Kajol is munching on a protein bar and chiding herself at the same time. She's running a tad late for her back-to-back media interactions for her upcoming film, 'Dilwale'. Interviews have been lined up at her buddy and 'Dilwale' co-star Shah Rukh Khan's production house office. She has been given a landmark — it is in the vicinity of a coffee place. Now her other buddy, filmmaker Karan Johar's production house also has a coffee place in the vicinity. So, no prizes for guessing that the actress found herself near KJo's place before veering towards SRK's. "I can't believe I got lost in Bandra. Me, being a Mumbai girl, how can I not find my way?" she says.
Kajol. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Wearing a maxi dress, her hair is tied up in an unkempt bun. Her sunglasses are perched on her nose which come off at one point during the conversation. Devoid of make-up, except for the mascara-laden lashes, the protein bar is holding her in good stead for the marathon media rounds.
She warns us that she is not the type who will volunteer information. "You will have to ask me what exactly you want to know," she asserts. Straightforward and firm, she does not flinch from answers, but apologises every time the phone beeps for SMS alerts. Excerpts from the interaction with the actress...
Q. Over the years, what significant change you see in yourself?
A. I can say that I have become a Dilwali... Kajol Dilwali. That's quite a tongue-twister. I have become more caring, large-hearted and giving; what I wasn't earlier (laughs). But we all do change over the years, isn't it?
Q. You have been actively involved with social causes especially the 'Help A Child Reach 5' campaign.
A. I have been propagating the importance of washing hands to reduce child mortality. It is all about doing something very simple — washing hands with soap, especially for mothers with infants. India has the highest child mortality rate. Awareness can go a long way in declining the alarming mortality rate.
Q. It took five years after your last release to get back on screen again.
A. Simply, because I have a life beyond this. My son (Yug) is five years old. So this is the first film I am doing after he was born. I don't like to work with people I do not like or I am not comfortable with. I want to give my best, so what is the point of doing something that I am not happy about? I am financially stable, so why not take advantage of it?
Q. What prompted you to do 'Dilwale'? Was it because of your buddy, Shah Rukh Khan?
A. I took it up as a challenge. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone for the film. People consider me an emotional actress, but here was my chance to be part of not only car chase sequences, but also of cars flying in the air. My son only likes the zooming car parts in the film while my daughter (Nysa, 12) thinks that being part of the 'Golmaal' franchise was the best thing that her father (Ajay Devgn) did in his career. So, she's happy that I am doing a film on similar lines.
Q. The current lot of actresses are in the number game vying for the numero uno position. Does the number game affect you as well?
A. They have made a space for them and they are doing interesting work. It's good for them. But all this does not matter to me. Remember, I have a life beyond this!
Q. You have worked with relative newcomers, Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon in 'Dilwale'...
A. I would not go out of my way to mentor and tutor someone — the director has to do that. I am a director's actress. I want him to tell me exactly what to do. While enacting a scene, if required I will provide my inputs. Varun was an AD during 'My Name Is Khan' (2010). I did not know him then... in the sense that I knew he was an AD... and then suddenly I see him in 'Student of the Year' (2012) as an actor. Kriti is a sweet, young girl. But why do you ask? Is there news floating about us? There's nothing to it.
Q. How would you describe your decades-old association with Shah Rukh Khan?
A. Everyone talks about 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' (1995), but we did 'Baazigar' (1993) before that. So it has been over 22 years. People talk about our on-screen chemistry, but he is like a friend you have had for many years. You can be yourself in front of that person. There are no egos, no formalities involved. I am just me. I can say whatever I want.
Q. Your hubby, Ajay Devgn, campaigned for the Bihar assembly polls last month. What is your take on the current political climate in the country?
A. All of this is not for me. I stay away from it and I don't know what's exactly going on. J (what she calls Ajay Devgn) is into all this. He shows interest in it, not me.
Q. How involved are you in his upcoming directorial venture, 'Shivaay'?
A. I have been asking him to give me a small role in 'Shivaay'. I told him that even a small, walk-on part will do for me, but he gave me a flat no.
Q. There has been buzz that you will be part of one of his productions.
A. Yes, that will happen around July next year. We have yet to ascertain a director. Only once J wraps up 'Shivaay', will this project roll.
Q. Do you harbour directorial aspirations?
A. No, not at all, at least not at this stage. I have left that for J and would rather act with someone telling me what to do on screen.
Q. What about the small screen?
A. It has to be something that is novel and will excite me. There is no point of being part of something just for the sake of it. But then as they say... never say never.