As we enter her house, Kajol comes across as a regular woman — discussing household chores with her staff, even as she coaxes four-year-old son Yug to eat, and keeps an eye on 11-year-old daughter Nysa, who is watching cartoons. All this with a fractured foot.
She isn’t known to give too many interviews, but today, as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ, 1995), completes a landmark 1,000 weeks (that’s how long it’s been playing at Maratha Mandir in Dadar), she’s eager to talk.
Our conversation revolves around the iconic film, her chemistry with co-star Shah Rukh Khan, and more.
* How has your equation with Shah Rukh changed over the years?
We’ve grown as actors and as people. Our friendship doesn’t depend on us calling each other every day and knowing what’s going on in each other’s lives. But, when we meet, there’s warmth and no need to put on a mask. It’s the comfort level with a person you’ve known for 20 years.
* Your chemistry is unmatched. What makes it so special?
I think history created our chemistry. I believe it has to do with cinematic history, and with the comfort of the person. Somewhere, because he’s a friend and we’ve worked together for so long, it’s easier, and there’s a comfortable body language even if it doesn’t register. Our films together have done well, and that in itself adds spice. It’s at the back of everybody’s mind.
* It’s now 1,000 weeks and counting for DDLJ. Did you expect this?
We cannot take credit for it becoming the longest-running Indian film. It’s something to do with all those people who go to Maratha Mandir every day; those who’ve made it a habit, almost like a religion, to go there daily and spend that much time watching a film we made so long back. We wanted to make a movie that would make money. We were not even interested in making a good film.
* And did you make enough money out of it?
We didn’t make that much; Adi (Aditya Chopra; film-maker) made money out of it (laughs).
* How does it feel now, nearly two decades later?
I feel the film has become bigger than us. But while all of us — Adi, Shah Rukh, Karan (Johar), Manish (Malhotra) and I — have grown in our respective ways, DDLJ was the starting point.
* Now that Aditya is married to your cousin, Rani Mukerji, has your equation with him changed?
We’re the same. He hasn’t changed much either. Even now, he doesn’t leave the studio often, but he’s become more business-oriented now. He always had a firm plan in his head regarding what he wants out of life. I meet him often now. When I’m shooting at the studio, I go to his office for a cup of coffee.
* Do you have a message for fans of DDLJ?
Raj and Simran were created for them and by them. Without all the love over the years, they would be just characters, and DDLJ would be just another movie. I’d like to say thank you, and keep going — keep making us bigger and better (laughs).
* After all these years, how do you manage to generate buzz about your films?
I don’t want to work in a film that I don’t feel good about making. Neither do I want to make a film that I don’t want to watch. I believe that films are made to make you feel good; you go in to the theatre so that you can put your brain to rest and put your life on hold for a little while and get involved in somebody else’s life.
* How do you pick your films?
At times, I’ve done a film because I liked my character; at others I’ve done it because I liked the script even though my character wasn’t so great. I have to have a good script as I’m a reader at heart. When I’m reading a fantastic book, I ignore everybody else. I put my phone off, make sure my kids and husband are fast asleep, and then sit till three in the morning and finish the book. So, when I listen to a script, I have to be able to visualise what’s happening.
Shah Rukh Khan on Kajol
Ask Shah Rukh Khan about his Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge co-star, Kajol, and he says, “One thing I’ve learnt from working with Kajol is that she has never done a film or a scene that she hasn’t believed in. Sometimes, she starts off a scene and says what seeps into her, doing it with more conviction than even the director; at other times she’s not impressed by scenes that others feel are the deepest; and sometimes, she finds frivolous ones very nice.” Shah Rukh adds that Kajol takes on a film only if she’s happy with the people working on it. “I think that’s why she has done so few of them. To be able to work like her is an actor’s greatest gift,” he explains, adding, “God has been kind to her — a marriage, two kids, doing wonderful films, and being responsible for some of the nicest ones I’ve done. Her hallmark is her honesty; she is a complete, honest actor.”
* How do you manage to keep your kids (Nysa and Yug) away from the limelight?
I don’t hide them, (but I also) don’t take my kids along to every event. I can’t handle my kids and my sari together (laughs). Also, I’m paranoid about my kids in public places; I want to keep an eye on them at all times. I prefer keeping my roles as a mother and public figure separate.
* Do they watch your films?
I’d love for them to. But my daughter has categorically told me that I cry too much in the movies. According to her, I do bad movies and I should do films like Golmaal (2006), which is true cinema like what Ajay (Devgn; husband) does (laughs).
* What is your take on Ajay’s films?
I watch as many as I can, but I’m critical only up to a point. I’m a front-bencher for a film (sic). I enjoy a film that makes me laugh and clap. I want to be thoroughly entertained. I’m really not the person to give you a pseudo-critique of what you should be doing. But yes, as actors, we do compare each other’s performances. ­
* And how do you deal with a film’s failure?
It has never affected me to the extent that I got depressed. When my film does well, I’m happy, but if it doesn’t, I’m still good. That’s the one thing my mom (veteran actor Tanuja) was really good at. She was like ‘whatever happens outside, stays there. When you’re home, cut yourself off’. — Shalvi Mangaokar