ajol: Nysa and I have stopped fighting now – Four years ago, when I had to interview Kajol for the first time, I was a little bit intimidated by her. But after meeting her on several occasions, today we share a certain comfort. Our conversations are more about the laughs that follow. This time, it wasn’t different. Dressed in a blue jumpsuit, she is busy finishing a photo shoot as I enter the room. “You’ve asked me everything. What more is left!” she exclaims and then bursts out laughing. We begin our chat on that note. The effervescent actress talks about her upcoming film Helicopter Eela, her equation with her kids — Nysa and Yug — and the idea of parenting.
What appealed to you about Helicopter Eela?
I loved the way the story was told. I liked the humour in the film. The fact that we were showing a mother going to college with her son made me smile. Helicopter Eela talks about women, tags and empowerment. The film sends out a message that I completely believe in — nobody can empower us, we have to do it ourselves; only when we stand up and ask for things will we get them. No one will give them to us on a platter. They don’t hand it to men either. We deserve it more than we need it.
You have immense support from your husband, Ajay Devgn, when it comes to taking care of your kids. So, how tough was it to step into the shoes of a single parent?
I understood it because I have lived with my grandmother and great-grandmother nearly all my life. People need to realise that both the parents’ responsibilities come onto one set of shoulders. And Ajay isn’t around for many days in a month when a lot of decisions are taken by me. I’ve to play the good cop, and the bad cop at the same time. I know what it feels like and understand where my character Eela’s paranoia comes from. When you watch the film, you will, too.
How have the women around you influenced your personality?
(Smiles) My great-grandmother, grandmother and mother were extremely strong women who believed in a lot of things, acted on those beliefs and made sure they led their lives according to their own rules — damn the consequences. That was one inescapable rule that made my life and my decisions easier. The fact that I lived with these strong women made it simpler for me to be stubborn, have an opinion and stand by it. It affected nearly every aspect of my character. It was about being intelligent and not hiding it, at a time when femininity was equated with a certain dumbness and appreciated more because of a certain idiocy. I have inculcated that through every aspect in my personality.
What kind of a kid were you?
I was very naughty! There was a point when my mama and mami told me, “Thank God, you grew up and we don’t have to take care of you or discipline you anymore.” (Laughs) My dad used to sing this Elvis Presley song to me — (starts singing) ‘You look like an angel, you walk like an angel, you talk like an angel… but you are the devil in disguise.’ It completely encapsulated how I was. He always used to tell me that when your mother is around, you are this perfect, sweet child who does everything correctly. But when she’s not around, what happens to you? My mother would say, ‘I hope you have a daughter just like you’ (smiles).
Yes, I do! My daughter is very intelligent but she is not as bad as I was. She definitely wants an answer to every question that she has. She’s a level-headed child.
Did you also have arguments with your mother when you were young?
No, my mother would have slapped me silly. There was no chance to even raise my voice against her. Even today, I can’t think about doing that.
But your character in Helicopter Eela has a different take on life. What do you think of Indian parenting?
I don’t think Indian parenting is very modern, even today. I believe that disciplining your children or making sure they know what’s right and wrong for them are ways of showing your love and concern in what they eventually have to become. That’s like an underlying, constant dialogue between you and your kid. My children know I’m keeping an eye on them and I’m making sure they are eating properly. They also realise that I’m doing it because I love them. If I didn’t give a damn, they would have grown up differently. If I gave them too much freedom and let them go their way without any milestones and boundaries, they would have no one to say no to them. Discipline is like planting a creeper with a little bit of support to it, so that it can grow up strong and straight, instead of being curvy and crooked.
Nysa has a mind of her own. Does she share everything with you?
We definitely share shoes, manicures and pedicures (laughs). We have that kind of a relationship where we are able to talk to each other about a lot of things. But not everything because at the end of the day, I’m her mother. I still scold her and she will be like, ‘But whyyyy mom! (smiles). So, overall, we are in a good space.
She’s studying abroad. Has that brought you closer?
I don’t know whether we have gotten closer, but we definitely don’t fight as much as we used to. Things just don’t seem as important as they were when you lived with that person under the same roof. Also, I miss her so much that I just want us to be happy together whenever we meet. Earlier today, I was listening to a song ‘Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone’ by Bill Withers. I was like, ‘I’m missing my baby’.
l Does the second child have it easy then?
Easier! I feel one becomes much more relaxed as a parent for the second time. You are not as paranoid, you know things won’t get that bad as you think they will and the kids will grow up eventually. That itself is a huge relief.
Your son, Yug, has taken to fitness lately…
He wanted to learn how to do flips, parkour and stuff like that. He would watch videos on YouTube and try them out himself. Obviously, even though there are gymnastics classes in school, you won’t learn to that level because they are not going to give you individual attention and teach you in so much detail. When he watched Spider-Man, he was like, ‘I want to be like him.’ So I told him that you have to eat like Spider-Man because he didn’t just wake up one day and climbed a wall. Actually he did, but I didn’t tell him that! (Laughs)
Ajay is known to be a prankster. Do your kids gang up against you along with him?
Never with me. They just don’t do it to me. I’m quite scary (laughs).