There is perhaps no one as opinionated, as loud, as stubborn as her in this industry. But then, writes Shubarna Mukerji Shu, there is no one as talented, as gifted and as loving as Kajol, either!
She is the yardstick by which we measure actresses’ acting calibre even today (she hates that, but we do it anyway!) and now that she is set on once again dedicating a little more time to acting, we are thrilled. With each passing day, she is looking more stunning than before and we can’t help but commend the extra effort she is putting in… As they say, it’s never too late! “The way I see it, it is interesting and just that at this moment. As of now, I am interested, let’s see how long that lives up. Bottom line being I like the way I am looking. But then again, show me one person who doesn’t want to look good?” Clearly she seems to have got the hang of it, or at least she is taking all the right advice from the right people.
“To begin with, there is no way anyone can get a hang of this whole fashion thing – someone somewhere will always find you inappropriate. That’s the thing with fashion, some will like what you wear, and some will hate it with a vengeance. I stick to my own opinion. As long as I think I am looking good, as long as I am liking what I see in the mirror, I am good to go! But please, I don’t want to be a fashion guru or anything. It is too boring. People who want to be one, I don’t think they will have the time to do anything else in life. I have too much happening in mine!” Not for one single moment are we assuming that the once-jhalli Kajol is turning Diva and parading her Pradas in the front seats of the fashion weeks. We will simply take it in our stride, as we did with her whole slowing down…
In her typical Kajol way, she dismissed it saying, “I don’t think slowing down on my work was a big decision. I know it had its consequences. To begin with, I would not be doing four films in a year; subsequently no four releases in a year. Also, I would have a lot of free time on hand - thankfully I like my own company - but yes, there are times when I suddenly realise I have free time and am not really certain if I want it but I planned it that way…. By the time I was 25, I had already been working for like 10 years… so for me it was time!
“And I had been working hard for those 10 years, so for me it was like taking a nice big break. It was a perfect decision for me, and I didn’t really bother too much as to what others had to think about it. Loads of people came up to me and told me, ‘You are only 24…’ and blah but I just told them. ‘For you I might be ONLY 24 but for me, I was TWENTY FOUR!” She added, “My plan, as it is, is to retire by the time I am 50… And you know what, I really think that most of the time when I have believed I have done what is right, it has worked out for me. I don’t go back to wonder what if… I don’t believe in that and maybe that’s why I don’t have any regrets.”
No regrets is commendable, but doesn’t she have insecurities? With a husband still at the top of his order, gorgeous girls filling the space she abandoned… So what if none has matched up, the attempts are being made all around… doesn’t she worry she will have to unlearn everything she had, and start over?
“You have to constantly unlearn, you have to just forget everything and start afresh. What you have done, what you have been… you just have to unlearn it all. When you go on with the same thing, you are nothing but a repetition. You will never create anything new. If you have to create something new, you have to wash your hands off the stuff you have already done. There is also this thing called Technique but that’s a whole different thing. Technique, you see, is a process of learning, you have to put that thought into acting per se… the thought process that goes into assimilating what you have been given etc… By sheer trial and error, it will get polished.
“As for younger actresses, I don’t think it is right to compare. I don’t think it is right for them, and certainly not right for me. You bring to a film what only you could. What one person brings to a film, is a part of them, a part of their personality, their nuances. That cannot be replaced by anyone else no matter how good a mimic that person is… so how can there be any comparisons? The industry is growing so wonderfully. I keep saying this and I will say it again: there is no one here who is not doing well due to lack of work. There is plentiful for everyone!”
True, this industry is certainly doing better; even commercial cinema is trying to get their facts right about their scripts. It is a positive change from popcorn cinema…“Yes, earlier it was all about whether or not money was made! Today, everyone wants that social success as well as monetary. But I don’t see any problem in popcorn and candy floss cinema - tell me, can you watch a film without them? The world would be a lesser place without all these feel-good things. They mean happy times, happy memories and these filmmakers bring that out. I don’t think it’s derogatory in any ways. I think it is great, I love popcorn and I love candy floss!
“The problem comes when one tries to pretend you are more - that’s when they fail and make people realise that it is only this much you can do! Be honest to yourself, and say, ‘This is all I am, I am making these movies and I am making money, to hell with what people think! I don’t want to grow. If you want to grow, you grow! I am happy where I am, I am Peter Pan’!”
