Kajol: 30 Years and Counting

Kajol, who has completed 30 years as lead actress this year, in Salaam Venky. Photo: Universal Communications

Her newest film, Salaam Venky, is due for release this week. This year, Kajol completes 30 years in cinema and is majorly acknowledged as the last of Hindi cinema’s female superstars. The track-record of her best and most successful movies includes Baazigar, Karan Arjun, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Gupt, Ishq, Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…, Fanaa, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior and also acclaimed performances in Udhaar Ki Zindagi, U Me Aur Hum and dual roles in Dushman (1998) and Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi.

As her co-star (and son in the film), Vishal Jethwa, puts it simply and succinctly, “There are many heroines who are around 30 years after they began. But Kajol ma’am is roaring even after three decades!”

I open my conversation with Kajol on that note, and the superstar guffaws.

Excerpts from an interview follow:

How does that feel? 30 years and counting…Or 39, if you include your first appearance as a child artiste in your uncle Deb Mukerji’s Karate (1983).

Like I always say, I am very, very grateful. My mother, Tanuja, started working since she was 6 or 7 and she is 79 today. So she has been working for 73 years and compared to her, I am a bacchi (kid)! Yes, my career maybe a little older than Vishal is, but I still have a long, long way to go. In fact, Revathi ma’am, our director, has completed 40 years in cinema, so together we are 70!

What made you sign this film?

Actually, I had decided that I will not do this film when I read the concept note! I really, really think Revathi ma’am is one of the finest actors we have in this country, and I really, really respect her. So I told her this, adding that I will not do her film! She requested me to just hear the script once. My reply was that I was sure she would make a terrific film and I would love to meet her, but I was not going to be a part of it!

So she very sweetly came to my office, and I heard the script and loved it. You can give your own bits to a script you normally hear, but this one was perfect already. I was still hesitating because as a mother, I don’t want to do films where I have to pretend that something happens to my child. I am not comfortable doing that. I will also not do films, for example, where I am molested. If I have to show my acting skills, I would rather do something else.

But I remembered watching her directorial, Phir Milenge, in 2004 and thinking then about what a fabulous director she was. It was a sensitive and well-balanced film, especially in the way Salman Khan’s and Shilpa Shetty’s roles were shown. I remember thinking that if Revathi ever approached me, I would jump at it! But that did not happen until 18 years! (Laughs)

So I asked her for a day to think about the script. I knew she would make a perfectly balanced film, I knew that! So I knew that if I let my one fear, which was completely without a base, stop me from doing this film, I would regret it for the rest of my life. And I will never allow my fear to control my actions. So I called her and said, ‘Take care of me! I am in!’

Kajol with director Revathi. Photo: Universal Communications

Was there any scene where you felt you could use something from reel in your real life as a mother?

Yes, I learnt that I will not let my fears rule my children’s life. The story of Venky and Sujata is inspiring because they did it all for themselves and each other and not to show the world. It’s about living in the moment and making every moment count.

Do you have fears about anything in life? And how do you deal with it?

Of course, we all have fears every morning when we wake up about something or the other! The whole point to your lives, growing up and maturity, is that you work despite the fear. That’s what bravery is about, right? Bravery is about doing what you mean to do despite the fear. And that’s actually what I did in the case of Salaam Venky. I was afraid that I would not be able to do some scenes with my on-screen son.

Could you say something about Aamir Khan’s cameo in the film?

I can’t! (Chuckles). All I will say is that I last worked with him in Fanaa in 2006. I really respect Aamir, he has managed to keep his enthusiasm, interest and perfectionist in all these years.

Nowadays, more biopics are made on living people who are unknown commoners, like here, rather than on known public figures. Is that easier or more difficult for actors?

I would say the responsibility is more, especially because they are not public figures, and are alive. If I have to live with the film and my work, I must bring out the essence of the person I am portraying. Honestly, I can now face myself in the mirror to ask, “Have you worked the hardest?” and answer, “I have given more than 300 percent to the film!”

Aren’t you doing a Dharma film again after 11 years after My Name is Khan and We are Family? And starring Ibrahim Ali Khan?

Yes. But I cannot talk about it.








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