Her champagne eyes flashing blue murder, ‘gabbar behen’ in riding boots and hat cracks the whip, threateningly demanding answers from the retinue of servants about a certain misdemeanour committed at her expense. Kajol’s introductory scene in only her second film Baazigar might just typify her behaviour in real life—bold, confident, carefree and one who does not give a fig about what others think of her.
She’s also been labelled unconventional. That might explain why she does not bother to doll up off the sets much to the industry’s chagrin or did a negative role of an obsessive lover which only added to the award tally. After five years of staying away from the arc lights, Kajol Devgn is back, reuniting with King Khan in Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale, bringing up memories of their celebrated pairing. And what’s more, the mother of two is looking as delectable as ever.
Of Marathi-Bengali parentage, Kajol took a sabbatical in 2001 only to return in 2006 as a visually-impaired girl in the romantic thriller Fanaa opposite Aamir Khan, holding her own against Aamir’s methodical acting. Fanaa wowed both the audience and critics, though her pairing with husband Ajay Devgn two years later in U Me Aur Hum did not create any flutter at the box office. It required a Kajol-Shah Rukh Khan pairing again (My Name Is Khan) in 2010 to set the equation right. Both the lead pair and director, Karan Johar, walked away with Filmfare awards. Naturally, now all eyes are on Dilwale, Kajol’s comeback vehicle.
Of course, there is no novelty about a married actress and mother making her comeback on the big screen. Many, like Kajol now, have done it before. Raveena Tandon, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Lara Dutta all returned for a second innings. Barring Aishwarya, none of the others produced a hit, although Lara’s performance in Singh is Bling and Madhuri’s in Dedh Ishqiya were appreciated. In Kajol’s case, everybody is agog to see whether the much spoken of chemistry with Shah Rukh still exists. And with Shetty at the helm, Dilwale has dollar signs written all over it.
SRK and Kajol’s on-screen chemistry has now almost become a part of movie lore with Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge becoming a cult classic. Last heard, it is still running in one of the theatres in Mumbai, beating Sholay’s record of being the longest-running film. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) only proved that their pairing struck gold at the box office.
It’s easy to see how Kajol has films in her blood, with Tanuja for mother, Nutan for aunt and Shobhana Samarth for grandmother. She has two uncles and paternal grandfather who were filmmakers. Uncle Joy Mukherjee was the dashing romantic hero of the sixties. Hardly anyone was surprised when Kajol entered films at age 18. “I am lucky that I was born into this family. People have compared me to my aunts and mother. My grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles, and mom and dad have done a lot of work. I am proud of it, but I don’t share credit. I have always believed that your work is more than your talent. I do mine with honesty and don’t take anything for granted. I have followed them that way,” says Kajol.
She has definitely followed in her aunt Nutan’s footsteps as an actress of calibre and winner of awards. Says actor Kabir Bedi: “Kajol has a record number of awards, she has been a five-time filmfare award winner equalling her aunt Nutan, so what can we say about her. She is one of the finest actresses of the era.”
Post-marriage, Kajol was able to emulate her real-life mother role on the screen in Fanaa and My Name Is Khan. Perhaps that must have gratified her a bit as the actress reveals that nothing is more important to her than her family. “When I get time off from them, I like to work,” she says, adding that Dilwale came about because of her daughter. Apparently, Nysa told her that just because she loved her, it did not mean that she could not love anything else. Amid tears, she saw the pearls of wisdom
reflected in her daughter’s words. “Nysa always complains that I cry too much in my films. She asks as to why I don’t do films like papa, such as Golmaal. She must have wished on the right star as Rohit offered me this film. I did this film for her.”
Besides, Kajol says the script has to appeal. “Every script should be like a good book. The characters have to be good. I have to work because I enjoy it. If it is taking me away from my kids, it has to be really good. Otherwise it’s not worth it,” says the actress, who was awarded Padma Sri in 2011.
There’s a third dynamic to the Kajol-SRK successful pairing and that is Karan Johar who has directed the duo in hits like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and My Name is Khan. When Kajol stopped working, Johar realised that he missed her in his films. “She is one of the most outstanding actresses we have. There’s no one who can match her. When Shah Rukh and Kajol are together, they are like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi on screen. A French documentary director, who was visiting the set, said ‘they look so beautiful together’. You get convinced that they are in love,” says Johar. Adds Bedi: “Both Kajol and Shah Rukh are like ‘yaar’ (pals). They fight, they punch each other, fool around and shout at each other. They are one of the finest on-screen couples.”
When asked what would he have done had Kajol refused to work with him in My Name Is Khan, Johar says, “I would have been shattered. I don’t think I would have made the film without her. She is such a passionate mother.”
Shah Rukh says Kajol is a lot like him—she only takes up a film when she is really happy doing it, which is a fantastic space to be in. “While shooting for Rohit’s film, we were chatting about how all our films have worked. We didn’t know Raj and Simran, Rahul and Anjali, Rizwan and Mandira would go on to become that big. We just do our jobs naturally. When we are on the set, we never discuss how important we are as an on-screen couple and that we have to recreate our magic,” says a candid King Khan.
