The atmosphere lits up with cheerfulness and infectious laughter as soon as Kajol enters the room. Dressed in a sunshine yellow Anarkali dress, it's hard not to get distracted by her charming persona and exuberance. 'Wherever the best writing takes me is where I will go,' the actress tells us at one point and our inner fan cheers as we just can't wait to watch more of Kajol on screen.
Sipping a jar of warm water at regular intervals to soothe her sore throat, Kajol settles for an interview with Filmibeat.
Excerpts from our conversation with her.
'I Would Love To Wear A Navari On A Red Carpet'
Q. What drew you to your role in Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior?
A. The great part of my role is that you will remember her. She's not forgettable and a character that you can look over. Her character is more about what she says in the film. It's not about anything else. My character is saying things that are very important to not only just the story of the film but, also contributes to who Tanhaji was. I don't think the film would be complete without my character.
Q. People are loving your Maharashtrian look in the film. Was there any special preparation involved in it?
A. The special preparation is that I got married in that same look 20 years back. I was doing my research for it from then (laughs) I was very lucky to have research material by the director Om Raut who was working on this subject since the last five years before the actual shooting for the film began. Nachiket Barve has designed my clothes for the film. He too did his research work as far as my clothes and looks are concerned. Mickey Contractor did my makeup for the film. He's a master at what he does.
It used to take 2 and half hours for me to get ready every morning and anybody who knows me, knows that 2 and half hours is too long a time to get ready for hair and makeup. We even got a special person to drape my saree. She was a 75 year old woman who only does this. She used to travel one and half hours every day and she has been tying Navaris since the last 50 years. She has worked on black-and-white films, black-and-white Marathi films to stage shows and lavnis. She draped my sarees so well that it looked perfect on screen.
Q. Did you also offer your inputs in sketching your character?
A. Honestly, the character is so clear that there's nothing much that you can add to it. It's not the one where firstly, there's much space to built and secondly, it's not a character where I can add things. She doesn't have any mannerism that I can say. On the other hand, she has this complete look where when you put that 'padar' on your head and walk, it's that which is part of your mannerism. Navari has a completely different body language. I have said so many times that I would love to wear navari on a red carpet. I haven't had the right occasion to do that yet. (laughs)
'I Used To Ask Ajay, "Am I Looking Like I Should Be Sitting Over There In My Pants & Chilling?" '
Q. You are reuniting with her husband Ajay Devgn on the big screen after a decade. What made you say yes to Tanhaji?
A. I liked the script. Secondly, I loved all the scenes that they had come up with where Savitri (Kajol's character) was concerned. She's a complete character. The film may not be based on her but she's a very solid character. She's unforgettable. That's what I loved about her.
I don't mind doing a film even if I have just three scenes in it. But they should be fantastic. They should be something which is unforgettable for me as an actor and for the audience to watch. And of course, you need to have good script with it.
Q. Was there any pressure on you since you were playing a historical character?
A. The pressure is that you have to convince yourself that what you are doing is correct for that time and that's very difficult to do. We had the most amazing sets. I was wearing a navari and had a 'padar' on my head and wore jewellery, but to stand there and to have that feel of that time is something that you can never be sure of. You can be sure only when you see it all put together.
I wasn't very unsure during the first three-four days of shooting and used to ask Ajay, "Are you sure it's turning out okay'? Am I looking like I should be sitting over there in my pants and chilling? Am I looking like I am wearing my track pants? (laughs) He was like, 'Don't worry. Everything is working." But, I was still not convinced till I dubbed for the film. When I saw everything together, I was like, okay I have convinced myself, now I will leave it up to the audience to decide.
Q. You have never been a method actor. But do you think that approach would have had an advantage here?
A. Like I said, it's not a character that you can make. It's not about what you can make out of it. There's nothing in it that you can really add. You would only end up caricaturing it if you tried to add anything extra to it. There's so much of dignity and strength in simply just standing and doing nothing. That in itself is something that can't be added to by method or otherwise.
'I Would Love To Play Krishna'
Q. Was history your favourite subject in school?
A. I loved history as a subject. But, I didn't like it in school for sure. I am one of those students who has read the entire Amar Chitra Katha as many volumes as they have of it. I am a big fan of mythology. I know all the mythological characters and the stories behind them. I love history in that sense. But if you ask me the date and year of a particular war, I would probably fail miserably in that.
Q. Is there any mythological character that you would love to play?
A. I would love to play Krishna. Unfortunately, he's a male. But if we take the creative idea from it, I would love to play Krishna. I think he is fabulous character. He isn't black or white. At the same time, he is not even grey. His reasons for whatever he is doing is so very clear. He is one of the most interesting characters that we have in our mythology.
Q. Have you seen any historical film in recent past which you really liked?
A. I am really bad at that. I haven't watched anything. Everybody keeps asking me how I can be an actor and not watch films. But I am one of those people who would choose a book and a workout over a film.
'Big Films Are Made By Passionate People'
Q. You have completed 27 years in the industry and have been part of some iconic films. Is it still challenging for you to reinvent yourself as an actor with every film?
