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Kajol

She is in a fine mood, and her answers radiate the same mischievous-meets-serious tenor of her mother Tanuja. Kajol, the last of our true-blue actors, is set to release her first home production that is co-produced by Ajay Devgn — Helicopter Eela, so named after the term, ‘helicopter moms’, used to describe interfering mothers. 

We begin on a maternal note naturally, talking about her children Nysa and Yug. Her replies are candid, proving that she does not have to be cajoled into giving answers. When asked how much of Eela is she in real life, she says she is 50% of her character. “No two ways about it.” she adds. This is her favourite expression. “Eela’s character is there to spice up the film. She loves her son, and I love my kids too, so that’s 50%. But, being more like her can be unhealthy,’’ she says. 

Bit of nostalgia

“Today, 12-year-olds want to be seen as adults. They grow up so fast and are on this ‘I know everything, don’t tell me anything’ trip. They think that any decision I take on their lives should be with their consent.’’

She adds, “Recently, Yug told me that he wants to learn gymnastics. Now, I could not force him on how to go about the whole thing and what he must do. As a parent, all I could do was to insist that he completes what he sets out to do.’’ 

Kajol chuckles and adds that the ‘Helicopter’ part of the title is something she would “happily award to Ajay Devgn.  We need to be helicopters when our kids are small, and some of us cannot break that habit. We do not realise when a child, for example, does not like to be fed, though Nysa occasionally loves me feeding her. So, everything about helicopter moms is not bad, because they love their kids as much.”

 She also points out that there is nothing like a perfect mom, as for all kids, their mothers are the best. “All parent-child relationships are unique,” she points out. “My thing is, don’t listen to anyone else. Do what you think is best. If you are in a good space mentally, then it’s all good. For any child, if mom is okay toh duniya theek ho jayegi,( the world will be alright). 

So, what was Kajol’s childhood like? ‘‘My mom was very busy when I was a child. She was also not the kind that would be termed a helicopter,’’ she says. “When she had the time, she was a fantastic cook. She would never pack my meals or enquire about my homework. Even when I became an actor, she told me to do whatever I wanted. She was sure that I would do everything well. I really hope that I can teach my kids the things my mom taught me, in the same way, by practising what I preach and not through instructions,’’ she says.  

What was her father’s stance on her becoming an actor? “Oh, he asked me if I was sure that I wanted to be an actor and he asked me  to think hard about it,” she says. “He used an expression that I did not understand then. He said, “Ek baar chuna lag gaya to aur kuch nahin kar sakogi (Once you’re addicted, you will not be able to do anything else).’”

She goes on, “That was a time when actors who didn’t do well got no other opportunity — they were failures in the public eye. Today, there are so many opportunities. But, at that time, all I thought about was why my father was so serious. When I was shooting, for the first two months, I kept thinking that if I failed, I could go back and finish my studies.’’

Kajol says that she benefited from the diverse stances of her parents — the total confidence of her mother and the guiding light that her father was as an industry veteran who knew what the audience wanted. “Though 90% of choices as an actor were mine, there were films I was doubtful about that he insisted I do, like Baazigar. He said that it was a great script and that he knew that the Jains, who were the producers, would make a good film. On the other hand, my negative role in Gupt was something I wanted to do.”

For the love of work

Today, Kajol works because she enjoys doing films, and it does not matter whether she makes a film in one year or five. “Working is just one part of life, and family is very important,” she explains. Getting almost into ‘Eela’ mode, she says, “Kids do need you a lot, however big they grow. At least until they get married, and maybe even later.”

What made her do a re-creation of the song ‘Ruk Ruk Ruk’, Tabu’s hit from Vijaypath, when she could have redone any of her own tracks? “Thank you,” she chuckles. “I must tell Ajay that — why didn’t he pick a song of mine? But actually, there was not much of negotiation there. In the first 10 seconds, we know that ‘Ruk ruk ruk’ is a very 90s song, which is where it fits as the situation in the film is a 90s sequence. As you know, Eela is an aspiring singer. In that decade, there was this phase when such hooks had become the typical sounds, like ‘Haaye Hukku’ and so on.”

How was Riddhi Sen chosen here as her son? Was it because he had already acted in Ajay Devgn’s production Parched? “Not at all,” she says. “I did not even recognise him as the same guy when he told me he had acted in that film. I said, ‘Really? What role did you do?’ It was Dada (director Pradeep Sarkar) who had directed him in an ad, and also watched his National award-winning performance in the Bengali film Nagarkirtan. Riddhi is a very well-brought-up boy whose parents are actors in Bengali films. He is a brilliant actor and great fun on the sets. In fact, his enthusiasm has to be contained.’’

Finally, what do Nysa and Yug think about her films? “They have barely watched two or three, and they think I do only bad films because they see me only crying in them,” she laughs. “They stomped off midway through We Are Family. But, this actually shows that my acting is good.”

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