As the year draws to an end, Kajal Aggarwal looks back on 2018, which she terms as the busiest year in her career. The actor started the year with the critically acclaimed Awe and she is ending it with Kamal Haasan’s Indian 2 in her kitty.
Kajal has played the female lead in Kavacham, which is all set to hit the screens on December 7.
Excerpts from a conversation:
Q. How special is Kavacham for you?
First of all, I don’t think every movie has to have a special role for you to want to do it. There are various reasons why you choose a particular kind of film. For me, the reason for signing Kavacham was the genre of the film that is very interesting. I feel that I am at a stage in my life where more than just focusing on what I am doing in solidarity, I want to focus on the entire project. I want to encourage as well as support films, be a part of films and work with directors who are young, talented and have something different to offer.
Kavacham is a thriller. It does have a love story but more than the focus on the love story, it’s a very fast paced, keeping you-on-the-edge-of-the-seat sort of a thriller. That is what I feel is quite exciting. The audience will definitely wonder about what happens next. Especially, post the interval, with twists and turns, different parts of the plot gets revealed. It is different because I haven’t really experimented too much with genres, which are different from mainstream commercial cinema.
Q. You have played a damsel in distress in many films. From the trailer of Kavacham, it also looks like a police officer is trying to protect either you or Mehreen. So, how different was that emotion to carry off?
It is not a different emotion (smiles). I usually play a damsel in distress. I don’t know why people like to see me that way. It is for you to see whom he ends up protecting. But, that obviously I can’t tell you right now and it is not that different. Like I said it’s the totality of the film that is exciting for me more than my role particularly.
Q. In 2017, you were paired opposite many senior actors. This year you have done films with young actors.
It is not planned and it just happened this way. As I said, my main focus was on the kind of films that I am doing. My main focus was on the scripts and on the stories. I wanted to broaden my horizon and grow my portfolio. I am done with just doing the same kind of stuff. If you see, Kavacham is a commercial one and obviously you have to do certain films for commercial reasons as well. I am trying to balance it out with films where my role is equally strong. Now, it just happened to be opposite the younger lot of actors, which is quite flattering for me. I think it is working well and I am enjoying the space of striking a balance.
Q. How important is your character in Kavacham?
It is a very important role, but it is not like some driving force of the film. That is obviously the hero’s role. Having said that, it is equally an important role.
Q. Would you say that Nene Raju Nene Mantri was a turning point for you? Or is there any other film, which made these filmmakers look at you from a fresh perspective about what you can offer?
Web filmmakers were offering me different sort of roles. But I think it is upon each person as well. I wasn’t ready. I was not mentally in that mind space to take on films which were different. Maybe I was a little scared to adapt to newer situations. I was in my comfort zone. Now I feel I have kind of broken out of that shell, where I am open to challenges and experimenting. So more than just that directors offering me that kind of films, I think it is my acceptance and it is my growth may be as a person. I want to now do stuff which is exciting for me.
Q. What brought about the change?
Growing up. I just realized that I am bored of this, I want to do something else. I want to do something exciting. Once you reach a level of security and safety, then from there on it is easier to do different things for any of us. But, to get to that level of stability, you have to go the conventional way, unfortunately.
Q. When you say you are in a safe space, are you saying that you have nothing to lose now?
No, I don’t mean it in that way. I think every Friday every actor has something to lose. It is very scary still. It is very challenging. Still, the environment is very shaky. It is not a smooth environment to be in. I am not saying that I am so confident. Obviously, I get scared before every release. But I don’t get gitters or I don’t get like sleepless nights. Personally, now I am in a place where I don’t get attached anymore. I do my work to the best of my ability. After that, I leave it to fate.
Q. Now you are doing the remake of Queen, Paris Paris in Tamil. What did you like the most in Kangana Ranaut’s Queen?
I have seen Queen five years back and I didn’t see it after that. When I was offered Paris Paris, the talks were going on for a very long time. First, there were some talks about me doing the remake in four languages. Then there were talks about me doing in Telugu and Tamil. Then it trickled down to me doing in Tamil. I am happy that I did it just in one language as it is lesser of a burden. And it is nice that four actresses from different industries are doing the same film for the first time in the history of Indian cinema.
For me, I loved Kangana’s performance in the film. I thought she was so naive and innocently beautiful. And I have to retain all of that innocence. At the same time, I have tried to keep it as Tamil in nativity and culture sensibilities as much as possible. I wanted to make Parameshwari, a simple relatable girl of any small town of Tamil Nadu.
Q. You started off 2018 with an interesting role in Awe and now you are ending it with Indian 2. When you reflect on the year so far, has it been very interesting for you?
Professionally, it is been much more than expected. I thought I would take a break from things this year. I was very unwell at the beginning of the year during Awe. I was sick for three months. It has been a very difficult year for me in terms of my health. I wanted to take a break and take things slow professionally.
Somehow, I have had the busiest year and I have just not been able to take a break even though I was on hardcore medication due to an autoimmune disorder. Professionally, it has been an amazing year and I am very excited about the kind of films that I am doing. I am doing a full-on comedy film in Tamil with Jayam Ravi. At the same time, I am doing a very intense role with (director) Teja sir, with Bellamkonda Sreenivas in the lead role.
Q. How was it working with Bellamkonda Sreenivas?
He is one of the nicest people I have ever worked with. I call him ‘Enthu Cutlet’, because he is very enthusiastic about everything. He is very ambitious and in fact, it is very weird to say this, but I feel like I was exactly like that. We can relate to one another. And he does not take his family name for granted. Things can be easier for him, but he constantly wants to up the game and he has no qualms in learning.
Q. You were recently named by India Today as a change maker. Was it a big surprise for you? Or what is your take on it?
I really never focused on power and power is a very interesting characteristic that most people desire. But most people also don’t know what to do with it. I personally feel that whatever power I generate or I have, I will try my level best at every given point to translate into things that impact and influence people especially those who follow me in an appropriate way.
Personally, it gives me satisfaction in giving back to the society in whatever possible way. So I consider the power to be a translation of that. I would like to influence people in whatever best way I can. I am extremely involved with education for tribal kids in Araku valley. I closely work with the organization called Think Base. I run a marathon every year to generate funds for it. I have already built a school for the tribal children in Araku.