There are very few heroines in Bollywood whom you enjoy watching on the screen, no matter what the film.
Kajol is one of them. Her sheer presence on the screen lights it up. She sparkles whenever she comes on it and gives her cent per cent to every shot she appears in.
She definitely makes her films more watchable simply because of her work. In other words, Kajol does make a difference!
As she is just wrapping up an interview to a television channel as part of the promotion for her forthcoming film, My Name Is Khan, you realise how easily she gets into the mood of the interview once the lights are switched on and how equally smoothly she is her normal self once the interview is over.
And so, your first question, obviously, is:
How do you come so alive in front of the camera? You are this normal lady seconds before you step on the set, but once it is ‘action’, you are a live wire.
– (Laughs) It’s my job to make my acting look easy and good. I get paid big bucks for it, so I better do it right. I don’t think, it’s something you consciously do. It’s that moment when you forget the real you and get into the skin of the character.
What are the preparations you had to make for the character of Mandira, which you play in MY NAME IS KHAN? You had to lose weight for the role, right?
– Not really. My losing weight had less to do with the film or my character in the film and more as part of my own fitness programme. I shed weight not as much for the film as for myself. I enjoy my daily exercise regimen. I’m a lot into fitness and once in it, you tend to constantly improve. Fitness is now a part of my life, it’s a way of life for me.
Has hubby Ajay (Devgan) been instrumental in making you so health-conscious?
– It definitely helps when you have a gymnasium at home and when your husband is so particular about fitness and exercising. Yes, his obsession with fitness did help me to also become health-conscious.
Since you are a mother of a growing-up child and you have a family to look after, there must’ve been some do’s and don’ts you must’ve put down before signing MY NAME IS KHAN.
– (Laughs) They weren’t do’s and don’ts because my director, Karan (Johar), was absolutely game for a few things I wanted. For instance, I told him, it would be difficult for me to be outdoors for more than 15 to 20 days at a time and so, he’d have to break his outdoor shooting schedule into 15-/20-day stints. Secondly, I told him, my daughter would come with me during the outdoor schedules. In Bombay, I told him, I preferred working in only one shift a day. As a close friend of mine, Karan was pretty insistent that I should be comfortable. So it made things that much easier for me.
Since you, Karan and Shah Rukh Khan are all creative people, there must be occasions when you have differences while making a film. Since you three are close friends, how do you all resolve such differences?
– Yes, we all are creative but the good part is that we aren’t rigid. We believe in the creativity of other people too. Also, being friends makes life easier because we are able to tell each other what we feel about something, without the fear that the other person will not like it.
Since you work in such few films, are you constantly under pressure to sign only the good ones. In case of Karan Johar, with whom you have a fantastic equation, is it blind faith or do you go by the script?
– I can’t have blind faith in anyone. As far as my work is concerned, never! The film’s script is my God. Karan also knows that. How much ever faith I may have in Karan as a friend, he knows, I’ll never work in his film till I like the script. And frankly, even if I say “no” to him for a film, it only means that I may not be comfortable working in that film, but that in no way can affect our friendship.
It must be every actor’s dream to work with you if he hasn’t already. Do you have a wish list of actors?
– To tell you honestly, I don’t have a wish list. Somewhere down the line, I believe in fate. Jo hona hai, woh hoga. If God wants it to be, it shall happen. I’ve never in my life been able to run after something or chase a dream. I may be ambitious about a lot of other things but not about this aspect of my profession, about whom I should work with.
And what exactly are you ambitious about?
– My ambitions are more personal than professional. For instance, I want to raise my daughter well, I want to have a great life, I want to make my family happy. I want to be a better person than I was. But I’m not ambitious about my profession. That may be because God has already been so kind to me as far as my work is concerned.
Talking about being a better person, do you think marriage has changed you?
– I hope so (laughs)! More than marriage, it is the stability of being married that has changed me. It is the wonderfulness of being a mother that has changed me. It is the normality of living at home with my family that has definitely changed me.
Is it true that both the MUNNA BHAI films of Rajkumar Hirani as well as his 3 IDIOTS were first offered to you? Don’t you regret not working in each of them?
– Yes, they did approach me for all the three films. And even though I loved the scripts, I didn’t think, I had much to do in them. When they came to me with the offer of 3 Idiots, I told them I’d rather do Sharman Joshi’s role (giggles).
Didn’t you ever feel the urge to act in them because the scripts were good? Didn’t you feel, the films might become hits and so you ought to be a part of them?
– No, I don’t ever want to do a film just for the sake of doing it. I always want to do something different and substantive in my films. Otherwise, what’s the point of working in a film?
And what exactly is so different in MY NAME IS KHAN which you haven’t done in your earlier films?
– It’s the whole character of Mandira. I signed MNIK because Mandira is imperfect… she doesn’t want to be perfect. She’s a little mad, a little zany, crazy. She thinks a bit differently from what others in her place or situation would. I liked the conviction in Mandira. It is for these reasons that I said “yes” to Karan.
Any thoughts on how MY NAME IS KHAN will fare at the box-office?
– I definitely think, people will go to the cinemas to see what MNIK is all about. There’s the curiosity factor about the film, which will go in its favour. As for the judgement about the film’s merits, we’ll leave it to the people. Of course, we can’t please everybody but even if 85-90% of the public likes the film, we’ll be happy.
Do you keep track of box-office figures or are you clueless about them?
– As a producer’s wife, I do keep some track of the box-office.
With the film’s all-world distributor, 20th Century Fox, planning to also release it in non-traditional markets where Hindi films have never reached before, are you scared? Apprehensive?
– Not apprehensive at all. They are all unknown territories for Hindi films but I am told, the Fox people have chosen the places with a lot of care. If this film is truly the international film we think it is, we should do well in non-traditional markets too.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received for your acting?
– I don’t remember who paid me this compliment but I think, I’ve never got a better compliment than what that person told me after watching me in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. “I didn’t see you in the film, I just saw Simran (which was the name of my character),” is how that person reacted to my performance. But I think, that compliment also had a lot to do with the film rather than just my work in it.
Since you are such a fine actress, has it ever happened that even when you are not acting, someone has accused you of putting on an act?
– (Thinks hard) No, it’s never happened with me. (Then, after a pause) I think, it is only when I’m not wearing my pair of spectacles and I genuinely can’t see, that some people say, I ignored them. But they are not aware that I was not acting then or pretending not to recognise them. It’s just that I’m blind without my glasses!
Since you work in a very limited number of films, do you feel bad when a film of yours flops or it doesn’t work at the box-office? After all, the attempt must be to deliver hits every time.
– I don’t feel bad when my film fails or is not upto the expectations. I am proud of each and every film of mine. I pick and choose my films and then I work hard on each of them. I stand by each and every shot I give in each and every film I act in. Sometimes, I may not like what I am asked to do but the truth is that I respect my work.
Of course! And that exactly is why the audience also respects Kajol’s work.