thought process that goes behind the ads interests me. And it’s great money too.
You didn’t have that much to do in My Name Is Khan (2010)…
I didn’t have the main lead but I had some truly powerful scenes in it. I also did the film because I wanted to work with Karan. Would you compromise over the filmmakers if the script is good? I would want a good director. I feel when someone signs you, they are signing you because they expect you do 90 per cent of their job by putting the responsibility on you. They want you elevate that role into something bigger.
The grapevine has it that Karan Johar is planning a movie with you and Shah Rukh Khan again
I think Karan is busy writing his next film, and I am sure it’s not with me and Shah Rukh or me and anyone. I think he will do a lovely little movie before he gets onto something bigger. And I know Karan wouldn’t come to me without a proper script. He knows I have multiple queries. And my friends are not obliged to make movies for me.
Lots of female actors say that you are their idol. Who is yours?
I am a huge Sridevi fan. India has never produced a finer actress than her. She has reinvented herself with every film. Whenever I meet her I tell her to open a school and I would be her first student. There’s so much to learn from her. Who do you think can be the next Kajol? Nobody needs to be anybody. They all have potential. But I don’t watch that many movies so it’s unfair to say anything. From whatever little I saw of Ishaqzaade (2012), I liked Parineeti Chopra. She’s good from among the fresher lot. Let’s wait and see who lasts.
Have you and Shah Rukh Khan ever discussed recreating your famous onscreen magic?
I haven’t met Shah Rukh for a very long time. But when we meet, we have so many other things and people to gossip about that our own agenda gets lost. What about a film with him? They don’t make love stories anymore. I would love to see a great love story like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) which stays with you.
Why did you refuse 3 Idiots?
When Raju Hirani came to me with the script, I said I’d do the film if I were given the lead role (played by Aamir) or at least one of the other two main male leads. Raju thought I was joking, but I wasn’t. I didn’t have much to do in the role that was offered to me (eventually played by Kareena Kapoor). I wouldn’t have felt happy doing that film.
Last Diwali, your husband Ajay Devgn and Aditya Chopra of Yash Raj Films were embroiled in a legal battle over theatre screens for Son of Sardaar, Ajay’s home production and Jab Tak Hai Jaan, the late Yash Chopra’s last directorial. Were you torn between them, considering you’ve done several movies with Yash Raj?
Anyone who has met Ajay would vouch for his calmness. He wouldn’t take on someone unnecessarily. He had his reasons and he stood by them. He was very clear from the beginning that I should be out of this as he didn’t want me to get into an emotional mess. That’s why I kept quiet. He didn’t let me make any statements at that point. But I was, I am and I will always be with him, standing beside him, behind him, and in front of him. Ajay’ll do the same for me. But we are also individuals in our own right. At the end of the day, Son of Sardaar was our home production and it doesn’t matter if I am publicly showing support or no. And sorry, but I was not invited to the premiere of Jab Tak Hai Jaan as was reported.
How do Nysa and Yug react when they see your movies?
Yug is still too young to figure out anything. And Nysa never liked my films. She thinks I cry a lot. She asks me why I don’t do movies like her papa, she means Golmaal (2006). As per her taste I am not a good actor. Thank you Nysa.
Kajol’s fave actors
Ajay Devgan: Truly impressed by his acting range. From serious roles to out and out comedy, from romantic to rowdy, Ajay’s displayed great talent always.
Shah Rukh Khan: Willing to take risks and do something different. Good actor.
Salman Khan: One of the most intelligent people I have met. By far the biggest contemporary superstar in the industry, yet so untouched by stardom. The way he delivers his dialogues is a reflection of his real self — casual and carefree.
Aamir Khan: Supremely talented and intelligent. A great marketing genius. Always puts on a new hat.
Akshay Kumar: Evolved fantastically. I remember he was working with my mother in Deedar (1992). I was very young then. When mom would tell us about Akshay Kumar the star, our jaws would drop. He has made it super big in the industry without any major backing. And he’s still the same warm Akshay.
She re-defined simplistic beauty on the silver screen. As Kajol celebrates her 39th birthday, browse through some of her Bollywood milestones.