‘My family never put an obstacle in my way’: Kajol – Kajol’s next outing, Helicopter Eela, is less than a week away from hitting the screens. The film sees her in the protagonist’s role, which reflects the changing norm in Bollywood that doesn’t place the spotlight only on younger heroines anymore. Always known to be unabashed and unapologetic about her opinion, the actress tells us why she thinks this trend is beneficial for actresses of all ages. She also gives her take on the housewife vs working mother debate and explains how a supportive family can make the biggest difference. Over to her…
Last year, there was a debate when Mira Rajput said that she cannot be a working mother. What’s your take on it?
I think it’s a personal choice, as to when you feel ready to go back to work. I had a working mother (Tanuja) all through my life, but I don’t feel any less close to her or love her any lesser. It’s something that every woman faces and acts upon. Some choose to work while others don’t; your children would respect you equally, whether you are at home baking cookies or in office finishing assignments.
In the film, the mother gives up on her dreams. Do you have an unfulfilled desire of continuing to work?
Not really, because I have been really lucky in that respect. If I wanted to do something, I pretty much did it. My dream was to stay at home and take care of my kids and I did. When I wanted to work, I did. Yes, but I do want to travel to different places that I haven’t been able to. I want to take my children with me and I’ll make that happen as well. So, there are no desires that are unfulfilled, but there are a lot of wishes that I’ve to act upon.
Would you credit your supportive family for the same?
Yes, along with my husband Ajay (Devgn), I have my mother-in-law and mother to thank the most. My ma-in-law told me, ‘Beta, aap tension mat lo. Aap kaam pe jao. Hum hain na. Hum kis liye hain?’ Nobody put an obstacle in my way. Maybe because they also knew I’d probably overcome those hurdles. Nobody even tried, so I was lucky.
Roles being written for women today defy pre-conceived notions. Comment.
I think it’s a reflection of what our society is saying today. Films have always been and will be that. When you have a film like Wonder Woman doing so well, it’s because people now believe that a woman can also save the world. There’s a subtext in female-oriented films being made now. Suddenly, the society has started looking at the feminine gender in a different way. That’s why there have been such roles of late, whether a Tumhari Sulu (2017) or a Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015). We’re accepting them. It’s not only a question of writing a film anymore; it’s about the movie being viewed by a wider audience and raking in money.
Do you think box-office numbers have given producers more confidence to make such films?
Absolutely! The audience has changed. They are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Finally, we have a much wider female audience that says, ‘I’ll watch it with all my girlfriends’. Maybe they didn’t have too many choices earlier. We are a service-based industry and make films for the audience. It’s not a home video meant for our personal collection.
Is there a change of perception towards married actresses as well?
We are talking about woman empowerment. Somewhere down the line, I believe we have to change the perspective we have of ourselves. Do you really believe that when you are married, everything is dead and over? If you believe that, then it will happen. We have had Meena Kumari, Saira Banu, Sharmila Tagore, my mother, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Kareena Kapoor Khan, too, today. So this is a myth. It has nothing to do with whether women are married or not. It’s about the type of roles that change. Once you tie the knot, people just expect more from you, as a society. You have to take that into consideration when you are picking up a role or a film. And it’s not difficult.
That’s something you’ve done efficiently. Is there something you’d consciously stay away from?
I honestly don’t see myself doing three scenes and a song or a pointless film anymore. If I have to do just one scene, it has to be the most fantastic, amazing one ever. People should be left like, ‘Oh, my God!’ That’s what I will do. I did inconsequential stuff at one point. That was a conscious decision then. But not anymore, not in this space of things at least.
Do you think the digital revolution has also brought better projects for actors of all ages?
Most definitely. Earlier, if you joined films, there was nothing else you could do. You either succeeded at a spectacular rate or you failed miserably and couldn’t do anything with your life. With digital media, there are so many other productive things you can do rather than just being an actor. It’s given you that much security.
Are you open to doing a digital-only film or series?
I’d love to. I just want to act and not restrict myself to a particular medium. I’ve been offered web series and TV shows. But things haven’t worked out for different reasons. I hope it does at some point.