Interview Hindi Tamil

Kajol on 25 years in acting: I wanted to kill myself on day of Bekhudi mahurat

The actress recalls the stress of shooting her first ever scene and the trauma of attending the Bekhudi premiere, on completing a quarter century in the film industry.

Suparna Thombare

Kajol, who came to be known as the most ‘natural’ actress in the 1990s, made her Hindi film debut with Rahul Rawail’s Bekhudi, which was released on 31 July 1992. Starring alongside another newcomer, Kamal Sadanah, in the love story, Kajol played a young college student named Radhika, with mother Tanuja essaying the part of her on-screen mum.

Kajol was all of 16 when she faced the camera for the first time and was yet to turn 18 at the time of the film’s release. Speaking to, the actress recalled doing her first ever scene for her debut film with Saif Ali Khan, who was dropped from the film after shooting for a few days. 

“I remember the mahurat shot we did at Essel Studios. I wanted to kill myself," she said, laughing. "I recently saw a picture of it. I was wearing orange and black. Saif and I were at the back. Saif was trying to console me. He was like ‘it’s ok’ and I was telling him that ‘I think I am going to puke’. I can’t do this. He was like ‘we have to do this, don’t worry. I will hold your hand. It’s okay, we will do it together’. And we both went up [to shoot the scene] and I think I was ready to burst out crying at the end of the shot. Rahul uncle [the director] was clapping for me.”

Kamal Sadanah and Kajol in Bekhudi (1992)

Kajol remembers that most of her family was present for the first shot. “My grandmother was there, my mother and my father were there. I remember that day so clearly,” she said. 

The premiere of the film is also etched in her memory, thanks to the trauma it caused her. “I remember how much stress I went through [for the premiere], my mum wanted me to wear a new outfit for the premiere. I was like nooo.... why do I have to buy new clothes? Why can’t wear my same old clothes and go? I had this huge fight with her and she was like shut up, ‘you don’t know anything! It’s the premiere’. I said I don’t care. It's the same people I am meeting. ‘No, shut up, it’s the premiere’ my mum kept saying,” Kajol said. 

Kajol with mother Tanuja in a still from Bekhudi (1992)

The film flopped at the box office, but Kajol was noticed for her uni-brow, her unconventional looks, dark complexion and natural ease in front of the camera.

Kajol, who hated getting dressed up even for her own film premieres, and often turned up at events without make-up and hair-do, flaunting her glasses, has raised her style quotient over the years. She said she has grown to have an opinion about fashion over time. But there are some things about her that haven’t changed, even as she completes 25 years in the film industry.

For one, she still prefers to be in her comfort zone. Kajol is one actress of her generation who mostly worked with friends and people she knew. She rejected several films with big filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Mani Ratnam while working multiple times with then friend Karan Johar. And it is only because being comfortable on set was more important to her than bagging the next big project.

Kajol admits that it is something that hasn’t changed even today. “No two ways about it," she said. "I think if you are not comfortable with the people you are working with or you cannot speak up and speak to the people you are working with, it doesn’t work. I think communication is a key element in working with people. You can’t work alongside them, you work with them.

“Even today, I would have never taken a chance on a film like VIP 2 in another language without knowing that Dhanush and Soundarya will pad me, back me up, and in every which way safeguard me.”

Kajol started out in films just to while away her time and fell in love with acting, which runs in her family, with great actresses like grandmother Shobhana Samarth, mother Tanuja and aunt Nutan to look up to. But what is different about Kajol is that she has always been a reluctant actress, someone who worked only when she felt like stepping in front of the camera. She has done just 30 films in 25 years, a low number for an actress from the 1990s.

But Kajol believes the only reason she still enjoys acting is because she never overworked herself. She attributes it to being part “lazy” and part “choosy”. 

“Yes, I haven’t pushed myself," said the outspoken actress. "I believe in maintaining a balance between my personal and my professional life. I don’t think I could have had the energy to do 100 films.”

But this time around, she will be back on screen sooner than she generally does. After VIP 2 is released in August, Kajol will be seen in her home production, directed by Ship Of Theseus filmmaker Anand Gandhi, next year.