'Normally, I'm very sure about what I look like on screen and what I portray on screen. But, with Savitri, I was not so confident,' Kajol tells Savera R Someshwar/Rediff.com.
"Annnnjaaaalllliiii," squealed the 20-something reporter, walking into the room where we waiting, the stars still shining in her eyes.
"I just wanted to hug her."
The Anjali she was referring may have been the one who appeared on the screen in 1998, in a blockbuster film called Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, when the reporter would have been barely a couple of years old.
Or she could have been the Anjali of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, another huge blockbuster -- this one too was directed by Karan Johar and, like KKHH, co-starred Shah Rukh Khan -- that released three years later, in 2001.
That "Annnnjaaaalllliiii" (Fun fact: Both were named Anjali Sharma) was the chulbuli Kajol who appears on the screen this week in a more serious role, as Savitribai Malusare, the wife of the Maratha warrior, Tanhaji.
And the Savitri of yore drew an unusual admission from the Kajol of today.
"I was very unsure about what I was doing, probably for the first time in my life. Normally, I'm very sure about what I look like on screen and what I portray on screen. But, with Savitri, I was not so confident because I had no reference point," she confesses.
It could have stemmed from the fact that Kajol, in a career that began in 1992, has never played a historical character.
And it left her with some worrying questions. This was a character whom she didn't want to, even accidentally, misrepresent in any way.
She kept asking herself: What would I look like as Savitri? Am I convincing as Savitri?
"The biggest challenge," muses Kajol, "was to make Savitri look real to me as an actor, body language wise and, you know, the way she speaks..."
It was only when she finally got to see the rushes that, she says, she breathed easier. "Eventually, when everything was put together, I felt a little peace of mind, a little bit of hope that yes, we hadn't done such a bad job."
Can she spot similarities between Kajol and Savitri?
"I'd like to believe I'm very similar to her because she is such a strong character," she smiles.
In fact, she says, all the characters in Tanhaji are well-defined.
"You have Saif's character, which is all black. He's not trying to be anything but what he is."
"And you have Ajay's character who is all white and he's the typical heroic character."
"It's the same with Savitri's character as well. There's no grey areas as to who she thinks she is."
Kajol too has always been clear about what she wants to do. Which is why, in a career that has spanned 27 years, she has acted in only 27 films, many of which have had a happy run at the box office.
And, like "Annnnjaaaalllliiii...", many of her characters remain alive in public memory.
"I just think I'm blessed. And lucky." And, for a star who self-confessedly loves to talk, she is at a rare loss for words. "Yeah, I don't think I've ever... I don't know what I've done to deserve that besides make good films, but... I really don't know."
Also alive in public memory is the sizzling on-screen chemistry between Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan.
But, she says, there is something about her buddy that drives her up the wall. And no, in typical Kajol fashion, she does not sugarcoat what she has to say. Do listen!
Talking about Bollywood's king of romance begs the question: Is Kajol romantic?
"Very much so," the rapidity with which she fires back wonders how you can doubt it.
But the next question has her musing: Who has been the most difficult star to romance?
"Hmmm, who's been the most difficult star to romance?"
"I have to say touch wood... all my co-stars have been absolutely amazing to work with... they've made my life so much easier."
"From Aamir to Shah Rukh to Saif to Ajay Devgn to Akshay to everybody honestly... how many more are left? Is anybody else left?"
"To Sanjay Dutt..."
"All of them have extended a genuine warmth and made me feel very comfortable and carried me through."
Kajol started young, she was just 17 when she did her first film, Bekhudi, in which she bucked many set norms.
Her 'unibrow' generated much conversation and she clearly didn't lend too much credence to fashion.
But her talent, raw as it was, shone and she unwittingly eclipsed her co-star, Kamal Sadanah.
What would today's Kajol tell that bright-eyed teen, who was just a year older than her daughter, Nysa, is today?
But would she have chosen a different professional trajectory?
No, she says, she just picked films that felt good to her. And here's why she would do it all over again.
There was a film, however, early on in her career, which she struggled with. And which would change her life in more ways than one.
She was just 19, and playing a character close to her age in Udhaar Ki Zindagi.
But the film's theme was serious and there was many times the teenager felt she had bitten more than she could chew.
Udhaar Ki Zindagi saw an upset Kajol often finding succour in her mother Tanuja as she tried her best to reach the character's emotional depth.
But there is one HUGE reason why she says she would never regret doing the film.
It's also a pretty cute one :)
Does a changing Bollywood -- in terms if the kind of cinema and now acting opportunities available -- entice her to work more now? Or it is still difficult to tempt Kajol?
"I'd like to believe that it's still difficult to tempt me. Not for any other reason, because I hope that the better writing coming towards me."
"I think a good script is not easy to find. You don't find 20 fantastic scripts, you know. It never happens, regardless of what anybody tells you. It's a lie."
"So you get maybe one good script in a year."
And she prefers to wait for that "like one good script that actually makes sense to you".
That's a "phenomenon", she hopes, will be a more frequent visitor to her door in 2020.
And leave her with more interesting characters to look back at.
But, for the present, which are the three characters she has played whom she would invite home.
It left Ajay Devgn -- whom we put the same question to a few years ago somewhat stumped -- but Kajol didn't need even a second. Listen!
Meanwhile, she is pretty satisfied being a "pure spectator" in the movies.
"I want to enjoy your film or not watch it at all. I don't have the time for you know, critiquing somebody else's work."
Watching Kajol watch a movie, she grins wickedly -- as memories flash behind those brown eyes -- can be an experience by itself.
"I'm like laughing, crying... If I have chavvanis (25 paise coins), I would throw them (at the screen)."
Which brings her to an existential problem.
"Have you seen a chavvani recently? I haven't."
And a quick solution.
"Well," she laughs, "if I have a 50 paise coin or a one rupee coin, I would throw it!"