Since she was voicing opinions, I had to ask what she felt about the pregnancy clause… After a pregnant pause, I reminded her what it was, to begin with, and she said, “But then it is a sensible approach to take, financially speaking. Thinking about it financially, everyone would want to monitor their investments. Also at the end of the day, think about it, if you are going to get pregnant, you are going to get pregnant; it is not like anyone can stop you. If half way through the film you tell them that you are pregnant, they will work around you, clause or no clause! They want to get the film made, they also want to release the film so they will work around it as long as they can… I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. It might sound inhuman but then signing a contract sounds inhuman. Let’s all just shake hands and seal the deal. But is that possible? No! We are all in the business field, we need the contracts. You are paying me to do my job, if I am not being able to do my job due to a physical issue - which pregnancy would be - the fact is that you could not complete the job I have paid you for…”
Only Kajol says it the way she pleases, but she hasn’t really been someone who discusses cinema and ponders over its effects on society and its other facets…
“I am no film buff; in fact, I don’t think I have seen a film in over six months. I have missed a lot of good films but I just cannot seem to find time. As for being passionate about cinema, I don’t know about that. I am passionate about my work, it is part of who I am, what I do. I do what I like. If it stops stimulating me I will be done with it, never to look back!”
Her never-to-look-back attitude makes me wonder if she is really as secure about her opinions and decisions or is there a part of her, we don’t know about… “There is a lot to me, that I myself am discovering very gradually. As for decisions, we are all making choices in every walk of life. I read this line by Richard Carlson, ‘Choose to be kind over being right and you will be right every time.’ That’s the key to have no regrets. But to answer your question, I am very insecure, especially around my children. I sit around questioning everything that I do. Am I screaming too much? Am I not correcting them enough? Am I nagging too much? Am I shoving too much healthy food down their throats? Am I spending enough time with them? But you know, somewhere I know that the answers to all the questions I will ever have are within me. I rarely seek advice. I don’t want that chance to blame someone for the rest of my life. I would much rather blame myself. Achcha theek hai, I made a decision and it was wrong, I can accept that, I will be able to forgive myself faster that way.
“The thing with making a mistake is, you will know that you made a mistake, you will accept it to yourself at least - to the rest of the world you might cover up but you will admit to yourself that you screwed up. But if it is someone else’s opinion you have taken, especially if it is someone you love, you will spend the rest of your life defending it… ‘No, but it was not really wrong’. So it’s best not to seek advice.”
No wonder, Ajay Devgn calls her the perfect wife and the perfect bahu too! What a compliment especially since it was given without her being in the room. She burst out laughing, but agreed, “Yes, it is a sweet compliment. It is because they have got used to me by now (laughing). That is the whole point. I cannot imagine this house without my voice ringing all around. It is too quiet when I am not there. Initially, it took me two years to get used to living in a different house, living with different people. Marriage is difficult, especially the fact that you are uprooted from your environment and sent somewhere else to live. Regardless of how well you know the person and the family, even small things like getting up and getting coffee, take getting used to… Asking the cook to make something that you like for a change… it takes time. It is not like you are sitting in a 5-star hotel for sure, you are sitting in someone’s house. It is like you are a well-taken-care-of houseguest at somebody else’s house. To be part of the family, takes time.”
Adapting takes time, it does. But not everyone manages so well, especially given she is a hands-on mom, as Ajay says…
“Yes, I am. I really do everything. I think he has changed Yug’s diaper once, that too after much prodding and taunting. Also he didn’t want Yug to grow up knowing he has changed Nysa and not him. But he is a wonderful dad. He is totally Nysa’s confidante and I am sure he will be Yug’s confidante too. I mean, we both satisfy a role in our kids’ lives. I am the caretaker and he is the friend,” she declared.
Motherhood has its own joys but doesn’t she miss being carefree again, being wooed again… having men falling all over themselves to catch her attention? “I was 16 when I started doing films. The second you become an actress, it is the end of silly wooing. I got into a relationship soon afterwards. So I am not the right person to generalise on that. What I miss is perhaps not being able to up and leave on a whim, but then I just love, love, love my life too much. I don’t ever want to be 16 again, or 18 or even 24 and get married again. It was so awkward; it took me two years to become normal again!”
But aging, doesn’t that scare?
Pat she replies, “No, not really. Because I know I will look fantastic when I grow older! I know it for a fact! Too many good genes in me, I look at my mom today, I look at my grandmom and my dad, and I say, okay, I have got it! I am set!” And no one can argue with that!
This article first appeared in June 2014 issue of Cine Blitz magazine