The last time we saw Kajol in a Hindi movie was in 2015, in the Rohit Shetty-directed DilwaleThe actress, who admits to being picky about her projects, has a Pradeep Sarkar film lined up this year. In Helicopter Eela, she plays a single parent who dreams of becoming a singer. The actress spoke about not always being comfortable in her own skin and why she describes her vanity now as ‘hard-earned’.

Edited excerpts:

Anupama Chopra: Karan (Johar) was telling me about how, in between shots during Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, he would run after you to comb your hair because you couldn’t care less. He said, ‘I’d just try and keep the hair down’

Kajol: Smooth, silky straight. My hair is pretty much an extension of my personality, it’s difficult to get it silky, smooth straight.

AC: To me, you are way prettier now. Don’t you agree?

K: I agree, I totally agree.

AC: But tell me this, would you, today, be okay with being unattractive on screen if the role demanded it?

K: It would depend on the character, it would depend on whether I could get away with looking good in my own way.

AC: Then you’d want to look good in that role as well?

K: Of course. I would try my very best to make unattractive cool.

AC: So is there a vanity there now?

K: A very hard-earned vanity, I would say. I didn’t believe at one point of time that I was beautiful. I never believed it. I didn’t believe it for a number of years. I believed I was attractive, I believed I was cool, that I was interesting. I still am all those three things. But beauty was a collection of features that other people had and I didn’t. I didn’t believe that I was beautiful. I think now when you tell me, ‘You’re looking stunning today and you’re glowing today and you’re looking much more beautiful today than you did at 16’ it’s honestly because I believe that I’m beautiful today. It’s because I have that confidence in myself and I look at myself in the mirror and I’m like, ‘Damn!’

AC: Good for you

K: Exactly. I really believe today if I had believed that about myself then, I probably would’ve been looked at differently then as well. Believed it, been and looked at differently.

AC: But did you not believe or did you just not care?

K: I just didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it.

AC: Because I always believed that you just didn’t care

K: That was one of the reasons my mother sent me for the photo sessions to Gautam (Rajan). My cousin sister was going for the photo sessions, she wanted to be an actress. So I was like, ‘Come, I’ll come with you.’ And my mum was like, ‘While you’re going over there, you might as well get your photos also taken, just see how the camera likes you.’ And I got my photos taken and my first reaction was, ‘Wow, that’s me. Really? My cousin’s much better looking.’ And she’s honestly prettier than me. My point is, it is because I believe it today that you believe it today.

AC: When did you start to believe it?

K: I think I started to believe it around the time I had my daughter. I started learning lots of things about myself, wanted to do things with myself and just had epiphanies about myself and who I want to be. I looked at myself and was like, “Damn, you’re pretty and you’re beautiful.’ It just grew from there – from pretty to beautiful to gorgeous.

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