A. I think it's never easy. It's always an effort which needs to be done. The world is changing and you can't change half-heartedly. You have to give your hundred percent and work it the way you think it needs to be worked. You have to keep reinventing yourself. It's very important to do that. If not with every film, but with at least your character and adapt it with the changing society. Change is the only constant. It's very rapid right now and I feel, it's more important in today's day and time than it ever was earlier.
Q. What kind of changes do you see in the industry over the years?
A. The technology is changing in every three months. The biggest change that I have seen in the film industry is that everything has just become more corporatized and turning into full-fledged business. It's more about making business of cinema. I still think that only mad and passionate people get into it. I feel big films are made by passionate people. Also, earlier we had one person who did ten things and now, we have ten people who do ten different things altogether. Everything is specialized and put into their place. It's really big right now.
There are so many fractions of the film industry that you never come into contact with. Earlier, when you went for a party, you knew for the fact that you will meet the entire film industry over there. Now, we can't. Because you only meet a certain section of them and you have to attend ten different things before you meet the different sides of the film industry.
Q. When you look back at debut film, Bekhudi, your character had more meat to it. Were you choosy about your roles since then?
A. I have always selected a film according to what I had to say in the film and the script. I loved the idea of Bekhudi. We worked like dogs but we had a great time while making the film. I still say that Rahul uncle (Rahul Rawail) is one of the people who have taught me the most about techniques, films and what takes to be in front of the camera. Till today, I don't think any director has taught me as much as he has.
'After Udhar Ki Zindagi, I Went To My Mother & Told Her That I Wanted To Do Easy Films'
Q. Do you miss those days when you worked with Saif Ali Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and those times when actors juggled between the sets of one film to another?
A. I never did that anyways. I used to do maximum two films a year. I have finished 35 films and Ajay has done 100 films. He has completed 30 years in the industry. He made his debut two years before me but he has done three times as many films as me. So have most of the people around me. I think I am the laziest of the entire star generation that there was and still am.
I still meet Saif, Aamir and Akshay on and off. I would love to work with them. For us to do a film together also, it has to be something that we both agree on. Everybody's viewpoint is different as far as the script that they choose to do. Mine also is very different as to what movies I want to do in life.
Q. Have you shown your kids some of your underrated films?
A. My kids don't like to watch my films in which I cry. But according to that criteria, I cannot show them any one of my movies. It's very difficult for me to pick and choose. My daughter and son have seen Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham only up to a certain point. Otherwise in the rest of the film, there are very little portions where I am not upset or sad. My daughter Nysa was so upset with me after watching We Are Family. She came out and asked me, "How could you put me through this?" I told her that it wasn't a bad film. I was like okay, this is an argument that I am not going to win.
Q. Do you feel bad when people don't recollect some of your underrated films like say, a Udhar Ki Zindagi?
A. For me, a film is more about what I feel about it rather than the audience's take on it. That may be a very selfish way of looking at it. But that's me. They are memories and pieces of life for me. They are the things that I judge myself by. I don't have to sit and justify it to anybody.
Udhar Ki Zindagi was a very important film for me timewise. It was one of the films after which I actually felt like burnt out as an actor. I was like I can't do this anymore and be honest in front of the camera. I went to my mother and told her that I wanted to do some easy films. I told her that I want to do films where I have three songs and two scenes. That's the time when I signed films like Hulchul, Gundaraj. I was very happy at that point of time doing that and it turned out to be quite a life-changing decision.
'My Mother Is More Picky Than I Am'
Q. Can we see you and your mother Tanuja in a film together? Is she critical about your work?
A. I would love to. Please tell somebody to write it and my mother has to approve it as well. She's one of those people who is more picky than I am. For her to approve a role, it takes a lot. It's something that has to appeal to both of us. We have been offered films together before. But somehow, it never worked out.
She loves me and is completely biased. When she watches a film and if there isn't enough of me, it's not a good film. In other words, it has to be a film based on me (laughs)
Q. How do you measure success of a film? Do you look out for personal satisfaction or is it about box office numbers for you?
A. I think box office collection is also very important because more than it being important to me personally, I think it's important for films in generally to be made of a different kind. Tanhaji is made for a mass audience and it's made with keeping everybody in mind. But, it's important for women-oriented films to do well at box office.
Personally, I think I have reached a point where it doesn't matter to me that much and secondly, when I agree to do a film, it's very important for me to agree 300 per cent and make up my mind that I am 300 percent in it. If I have given it my best shot, it was great if it does well. If it doesn't do well, it's sad but it will not keep me up at nights. As long as you are the hardest working person in the room, you are fine. I believe in that as far as work is concerned otherwise it's lazy. (laughs)
Q. How much of your performance is dependent on a co-star?
A. I think 50 percent of a performance is dependent on a co-star. I believe that when your co-actors around you are comfortable and work well together, it always shows on screen. There's a certain ease and chemistry. There's something indefinable that you feel on screen. You just know that these two people are enjoying and having a great time together. It's really important that people around you have as much of a stake and say in the film as you.
Q. Among the current crop of actors, who is your favourite?
A. I have no favourites, really. I think each and every one of them has worked very hard to not stay in a niche. They are doing different kinds of cinema. So, kudos to them for thinking like that and for thinking of their longevity.