Like the three Khans, Akshay Kumar, and her husband Ajay Devgn, Kajol has stayed relevant for a full 25 years since her 1992 (flop) debut “Bekhudi.” In this, she has beaten names like Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit Nene or even an Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Truth be told, she is the ONLY actress in modern Hindi film history who has survived this long and still keeps doing films without seeming desperate to do them, and for whom flops, or hits do not matter.
Never dependent on any hero even in her busiest phase, including Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn, she is still a leading lady and not a young mother. In real life, age has barely touched her. In late 2015, she co-starred with Shah Rukh Khan again for the seventh time in “Dilwale,” which crossed 100 crores but did not recover the investment. Rohit Shetty always talks about his letting the film go wrong by converting Kajol’s earlier planned cameo into a full-fledged romantic role to cash in on the five-hit, one overseas success SRK-Kajol team.
But her fans did not see anything wrong or incongruous in her gracefully enacting catchy Pritam duets and looking as young in “Gerua” as she did when she sang “Baazigar O Baazigar” (“Baazigar”), “Jaati Hoon Main” (“Karan Arjun”), the title-track of “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” or “Suraj Hua Maddham” (“Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham..”) between 1993 and 2001!
She now stars in the bi-lingual South Indian film, “VIP 2”/“Lalkaar” opposite Dhanush, who is also the co-writer of the film. This is the first Tamil film Kajol has done since “Minsara Kanavu”/”Sapnay” 20 years ago, and we wonder why.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Why did it take you a full 20 years to do the second film in the South?
A (Chuckles): “Sapnay” absolutely traumatized me! Every night, for two hours after the shoot, their assistant and I – we are still friends, by the way, despite that! – would sit poring over the Tamil dialogues for the next day! I had never slogged so much even for my ISCE exams! I told myself: ‘That’s it! No more of films in this language, or in any language that I do not understand. I am a HINDI film actress, and that’s what I am going to be – a GOOD Hindi film actress!’
Q: And now, what exactly happened to change your mind?
A (Grins): Dhanush, who is my hero and has also written the script, and director Soundarya came to me for narration. I was, like, ‘Okay! I do not do Tamil films. But since you want me to hear the script, I will. But rest assured that I will not do the film!’
And it turned out to be a lovely script, so I told them that. And they said, ‘50 percent of your dialogues will be in English. The rest we will get dubbed.’ So I thought, even if the language is Chinese, what does it matter? And I told them, ‘I like the role, I will do it!’
Q: But you did speak Tamil finally.
A: Yes, the first two days were unsettling. Dhanush, Soundarya and I would sit with a 100 different things – voice notes, papers and so on. I had butterflies in my stomach and did not sleep for two whole nights, but after that, the rhythm of the language seeped into me. It began to flow much, much easier. I must thank both of them for backing me completely. They safeguarded me, so speaking in Tamil became easy! I cannot be grateful enough.
Q: Dhanush told us that he wrote the script with you in mind, as he has grown up on your movies and has been your great fan.
A: (In mock anger) Now, doesn’t that just show how much of a venerable senior actor I am?
Q: He said it, we did not!
A (Laughs): Well, I have definitely infused my character with a lot more life than there was on paper, I think! Yes, because Dhanush was the writer, I could tell him openly if I did not like anything in the script and he would change it. We did not need to call in a writer! And said, he’s also a very intelligent and fine actor.
Q: So do you relate to your character?
A: I do, to a good extent. Vasundhara Parmeshwaran is so self-made and successful that her high level of self-confidence could be taken to be arrogance. The hero, Raghuvaran, comes from a different world, and he has ideas and ideologies that are poles apart. Both are so stubborn in their beliefs, as they are completely convinced that they are right, that the film is about the clash of their ideologies.
In most of the characters I do, I pick and choose one part that I can identify with, and then elaborate it, exaggerate it and make it believable.
Q: Has Ajay watched the film?
A: No, neither have I. But I have told him that it is a nice commercial film and that I have given a good performance in it! (Laughs again)
Q: What changes do you see in the industry since your debut?
A: I think that the film industry is poised to be in its best phase. For one, the word ‘regional’ is being slowly eradicated. The audience has changed, and their levels have gone up. We in the industry cannot now get away with any crap, as the people are being exposed to so many mediums as well as films from all regions of India and the world. Whatever we put out must have to be of a certain level.
Q: Would you be open now to a web series?
A: Good work is good work in any medium. It will always be remembered.
Q: How does it feel to be 25 years in the industry and still relevant, just like the top superstars, including your husband, Ajay Devgn?
A: Luckily, I have never been boxed in. I am still enjoying my work, which is my big pat on my back. Of course, that is also because I have not done too much work!
Q: Were you choosy or just lazy?
A (Guffaws): A bit of both!
Q: They say that it is very lonely at the top. Did you feel that too during your reign?
A: Vasundhara, at one point, feels that. I never did – I made sure there were lots of people around me! (Laughs)
Q: Are you really starting another production banner on your own?
A: Good you asked me about this rumor. Look, my surname is Devgn, and that has been the same for 18 years! (Chuckles) So, Ajay Devgn Ffilms is my home banner, and there is no question of my starting something else. I am right now doing one of our productions that will be directed by Anand Gandhi. We will announce everything in September.
Q: Your mother Tanuja has just returned to acting with a TV serial. Would you want your children to act as well?
A: Like my mother, I will leave it to them. Ajay and I will just provide the tools for them to find happiness and success in whatever they want to do with their determination.