Kajal Aggarwal on dabbling in horror with Disney+Hotstar's Live Telecast and learnings from the pandemic
'I’ve taken up roles which I have never done before, and as an entrepreneur, I’m exploring new verticals. There’s a lot happening in my life,' says Kajal Aggarwal who has an impressive line-up of releases for 2021.
Back in October last year, Kajal Aggarwal announced her wedding to longtime boyfriend Gautam Kitchlu, but assured her fans that she would continue to act in films. Not long after, she reiterated that films will always remain her "first love" and there is a need to move on from the patriarchal mindset that marriage implies a dead-end in an actress' career.
The actress has doubled down on the work front — her slate of feature releases this year is remarkable and she also makes her OTT debut soon. "I’ve taken up roles which I have never done before, and as an entrepreneur, I’m exploring new verticals. There’s a lot happening in my life," she says.
For someone who has juggled projects in Telugu, Tamil, and Hindi cinema for almost 15 years, Kajal confesses that the COVID-19 lockdown last year, forced her to contemplate work and life in general. “Over the years, I’ve been signing so many films that I didn’t have the time to sit back and think about where life was heading. During lockdown, I gave it a lot of thought about how I would like to take my life and career forward. Now, I know what I want to do and I’ve to put all those notions into practice."
The result of the year-long contemplation ignited a thirst for "strong roles" and projects where she is in the lead. "It’s already happening, and I’m grateful to directors and producers who trust me so much,” she says.
The first of these projects is Live Telecast set to air 12 February on Disney+ Hotstar, which she believes has pushed her out of her comfort zone. Directed by Venkat Prabhu, the Tamil series has will see her as Jennifer Matthews, a TV show producer, who wants to make a Bigg Boss-themed horror show. “My character, Jenny, is obsessed with the TRP rat race and she wants her show to become a big hit. A lot of fake paranormal activity is created as part of the show, but all of a sudden, it gets real, and Jenny gets stuck in her own creation," reveals the actress.
“I’m really glad I did this show. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone. I rarely watch horror shows or films, because I get scared easily. Honestly, why would I want to spook myself? But I was really impressed with Venkat Prabhu’s narration. The whole concept was so gripping and it had me on the edge of my seat. I’ve worked with Venkat in the past and we have been wanting to work with each other for a long time. It all fell in place with Live Telecast.”
Having never dabbled in horror before, the genre was uncharted territory for Kajal. Neither did she have any references from her own life to prepare for the role. "What I did was imagine the worst-case scenarios — fear of being locked in, fear of the unknown, fear of darkness - to play the role. Since I read a lot, I tried to rekindle the fear I felt while flipping through some of the books I’ve read in the past. But that happens quite rarely. I stay away from what scares me. I want to sleep peacefully
with my husband, Gautam, next to me," she explains.
Her other films include Chiranjeevi-Koratala Siva’s Acharya, Mosagallu, Hey Sinamika, Paris, Paris, an untitled film with Deekay, and a horror-fantasy dark comedy titled Ghosty.
“I’m currently shooting for Ghosty, which is being directed by Kalyan. I play a cop and it’s been such a long time since I’ve worked in a comedy. Besides, there’s no male lead in the story. Usually, when we do a big-budget film, our interactions with people around us, other than the lead cast, director, producer, and main crew, is quite minimal. But on the sets of Ghosty, I have had the chance to interact with everyone on the set and understand how life had changed for them during the pandemic. It completely changes your perspective about life when you connect with people like that,” she says, adding, “I’ve been trying to discover more about myself and meditation has played a big role in my life for many years now. It teaches you to go within yourself and establish a connection with your own divine. Of late, I’ve been following Maitreya Dadashreeji and while reading his book, The Cause Of Suffering Is The Lack Of Love, it struck me that we are all conditioned to think and be a certain way. There’s so much to unlearn and begin functioning from a point of love. There’s still a lot more to do. Life is a work in progress for me.”
So, has life changed post her wedding to Gautam? “It’s been amazing. I love being married to Gautam, and we look forward to coming back home and spending as much time together as we can, although both of us are so busy. People in the film industry too have been so warm and welcoming, whenever Gautam came to a set to spend time with me. It’s a nice feeling when your partner is treated so well and treated like a family member,”adds Kajal.
The couple has been working on their home decor brand, Kitched, which Kajal says is a wordplay on ‘hitched’. “#Kitched was what we put on our wedding cards. Now, it’s become the name of our home decor brand. We have introduced a new line of cushions and there’s a lot more in the pipeline. I’ve also invested in a gaming company, Okie Gaming, where we have been trying to give Indian traditions a gaming touch. There are games like Dahi Handi and Vallam Kali (traditional boat race in Kerala), which we believe have a nostalgic value and the games are personalised."
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