ACTRESS KAJOL STRIKES BACK WITH NEW HISTORICAL WAR EPIC
by MOHNISH SINGH
KAJOL has always been one of the brightest stars in the Bollywood galaxy and will shine brightly again with eagerly awaited new film Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior.
The historical drama is based on Maratha warrior Tanaji Malusare, who fought alongside warrior-king Shivaji in a number of battles. Kajol’s superstar husband Ajay Devgn plays the title role, and she takes on the role of Savitribai in the big-ticket historical epic.
Eastern Eye caught up with the popular actress to discuss Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, her preparation for the role, family life and more.
What are the challenges of playing a character that doesn’t have much screen time?
I think the great part about it is that you will remember her. She is unforgettable! Her character is more about what she says in the film. Things she says are important to not only the story, but also contributes to who Tanhaji was. I don’t think you could do this film without her.
People are raving about your look in the film. Was there any special preparation for it?
(Laughs) The special preparation was that I got married in that same look 20 years ago. See, I was doing my research 20 years back also for it. Joking apart, (director) Om Raut researched this project, I think, for five years before we actually started shooting for it. Nachiket Barve, who has done my costumes in the film, also did his research as far as the clothes and looks are concerned. I had Micky Contactor to do my makeup for the film, and he’s a master at what he does. It took me two and a half hours to get ready every morning. And if anybody who knows me, that is too long to get ready for hair and makeup. We also had a specialist to drape the sari.
Tell us more…
She was a 75-year-old woman who only does this. She used to travel one and-a-half hours to reach the set every day. She has been tying nauvari [nine-yard] saris for the last 50 years and has tied a sari for every kind of Maharashtrian art form. She draped my sari so well that it looked perfect onscreen. We knew her as Asha tai.
You and Ajay Devgn are reuniting onscreen after a gap of more than a decade. What was so special about Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior that led you to say yes?
I liked the script and all the scenes that they have come up with where Savitribai is concerned. The film may not be based on her, but it is a complete and solid character. You are not going to watch the film and think, ‘Okay, she was there, too’. I think that’s what I loved about her. I don’t mind if I have only three scenes in a film, but they should be the three fantastic scenes. They should be unforgettable for me as an actor and for you as an audience. And, of course, you need to have a good script with it.
Did you enjoy history as a subject in school?
I love history, but I didn’t like it in school. I am one of those children who has read the entire Amar Chitra Katha, as many volumes as they had of it. So, I am a big fan of mythology. I knew all of the characters and stories behind all the mythological characters that we have – all the gods and goddesses. I love my history in that sense, but if you ask me the date of a particular war, then I would probably fail at it.
Have you seen any historical film recently that you liked?
I have not watched anything. Everybody keeps asking me how can you be an actor and not watch films? If you tell me to choose among a book, work out and movies, I will choose the book and the work out any day. Don’t ask me about movies, I really have not watched anything.
Your kids must have watched all of your super hit movies. But do you show them some of your great under-rated films like Udhaar Ki Zindagi?
Honestly, both my kids feel that I cry too much in my movies and they don’t like watching my movies where I’m crying. So according to that criteria, I can’t show them any one of my films. So, it’s very difficult for me to pick and choose. My daughter and son both have seen Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. They recently saw We Are Family and my daughter was so upset with me. She came out and said, ‘How could you put me through this?’. I said, ‘But it’s not a bad film. It’s a good film. I wanted you to see that I was really good in the film.’ She was like, ‘I am your daughter. How could you do that to me?’. This is just an argument I am not going to win at all.
You are doing a Netflix film called Tribhanga, which Ajay Devgn is producing. Would you also be open to doing a full-fledged web-show?
I am okay with everything and have always said that. I don’t have an issue working in anything or on any platform. As an actor, I feel wherever the best writing takes me is where I will go.
Will we see you and your mother, Tanuja, in a Marathi project?
I would love to. Please tell somebody to write a script. (Laughs) And please tell them my mother has to approve it also. If I am picky, she is my mother for a reason. She is more pickier than me. For her to approve a role or character, it takes a lot. It has to be something that appeals to both of us. We have been offered films, but it never worked out.
Is your mother critical of your work?
I think she loves me and is completely biased where I am concerned. So, when she watches a film and if there is not enough of me in it, it is not a good film for her. In other words, it needs to be a film that is based on me for her to like it.
Which is your favourite film of hers?
I did not watch my mom’s film because I was one of those children who did not like watching my mother with other children. I was jealous and possessive. I still am. I missed out on a lot of great cinema because of it. I recently saw Shonar Pahar (2018, Bengali film) and Pitraroon (2013, Marathi film). Pitraroon was amazing.
Who is your favourite actor now?
There are no favourites, really. I think each one of them has worked hard to not stay in a niche and do different kinds of cinema. So, kudos to them for thinking of their longevity and entire lifetime of working rather than thinking, ‘Oh, I am going to work for the next few years and that’s it’.
Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is in cinemas now