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Interview Hindi

Kajol: Was not sure if I should do Baazigar as I didn't know Abbas-Mustan

In a candid group interview, the actress speaks about parenting in real life and why she wasn’t keen on doing Baazigar (1993), a film that brought her to the limelight.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Keyur Seta

Films with female characters in the centre have thrived in Hindi cinema since the past decade or so. Vidya Balan's Kahaani series, Rani Mukerji's Mardaani (2014), Sridevi's Mom (2017), Priyanka Chopra's Mary Kom (2014) and Jai Gangaajal (2016), Kareena Kapoor Khan's Heroine (2012) and Veere Di Wedding (2018), and Swara Bhasker's Nil Battey Sannata (2017) and Anaarkali Of Aarah (2017), are a few examples. Now, actress Kajol is all set to add her name to this list with Pradeep Sarkar’s Helicopter Eela.

She plays a single parent who enrolls in her son's (Riddhi Sen) class in college, in order to keep an eye on him and to complete her studies. 

Here's why Kajol advised Riddhi Sen to take sleeping pill before Helicopter Eela shooting

During a group interview with the media, Kajol spoke about parenting in real life and why she wasn’t keen on doing Baazigar (1993), a film that brought her to the limelight and marked her first collaboration with actor Shah Rukh Khan. Excerpts.

What is the relevance of ‘Helicopter’ in the title? 

I will happily award the title ‘Helicopter’ to Mr Ajay Devgn. This title is meant for him, not for me. Helicopter is a way of saying that you keep an eye on your kids. The title is based from the term ‘Heilicopter Mom,’ which is famous on social media. Such moms interfere a lot in their kids’ lives. Such habits are required when the kids are small, but we are unable to stop it [even after they grow up]. And the kids wonder as to why mom is not able to stop it. 

Of course, you don’t feed the kids when they turn 15. But I still feed Nysa and she happily eats. Only sometimes though [laughs]. However, everything about helicopter moms isn’t bad. Her way of looking at things is different. The root cause of it is surely love. 

Was your mother Tanuja a helicopter mom?

My mother was definitely not like helicopter mom at all. She was a working woman. When I was a kid, she never asked if I have done my homework or never made me do homework. Even I never went to her asking as to how to do something [related to homework]. She was a forward thinking woman even in the era when I was small. She used to cook and her cooking is still mindblowing. But she never took over-interest like giving dabba. She just looked at her kids like an extension of herself. 

With Helicopter Eela co-star Riddhi Sen

Do you miss the time when you used to do a lot more films?

Never. I don’t miss it at all. I am happy working in one film in  two or three or even five years. I like and enjoy working. But I feel work is just a part of life. There is life to be lived as well. You have a family too. That’s very important. My kids also need me a lot. No matter how big they get, they surely need their parents. Even after marriage, they need to call their mom or dad for something or the other. 

Here's why ‘Ruk Ruk Ruk’ song has been chosen for remake in Helicopter Eela

Pradeep Sarkar makes an audio book of the film's script with the actors before going on floors. How much does it benefit?

This has been his practice. He has done this in quite a few films. All artistes record their respective characters from the script and prepare the audio book. It also has the background music. By the time you finish recording it, you get an idea about the film’s runtime and how an artiste has to perform his or her role. This also helps the director. He is able to look at a broader level and suggests changes. It is an interesting and novel concept. 

So, this is like shooting the whole film twice. 

Definitely. And maybe you’ll do a better job of it the second time.

In all these years, how do you think the ideas of success and failure have changed in the film industry?

The difference between success and failure was a lot then in the 1990s and even before that. Today, because of social media there is neither super stardom or failure. If you can’t succeed in acting, you can do some business online. There are always choices. But earlier if you fail in the film industry, there was nothing else to do. You couldn’t become a receptionist or dentist after that. I didn’t realize that my father [Shomu Mukherjee] was also looking at it with that respect. He always guided me right. 

Helicopter Eela song: Kajol, Raghav Sachar breathe new life into the 1990s hit ‘Ruk Ruk’

Still from Helicopter Eela

Can you recall an advice he gave you?

At one point I was not sure if I should do Baazigar. I was like, I have not seen Abbas bhai and Mustan bhai’s films. I didn’t know what they are like. I had met them once but they were very quite. You can’t make out how they are and what kind of a film will they make after meeting them just once. This was one film my dad said I should do. He said it will be a very good film and he knows Ratan [Jain] ji and Venus Films. That was one film that was very much my dad’s choice. 

Is there any chance of seeing you and your mother share screen?

I hope and pray. I keep telling her every time that if there is something, tell me. But so far, her taste and my taste are completely different. 

Your co-star Neha Dhupia will become a mother soon. Did she ever approach you for parenting tips?

Actually, I didn’t even know she was pregnant. I didn’t know she is even getting married for that matter. She managed to hide everything so well. I had met her recently. She was already seven months pregnant. I told her, ‘Wow. Good work. Fast work.’ Now the film and the kid both are on the way. 

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You have shot inside Mumbai’s Liberty Theatre, which is one of the few old heritage theatres still standing tall. How was the experience of being there?

It was awesome actually. I almost stopped shooting for about five minutes. I said, ‘Main producer hoon. Bandh karo yeh shoot [I am the producer. Stop this shoot].’ I did Facebook live from there. I am very fond of old buildings. I like old architecture. I love our Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. I love old Bombay. I feel these old buildings have a feel and soul design-wise. Maybe, the buildings of today’s time look good artistically but not to that extent. 

A still from Baazigar

Which of your films do your kids like the most?

My kids haven’t seen much of my films. They feel I don’t do good films. They wonder why I do films where I have to cry. My acting is so good that they don’t like such films of mine. Nysa had seen either Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001) or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). She later saw We Are Family (2010) and got so angry that she left the theatre and ran away. She said, ‘I am not watching this film.’ 

There has been a lot of debate these days about the pay gap between male and female artistes. It has been 100 years since we are making films but this gap continues to exist...

Yes, it has been 100 years. But that has to do with box office collections up to a big extent. There is a gender issue for sure. For example, if a Salman Khan film makes Rs500 crore. Tell me, which female actor’s film can you assure of earning Rs500 crore? 

I am grateful that the audience has changed and they are going for films like Kahaani (2012) or Raazi (2018). But they are being made because it is financially okay to make them. It’s not that nobody was writing such films or nobody wanted to make them. It’s got to do with what will do well because at the end of the day, we are a business. Sorry for the comparison but if you go to a baniya [grocery shop owner], he will keep only those items that would sell. That doesn’t mean there is no gender discrimination and the pay structure has to be changed.