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October 2, 1998


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'I'm not a movie buff'

Kavita Khanna and Sejal Parikh in Washington DC

Kajol. Click for bigger pic!
Kajol is a woman who knows what she wants. And right now, she's homesick. She wants to go home. She holds up all five fingers with a big smile and her eyes squeezed tightly shut, indicating to her mom, Tanuja, that there are five more shows left and then she's home free.

Dressed in a brown top and a long brown skirt with her hair pulled back in a high ponytail, she looks at ease. She's sitting on the floor in the farthest corner of the dressing room, book in one hand, chomping away at a half-eaten apple in the other, completely oblivious to the fact that it was smearing her lipstick.

Feeling lucky that we caught her when we did, on her first and possible last concert tour of the US, we flop down on the floor beside her and engage in an all-girl chitchat session with Kajol.

What have been your impressions of the concert tour so far?

Well, I can say with complete confidence that audiences everywhere reacted beautifully to all of us. I mean, they've really, really enjoyed everything we've done on stage regardless of whether we've made mistakes or not and they've really responded to it. You can hear it. You can't see them so you can only make out by the noise level, and the decibel level was pretty high. So, it's been an amazing experience because first of all its been my first spate of full, live shows; I've never been on stage before.

How nervous were you at your very first concert?

Oh God! I'm always nervous. I was nervous at every concert. I don't think I've improved at all. The only thing I've improved at is probably covering up my mistakes a little better on stage.

What moments would you go back with?

Well, it's definitely an experience. I mean it's just been an amazing experience, it really has. It's so hectic because we've been flying out to different cities doing the show at night and then flying out early the next morning. You barely get any sleep and then once you land, you have to be ready to go for the shows again. It's three days of shows, then it's three days of relaxation and then back there on the weekend. So it's been quite hectic. (We notice that she doesn't look particularly tired or maybe its just that the make-up she has caked on her face really does work miracles).

With Shah Rukh Khan in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Click for bigger pic!
What difference do you see in your fans here versus your fans in India? Is there a difference? Do you see a different reaction?

Oh yeah there is. In India, it's also a case of... um... Well, they see us so often. They see us so often because we're all over India. We're forever shooting there and stuff like that. So in a way I think they're used to us. But out here its like they're seeing you for the first time and there's this strange sort of hysteria about it. I think especially when they come for the shows, they come with the attitude that, okay, we're going to go get hysterical out here.

Are you surprised by this attitude, here especially?

Umm....I expected it, kind of. But not to this extent... No, I didn't.

Is this a nice change from acting, to have these concerts and take a break and do something different?

Well, it's been a good change in my daily routine.

Would you come for many more concerts?

(Shakes her head) No.

Why not?

I don't think I could take the stress -- frankly. I don't think I could do such a hectic tour, because it's really been hectic. We've been on the road since the 25th of August. We've been in London, UK, Toronto, etc... And its been like really, really hectic.

If someone was to come tell you, come settle abroad. Would you say yes or no?

Click for bigger pic!
No. (Shakes her head and makes a face). I couldn't. I mean I don't think I could ever leave India. I'm too much of an Indian at heart.

Is it because of the family?

Yeah, but more than my family I think it's just home and what you grow up with. For example, I'm sure that if I spoke to people out here, teenagers out here, who had been born and brought up in America, they'd tell me the same thing. They'd tell me, "We don't know whether we want to live in India or not because its such an unfamiliar atmosphere there."

It's a completely different pace, it's a different culture, it's a different attitude. People in India think very differently from people abroad.

How do you see yourself as a role model for these teenagers, and kids who watch your movies?

I have never really consciously done anything to curb myself and say that what I'm doing is right or wrong, depending on who's looking at me. Otherwise, I would never have done a film like Gupt. I believe you're supposed to take what's good from role models. Maybe Madonna is your role model or maybe one of these rock singers... But you're not supposed to go on drugs like them.

Do you personally have a role model?

No, no, I don't have a role model.

