It’s a roller-coaster ride, yet again
It’s a roller-coaster ride, yet again, Gulab Gang, Steven Spielberg, Juhi Chawla. For the first time Juhi acted with Madhuri. “She was very much the...
Juhi Chawla chats on ‘Gulab Gang’, working in a Steven Spielberg production, being a mother, her journey in films and
ill-effects of radiation - an issue close to her heart
Juhi Chawla hardly needs an introduction. The pretty actress, a former Miss India wowed and charmed the audience with her films for the past 25 years. After being successful in mainstream cinema, Juhi has in the last few years been part of meaningful cinema which has given her roles of substance too. She tried out a different kind of experiment with the recent ‘Gulab Gang’ where she shared screen space with Madhuri for the first time. Besides cinema, Juhi has been a judge on reality shows on television and is the co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders. A mother of two, Juhi is also involved with social causes and is particularly taking up the cause of radiation arising out of mobile phones and wi-fi. It’s not often that one gets to talk to an actress who has an impressive body of work and has completed a silver jubilee (28 years) in the field.
Juhi got rave reviews for her performance in ‘Gulab Gang’. “It felt wonderful. I was doing something so different. When they came with the film I thought how can they approach me for a role which is completely grey-black and I had such a positive image always in my career? Then I thought it might be something interesting. And it was quite interesting when I went on the sets. Everyone who saw the film liked it.”
For the first time Juhi acted with Madhuri. “She was very much the reason for doing the film. It made for interesting casting. We both were playing these characters. She had her role which was very solidly hers. She was playing the heroine, got the punch lines, dance, fights and the song. You can’t really compare both the characters. Because what my character does in the film is twisted. She says something, does something and thinks something else. I just felt it adds so much spice to the film. So I said it will make an interesting casting, it will be new and something for people to see.” Though ‘Gulab Gang’ fetched Juhi acclaim for her roles it did not fare too well. “I expected it to do better. I have seen the film and I am normally very critical of my films and this one had a lot of spice.”
Juhi has been part of many ‘independent’ cinema like ‘Teen Deewarein’, ‘My Brother Nikhil’, ‘I am’. She wants to continue to do such films. “They are the only ones that tell different stories. These days, most of commercial cinema is about romance, telling youngsters how to get married and whether to get married. It is only this other kind of cinema which has unusual narratives where I can fit in and do something nice which has a little depth or character.”
Juhi is equally comfortable on home turf and has done a cameo in a Punjabi film. “I am doing a special appearance because these people have worked with me before as I have done full-fledged Punjabi films in the past. They requested me and I said I would do it for them.”
However it is the Spielberg production ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ which stars Helen Mirrin, Charlotte Le Bon and Om Puri, that’s keeping her excited now. “The names were very big. Actually my work was with Om Puriji and other characters. I didn’t interact with the rest of the cast. It’s produced by Spielberg and I haven’t even met him. The crew was from Hollywood. It was exciting. It was for the experience that I even did it. I did the Indian part of the film in Mumbai.”
Right now Juhi is looking at both the big and the small screens and has not signed anything.
Juhi has been associated with some social causes. One of which that she is passionately advocating is to stay away from the harmful radiation from cell phones and Wi-Fi. “This started on a personal experience almost four years ago when there were too many cell phone antennae outside my house. My husband pointed this out and said it is not good to have them around your house. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. I had no clue what radiation was all about and where it is coming from. Then I started to check and slowly I got involved. The antennae got removed. Some other people started contacting me thinking I would do something for them. That’s when I thought people have to be cautioned about wire-free gadgets because these emit radio waves and somewhere overuse of these will start affecting you.”
Juhi explains how the humans are “The number of hours we are spending on these gadgets or are surrounded by them is increasing multi-fold. Though we don’t say stop all this, I definitely say don’t over expose children to them. Wi-fi in schools is a new thing. I am not a scientist myself. But simple science will tell you that children’s brain skulls are thin. Radio waves travel through bodies but they are travelling through your children’s brains. Who knows what is going to happen tomorrow and they are growing up in this atmosphere. Our skulls are thick. They are like cement shields protecting our brains. What about these children? This effect may show up in in the next five years, but in the next 10 years or 15 years.You may have a whole generation affected.”
Juhi is also actively associated with a 52-year-old institution called AK Munshi Yojana Trust which is doing a lot of work for special children from humble backgrounds and also with Thalassemia Society in Kolkata.
Juhi’s daughter Jhanvi was part of the child jury in the International Children’s Film Festival in Hyderabad in 2009. Ask Juhi if her children are inclined towards cinema and she replies: “Yes, she was part of the jury. She’s a bright child. Now she’s interested in watching movies but I don’t think she is into that. She’s academically inclined. My son right now is a happy little all-rounder. I can’t tell what he is inclined towards.”
Juhi wears hats of a supermom, actress, producer, judge. Which hat does she like the most? “What I like most and my priority is my family and work.”
The actor has completed a silver jubilee in films. “It’s been a long journey. I didn’t know I will come this far. When I look back it feels like a dream I have been around for 25 years. A lot has happened. I have had some really amazing times. I have laughed, I have cried, I have been tense, I have made silly mistakes – done it all – it’s been a wonderful roller-coaster.”
When do we see Shah Rukh and Juhi in a film together? “When an interesting subject comes across and where both of us may be inspired.” Both are friends and business partners. What works in all this? “I think the attitude towards work. Both of us were grounded. We never behaved like stars either with other people or the other. He works crazy hours. He can do twenty things at one time, I am not like that. I can do one thing at one time.
She says her interests are varied now – “It’s more to do with home.”
“I think it’s wonderful this way. I can work and at the same time enjoy these moments with kids, have time for them, sometimes make time for them as I have to juggle a lot. Right now I have the best of both worlds,” she signs off.