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April 4, 1997


Dream girl

Suparn Verma

KajolShe is short and plump. The thinking man's sex symbol, or so the hype runs...

Not a beauty in the conventional sense, and yet alluring, attractive -- ask her fans.

She is the multi-talented, multi-faceted Kajol -- riding the high of the the Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge wave which, besides sweeping the film to unprecedented box office collections, also won her the Filmfare Best Actress Award.

We caught up with her during the shoot of her under-production film Ishq, and almost the first thing we discuss is whether, or not, she will continue for long in this industry, given the recent talk of her upcoming marriage. Why, I ask, do Indian women give precedence to their personal, as opposed to professional, lives?

"It is probably because males are generally considered to be the breadwinners of the family, and we women haven't yet got out of this mindset. And even today, if you have been brought up in a traditional environment, I guess you are bound to think that way. Though I must add that today, more women are thinking things through, making their own choices..."

From there, we progress naturally to her career -- Kajol's grandmother Shobana Samarth was among the pioneers in Indian cinema, her mother Tanuja and aunt Nutan are Indian screen legends and today, Kajol herself is a top contender for the number one slot, though she expresses herself as opposed to the numbers game. So how does it feel, being a third generation actress?

"I never really thought of myself as a third generation actress," she shrugs. "As far as working is concerned, we go to work like it is any other job -- the only difference is that in our work, we get more than the average share of the spotlight, we are more visible, that is all. Other than that, the fact that you are the third generation in your family to make a living as an actress means nothing."

KajolTalking of the spotlight, Kajol makes it clear that even though she accepts the media attention as part and parcel of her profession, she will tolerate no encroachments on her privacy. "My personal life is my business, and I don't discuss that with anyone," she says, frowning. "Sure, journalists write what they please, there is little I can do about it. But I don't believe that I need the mention in the gossip columns to remain in the spotlight -- when you are a newcomer, maybe, such mention might help you be noticed, get you a film or two. But once you have established your credentials, whether or not you are written about, especially your private life, makes no difference anyway. As for me, I don't mind talking about my work, but why should I talk about my private life to anyone?"

Another question that affect actresses is their relatively brief shelf life. In the industry, heroes go on and on, while the women are quickly pushed from the heights of playing the lead into the subsidiary roles, of sister, mother and such, once younger and prettier faces come on the scene.

Kajol winces. "Yeah, right, the subjects in our films are only love stories, we have not evolved beyond that point, we don't cater to a literate audience. And since in such films you need young pretty girls, it obviously follows that the lifespan of the average actress, at least as lead, is very short-lived."

A common perception is that though there is competition within the industry, the males tend to keep it within bounds while the females cross such boundaries. Kajol, though, disagrees. "I guess it depends on how secure you are as a person," she shrugs. "I believe in myself , I don't have to compete with anyone else. I'm happy with what I'm doing. I'm not ambitious in that sense.

"As far as I am concerned, my goal is to do good work. I work because a role is good, not because someone has offered me an enormous amount of money. I don't want to work like a dog," she says, then adds amidst laughter, "though that is precisely what I find myself doing right now. All my films got delayed for one reason or the other, so now I am busy completing them. For now, I have five projects -- Hamesha, Ishq, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, Sapnay and Chhaal."

Of these, Sapnay is the one causing most anticipation, as it pairs her with Prabhu Deva and Arvind Swamy, under the direction of award-winning cinematographer-turned-director Rajiv Menon.

Sapnay with Prabhudeva"Sapnay has been a great experience," she says, of the AVM Films movie that will be out on the marquee, in Tamil and Hindi, on January 18. "It was a very organised set-up, working was a pleasure. I have one song sequence with Prabhu Deva (right), he is an excellent choreographer. Dancing with him took me 20 retakes and 30 rehearsals, but in the end it went off quite well," she laughs.

Every artist has a dream role, so I ask her what is hers. And find my eyebrows shooting skywards when she says, "The role of a boy!" Laughing at my reaction, she explains, " "I saw this film of Julie Andrews where she plays a guy. She looked so much like a man, she did it so well, I was intrigued, I began thinking that playing a boy would be so interesting, I'd be able to mimic a lot of guys in the film."

And how does she rate herself as an actress? "1, maybe 2, on a scale of 10," comes the prompt answer. "I have so much to learn, there are loads of things I don't know yet. I have my drawbacks. I'm a very easygoing person, I affect people around me. I'm mostly joking or laughing on the sets. I can't be pensive and sit with a serious expression on my face the whole time."

One intriguing thing about Kajol is how most people say she is no beauty, but... So I ask her why, what are the qualities attributed to this image that she has managed to conjure up? "Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder," she says, trotting out the well worn cliche " In the end, it is your personality that matters, and that differs from person to person. My concept of beauty is strength and vulnerability and security at the same time -- and I believe I have it."

KajolKajol is usually found on the sets curled up with a book. What kind? "I basically like romantic fiction based in different eras. I like reading futuristic stuff, what interests me most is how people thought in different times."

Doing two shifts a day, as she does these days, does she find time for a personal life which she says she values highly? A big grin of contentment lights up her mobile face. "Of course I do, if you want something very badly, you always find time for it. I have everything I could possibly want," she says, and adds on the afterthought, "Touch wood!"

And so infectious is her presence that you reach out unknowingly, to touch the bark of the tree you've been sitting beneath. "Touch wood!"