Do you admire any actor or actress here in Hollywood at all?

Umm.... well... actually I'm not a movie buff basically. I'm not the kind of person who watches a lot of films so you're talking to the wrong person. I read a lot of books, so I'm more into reading than I'm into watching movies.

In Baazigar. Click for bigger pic!
Would you like to see Indian movies being based today's best-selling novels?

It would be nice, but you know, it would be completely different. Because they are written in India by Indian authors on Indian subjects. Those are the subjects which we generally make films on. It's not like we haven't done it. For example, I'm working with a producer today, Mr Rama Naidu, and he's in the Guinness Book of World Records for producing who has produced the largest number of films.

He's been given an award in India for producing nine films on books in a row. So it's not like it hasn't been done. But you cannot make a film on a Western concept in India because it's basically an illiterate audience that you're catering to... And they don't understand what you're talking about. It's like a fairy tale... America is still paved with streets of gold to them.

What kind of roles do you see yourself doing in the future? What are you looking for now? What's your goal?

I never had a goal. I mean, maybe I'm completely ambition-less, but I've never had a goal. I've never said, okay, this is one point that I'm aiming for or anything like that.

Are you spontaneous when choosing to do a movie? Do you just know when you like the script, say okay, I'll do this movie?

Oh yeah, completely. It has to be like that. I don't believe that it can be any other way. The minute you start thinking about it and start having doubts about it.... I don't think it's the right thing to do. I mean if you have doubts about it now, its bound to get worse when you start doing it, because there are so many factors involved in the whole picture that you can't... Unless you feel completely correct about it, you are never going to go through it with a good feeling.

Click for bigger pic!
I mean if you start something like, say, somebody gives you a project.... Says, 'I want you to do this interview.' If you feel lacking in confidence and insecure about the whole thing and you haven't done your research, and you go to do this.... The whole time you're like, I don't know whether I'm doing this correctly or not.

And at the end of your interview you're not sure whether you've researched it completely, whether you could have done it better, and it always leaves you with this unsatisfactory feeling that, well maybe I could have done it better, if I'd just given it a little more time, a little more research. Or maybe I just wasn't interested enough in it.

Do you feel that way about any of your projects?

Umm.... Quite a lot of them, but I consider them well settled, with experience.

What's your upcoming project?

There's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, releasing in October. There's another film that I'm doing for Mr Rama Naidu with Anil Kapoor and that will be releasing in December or January. There's another film, Chhal, which... I don't know what's going to happen to it... I'm supposed to be finishing it... And that also should be releasing sometime too.

What keeps you motivated to continue acting?

I think it's just the challenge.

Are there any other challenges that you have on your list... Anything else you see yourself doing?

Umm.... I would really like to write something eventually.

A Kajol biography?

Click for bigger pic!
(Laughs and shakes her head vehemently) No, no.... That is one thing I would definitely not write. I find it very self-obsessed. people writing about themselves. They're just not interested in anybody else, they're just interested in themselves, they just want to talk about themselves time and again. Can you imagine just sitting here and going over your whole life, all your mistakes? It's not an experience that you want to go through.

Who are some of your favourite authors?

I don't actually have any favourite, favourite authors. I don't believe that any of the authors are consistent anyway. I just believe that they have books... which are like... Great.

Do you read classics?

No. I'm a complete fiction reader. I read romantic fiction. I read romantic historical fiction. I read fantasy fiction.

So, is this really going to be your last tour?

Yes, I think so. This just really isn't my scene. (and mother Tanuja seconds that from the background).

Our session with Kajol was cut short as somebody came to indicate that they were waiting for her to head onstage. We wished her good luck and walked out of her dressing room, leaving her to do some last-minute work on her make-up and hair.

And we were quite impressed. We'd gone in expecting a spoilt and reserved Bollywood star but walked out knowing a bubbly, sweet, and candid young woman who lacked masks and pretences.

With Kajol, we saw that what you see is indeed what you get.

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