He goes on to add, “When I put out our first picture of Dilwale on Twitter, I was nervous. She comes from a great legacy and you don’t want to let down the legacy. But everyone was so excited when they saw the picture that it made us happy. Anyway, there’s nothing bad to talk about me and Kajol. But to talk with so much love is very encouraging.”
Another person who is all praises for Kajol is director Anees Bazmee, who has worked with the actress in films such as Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha and Hulchul. “She’s is so spontaneous on the camera. When you see her on the sets, she is having fun and laughing all the time; she has such a warm personality. But once the camera is on, Kajol is a completely different person. Her on-screen chemistry with Shah Rukh is something I have not been able to decipher. I feel that even if there is no story to a film, their chemistry will work at the box office,” says Bazmee.
Remind him of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani, which releases on the same day as Dilwale, and Bazmee says, “They are two different genres—one is a war film and the other a Rohit Shetty film, which should be a complete box office entertainer.”
Another Kajol fan is Kareena Kapoor, who starred with her in two films—first playing Kajol’s sister, the glamorous Poo in KKKG, followed by a 10-year gap in We Are Family. “We didn’t have too many scenes together in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Kajol is a woman who loves her own space. It was during We Are Family that I got to know her better. We discussed movies and life. She managed to dance even though she was pregnant. She has an aura around her that energises you as well.”
Preity Zinta cannot stop raving about Kajol. “Look at her, she goes and gets married, has two kids and disappears and then makes a comeback. I can bet that none of the actresses can match her,” says the dimpled actress. Veteran Anil Kapoor who starred with Kajol in Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain seems to echo Zinta’s words. “Kajol is a complete natural. She has an incredible screen presence,” he says.
So much has been the impact of her performance that the youngsters look up to her. Recently Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor’s on-screen chemistry was compared with that of the much-fabled sizzle between SRK and Kajol. When quizzed about it Deepika Padukone says, “We belong to the generation where, as a love story, Shah Rukh and Kajol’s films and on-screen chemistry have always impacted us. Just like all their other fans, we belong to that fan group too.”
Kriti Sanon, Kajol’s co-star in Dilwale, might have to ma’am Kajol and she was indeed nervous of meeting her. “I have met Shah Rukh a lot of times, but Kajol seemed very guarded and took time to warm up. I had never met Kajol and one of the first scenes with her was a serious and emotional one. She is very expressive and helped me take the scene forward. Once we warmed up to each other, it was fun as she laughs a lot,” recalls Sanon.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh sums it up: “Kajol’s pairing with Shah Rukh Khan is what sets it apart. Also, she left her career when she was at the peak and married when her films were doing well. She did not get married and stopped working because her films were not doing well. Plus she is making her comeback with a Rohit Shetty film, who happens to be her husband’s friend.” He continues, “She is not just a pretty face. Whoever she works with, be it Aamir Khan or Shah Rukh Khan, she raises the bar. She is not there to just add glamour.”
Looks like we will be seeing more of Kajol as she gets ready to start shooting for another movie in June 2016, this time with husband Ajay. As they say, picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost.
'I Believe All My Films are Art'
What’s the secret of being so energetic all the time?
I don’t give a damn about what others think of me. I have always been carefree. I believe I don’t have to hide anything; I am a little easier than others.
Does being a style icon pressure you?
The pressure has increased to be well dressed; there is so much opinion about what you wear. Style-wise, there are good days and bad days, and on bad days I don’t care—I go out in my pyjamas as well.
You have always done commercial potboilers. Do you ever plan to do an intrinsic role in an art film?
Commercial films are also art. If you apply makeup and cry, you may not call it art, but if you are without makeup and cry, then it’s called art, why? I believe all my films are art. We do films to entertain people, but there has to be an element of wanting to please people. If they don’t watch your films, what is the use of making films?
What role do you enjoy the most?
I have tried to do everything to the best of my ability, but the best role is being a mother.
We have heard that you don’t cook.
Ajay cooks well; my mother, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister and now my daughter also cook well. So when everybody is cooking so much food, there has to be someone who has to eat it as well.
Do you miss the freedom of walking on the roads?
I do, but I don’t let my celebrity status stop me for doing it these days. My kids deserve better and more normalcy. There are times when they want to go out with mom and dad.
What kind of film is Dilwale?
It’s a different kind of film. We have done out and out romantic films, but we have not done anything that has deviated from romance. This film is an intense love story and has a lot of angst.
What is your stressbuster?
Working out in the gym. Spending one-and-a-half hours there every day gives me my space.
What changes do you see in your life?
I have matured over the past 10 years and it’s got a lot to do with having a family. I am a better person today. My approach towards life is balanced: sometimes I am the perfect daughter, someday a perfect daughter-in-law or maybe a good wife. Motherhood has made me a better actress. You have to love yourself to love people better and I am perfecting that.