We caught up with Kajol at a suburban five-star. As her stylist cajoles her into doing another round of touch-up. The far from diplomatic actor gets candid on motherhood, ageing and Ajay Devgn
In 1995, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge changed the face of Bollywood romance. Besides being the longest running film in theatres (it still runs a show in Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir), it created pop icons of its lead characters, Raj and Simran.
For Shah Rukh Khan, who played Raj, the film was instrumental in earning him the title of the king of romance. Rightly so, Kajol who played Simran, should be called the queen but, she coos, “No, I grew beyond these labels.” We catch up with the actor at a suburban five-star. As her stylist cajoles her into doing another round of touch-up, Kajol dismisses her saying, “Natural is better.” Proudly unconventional, admittedly difficult, she is the rare actor who does not believe in diplomacy as we ask her:
At this point in your career, are you free to make choices, which you couldn’t as leading lady?
I have always been choosy. I have only got pickier with time and experience. I was always at peace with my choices. I was given the power to decide my own fate.
Is this another comeback?
Wasn’t Dilwale (2015) my comeback film? No, wait may be Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) was. I have made 25 comebacks. I am losing track of the number. Every new film feels like my first and yet, in so many ways, this is a milestone. I am happy that VIP 2 is a Tamil film. I got to do something new after long. It wasn’t a cakewalk. I had to mug dialogues every night. I am never doing a film in another language again. It is a lot of work. I made the effort because they were willing to work with me. Dhanush (co-actor) and Soundarya (Rajnikanth, director) were wonderfully supportive. It wouldn’t be seamless if they hadn’t helped.
Simran in DDLJ is a prototype to base characters on, even though the connotation of love has changed. Or does it never change for women?
The way people look at romance and what they believe of romance has changed drastically. I don’t think people believe in the idea of ‘forever’ anymore. People have forevers with multiple people these days. The idea of knowing that there’s only one special person for you is a risky one. People now have enough choices to have a swayamvar if they want. Of course, I am an old-school romantic. Rom-coms work well because stories don’t have their fairytale edge. Who is dreamy anymore? Women used to believe that Prince Charming would come riding on his horse. Girls these days expect that the horse will break down and he will land up on a turtle.
SRK and you have done iconic films together. He continues to romance female actors as half his age. Do you grudge the fact that you aren’t allowed those parts?
I don’t grudge Shah Rukh as the king of romance. It takes someone as special as him to be able to sell that. For me, to be able to work it out film-wise will be difficult. I am not as technical an actor as him. I have always preferred being cozy in my space.
But female actors, once married, have a shorter shelf life, right?
Women, female actors more so, need to be comfortable about the lives they choose. I wouldn’t want to be 16 ever again. I am prettier, smarter and better at my skill. Yes, there is no denying that longevity of female actor is a lot lesser than their male counterparts. After marriage, priorities change. Socially and personally, I am entrusted with more responsibilities, so is my partner. In this country, marrying the man is not enough. You marry an entire family. My attitude to life changed after marriage. I accepted it and went ahead with everything just the way I should have. Men have their own share of chaos to deal with in order to adjust. As far as careers are concerned, women have to look at it in a more balanced way. In India, with female actors, what changes is how people look at them. After marriage, she is less appealing because she is ‘taken’.
Are they allowed to be human enough to fault and err?
Actors have dehumanised themselves. We hold ourselves to these impossible standards because we’ve created them. Looking a certain way is an issue we’ve created. I wear regular stuff, clothes which are comfortable. It’s not airport fashion. It’s what normal people wear. I can’t wear stilettos while travelling. Flats were created for a reason. What is size zero? I don’t understand it. I can’t allow critics to pressure me.
Does being blunt come with a cost?
Huge cost. Ajay (Devgn) blasts me every other day. I can’t take diplomacy seriously even though it lands my husband in trouble with people in the industry. At parties, he chides me for saying things as is. But believe me, I say things in the nicest of ways with the best of intentions. Fortunately for me, people forgive me a lot. It’s difficult to be diplomatic. I’ll forget what you lied about.
What about the industry do you dislike?
I hate airport looks. It’s idiotic. It’s ridiculous to look perfect all the time. I am not walking in heels with perfect lipstick. After long flights, everyone looks like they survived a calamity.
The fashion police has bitter advice for younoften. Do you care?
I don’t take the fashion police seriously. People have accepted me for who I am. On screen, there are requirements, which I understand. But beyond that we need to draw