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'I wouldn't want to compete with the hero'

By Jahnavi Patel
January 13, 2016 16:22 IST
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Juhi Chawla'If Deepika Padukone grows from a Rs 10 lakh heroine to a Rs 10 crore one, she has risen.'

'Why does she need to compete with Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan? She is Deepika Padukone, and she will carry herself forward.'

Wise words from Juhi Chawla.

We really don't see Juhi Chawla on screen as often as we would like to.

"It's not like I'm getting a script everyday," the pretty actress explains.

But this week we will get to see her take centre-stage with Shabana Azmi in Chalk n Duster, and we're all excited about it.

Juhi tells Jahnavi Patel/ Rediff.com what to expect.

What made you say yes to Chalk n Duster?

It's not like I'm getting a script everyday. As and when they come, I listen to them. It has to move me. I work because I love it.

In this case, the screenplay was so good. It's not just the story; there's so much more you can take home from it.

You'll come out of the theatre feeling happy and nostalgic.

What was it like playing a teacher?

When I heard the script, I was a little nervous. The people in the story are very real. I could see Shabanaji (Azmi) playing Vidya Sawant.

I wasn’t sure what I would do because in my last film (Gulaab Gang), I played a negative character. I was confused and did not know what I should look like or behave. 

I had planned to study the character before I did it but eventually, I went without any preparation.

Playing a teacher was all very well but the journey made me realise a lot of things. For instance, we have all been to school and had fun making friends, bunking classes, getting punished... You have always seen teachers as people who give you homework and tests but you have never really thought about them. But the teacher has laid the foundations of your personality, what you have become today. 

How many of us have thought that we must thank her or find out where she is now? 

It’s a very interesting and relatable story because we have lived it. All of us know our teachers and yet, we know nothing about their world. Chalk n Duster will open your eyes to things that might be happening in their lives.

Were you a naughty child?

I was not very naughty. 

One always wants to have a gang of friends, and not be the only one getting punished. 

Once, I remember during the assembly, I was jabbering away with my friends and did not realise that the teacher was watching me. 

When we were returning to class, the teacher called me over. I was clueless about what I had done. She was my English teacher but her first period was with the Standard 9 that morning. I was in Standard 7 then. 

She made me made me stand outside the Standard 9 class, while she took the class. I stood in that corridor in front of my seniors, and was in tears. But you can’t even cry in front of everyone. 

After that, I did not say a word in the assembly for the next two-three years.

Shabana Azmi and Juhi Chawla

Image: Shabana Azmi and Juhi Chawla in Chalk N Duster

Would you like to be a teacher in real life?

Actually, after my kids now, I realise how much fun it is to teach them, to make them to understand.

My daughter Jhanvi is studious, and I don't have to say anything to her. But my son Arjun is all over the place. I love sitting and teaching Arjun; it's such a joy when they understand. It's so fulfilling.

I try to make it simple and fun. We sit in the garden, and I make atmosphere very relaxed.

I never wanted to be a teacher but now, I get so much joy from it.

While doing this film, I realised teaching is the only profession that makes all other professions possible. 

Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla

Image: Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla in Bhootnath

A lot of women-centric films are being made these days.

It's nice and encouraging that such movies are coming along. Audiences need to come to theatres to watch such films otherwise these films won't be made again.

Shabanaji's view on this is very interesting. Why don't heroes come forward and do smaller roles in women-centric movies once in a while? It would really boost the film.

Women-centric films aren't a new phenomenon. Shabanaji is what she is today because of Ankur, Arth...

Tabu became Tabu because she did Astitva.

There's a lot of talk about wage equality these days. Did you ever discuss it with your directors in the 1990s?

I wouldn't want to compete with the hero or anybody else because eventually, you don't compete with other people, you compete with yourself.

If you're better than what you were yesterday, you're rising.

If Deepika Padukone grows from a Rs 10 lakh heroine to a Rs 10 crore one, she has risen. Why does she need to compete with Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan? She is Deepika Padukone, and she will carry herself forward. This goes for everybody; it's a life lesson.

What we used to get paid in the 1990s is a fraction of what girls are paid today. The heroines before me will probably think the same way. 

Salman Khan and Juhi Chawla

Image: Salman Khan and Juhi Chawla on Bigg Boss. Photograph:ColorsTV/Twitter

Recently on Bigg Boss, Salman Khan said he wanted you to play his mother's role. Can you see that happening?

I think we won't go that far. I don't think I am such a good actress to play his mother.

When will we see you in a film with Shah Rukh Khan?

I wish there was a plan I could tell you about. If something comes along, I'd be more than happy to do it.

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Jahnavi Patel / Rediff.com in Mumbai