'I need to do more female-centric films'
... says Kajal Aggarwal, who finds it empowering to get to work on Paris Paris, the Tamil remake of Queen
Last year, Kajal Aggarwal says, was the best she could ask for, given she had back-to-back hits in both Telugu and Tamil cinema. In Telugu, she starred alongside Chiranjeevi in the veteran's 150th film, Khaidi No. 150, apart from the successful political thriller, Nene Raju Nene Mantri. In Tamil, she was a part of Ajith and Vijay-starrers, Vivegam and Mersal respectively. "It was an amazing year and I'm grateful to have worked with some of the best people in both the industries," says Kajal, as we sit down for a conversation after her promotional event with Ponds in the city.
The actor, smartly dressed in a white suit, expresses gratitude for the variety of stories that have come her way. "The Telugu films I did were completely different from each other, and in Tamil, I loved doing Vivegam and Mersal. I also got to work with Rana, Ajith and Chiranjeevi sir for the first time, and after Thuppaki and Jilla, I got to work with Vijay once again. It was a hectic year, yes, but I am happy."
She has begun 2018 on a fruitful note, as her Telugu film, Awe, has opened to unanimously positive reviews. "I played a multiple-personality disorder patient; it was a very challenging role." She also had another Telugu release, last Friday -- the Kalyan Ram-starrer MLA (Manchi Lakshanalunna Abbai). "Kalyan Ram was the first hero I worked with (Lakshmi Kalyanam). After almost a decade, I have got to work with him again and I hope the audience like this film as well."
While she played a more central role in Vivegam, she didn't have much screen time in Mersal. "To be honest, all actors choose films for different reasons. I chose Vivegam for the script. It was also my first time with Ajith sir and with Siva (director). They're talented people, and I wanted to collaborate with them," says Kajal. "For some films, I simply want to work with certain people. I chose Mersal as I wanted to work with Atlee and with Vijay again. The story was really good and I understand that my role was limited but I knew what I was signing up for. There were, after all, three characters for Vijay in the film (laughs)."
In Tamil, Kajal will next be seen in Paris Paris, the remake of the 2014 Kangana Ranaut-starrer, Queen. Kajal plays a girl from Virudhunagar in this film whose shooting is almost complete. "The film has shaped up wonderfully. The most important changes we've incorporated in this remake is making it relevant to 2018. I think the technology and the world we live in has changed over the last four years. We've moved to Instagram and words such as 'selfies' have made their way to the dictionaries," says Kajal who quickly adds that they've retained the innocence and naivete of the central character. "That's the essence and the appealing factor for me. I like the changes Ramesh Aravind (the film's director) has made to localise the script." Paris Paris also marks the first time the actress is doing a female-centric film. "It's satisfying to shoulder an entire film on my own. I think I need to do more of this," says a laughing Kajal.
Queen is incidentally being remade in all four South languages and actors who've worked in Tamil cinema -- Tamannaah and Manjima Mohan -- are reprising Kangana's role in the Telugu and Malayalam versions, respectively. I ask if the actors had the liberty of choosing which language they wanted to be a part of, and Kajal says, "This project has been a bit back-and-forth to be honest. I was first approached for Telugu and then at one point, I was supposed to do the remake in alll the languages. Finally, they settled on this arrangement, and I was very happy because Tamil is my comfort zone."
Kajal is approaching her 50th film as a heroine, but she says she doesn't have any big plans for it yet. "I haven't thought about it (smiles). I just hope I get a fantastic script. But why make 50 a special figure. Every film of mine should be exciting and surprising."
Ask her about the hiatus from Bollywood, and she says, "It's the commitments in Tamil and Telugu that's been keeping me away." Her last Hindi film -- Do Lafzon Ki Kahani -- saw her playing a visually impaired, lively person, the sort she doesn't quite get to play here. She says, "if I get an opportunity to play such a role, I'd definitely take it. I did research for about six months to play that role."
She remains quite content with how things are going for her in the South. "I'm getting fabulous offers; I've signed two more films in the South. It's a great time for me."