Kajol (born Kajol Mukerji; 5 August 1974), also known by her married name Kajol Devgan, is an Indian film actress, who predominantly works in Hindi cinema. Born in Bombay to the Mukherjee-Samarth family, she is the daughter of actress Tanuja Samarth and filmmaker Shomu Mukherjee. She is the recipient of numerous accolades, including six Filmfare Awards, and alongside her aunt Nutan, she holds the record for most Best Actress wins at the ceremony, with five. In 2011, the Government of India awarded her with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour of the country.
After making her acting debut in the 1992 romance Bekhudi, Kajol had her first commercial success with the 1993 thriller Baazigar. She rose to prominence by featuring as the female lead in several top-grossing romances, including Yeh Dillagi (1994), Ishq (1997), Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (1998), Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha (1998) and Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain (1999)—and received critical recognition for playing against type in the 1997 mystery film Gupt: The Hidden Truth, that earned her a Filmfare Award for Best Villain, and the 1998 psychological thriller Dushman. Her portrayal of a conservative NRI in the romance Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), a tomboy in the romance Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), a loquacious woman in the melodrama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001), a blind Kashmiri woman in the romantic thriller Fanaa (2006) and a single mother in the drama My Name Is Khan (2010) garnered her five Filmfare Awards for Best Actress. Her highest-grossing release came with the action comedy Dilwale (2015).
In addition to acting in films, Kajol is a social activist and is noted for her work with widows and children, for which she received the Karmaveer Puraskaar in 2008. She has featured as a talent judge for Zee TV's reality show Rock-N-Roll Family and holds a managerial position at Devgan Entertainment and Software Ltd. Kajol has been married to actor Ajay Devgan since 1999, with whom she has two children.
Early life and background
See also: Mukherjee-Samarth family
Kajol was born in Bombay (Mumbai) to the Mukherjee-Samarth film family of Bengali-Marathi descent. Her mother, Tanuja, is an actress, while her father Shomu Mukherjee was a film director and producer. Shomu died in 2008 after suffering cardiac arrest. Her younger sister, Tanishaa is also an actress. Her maternal aunt was actress Nutan and her maternal grandmother, Shobhna Samarth, and great grandmother, Rattan Bai, were both involved in Hindi cinema. Her paternal uncles, Joy Mukherjee and Deb Mukherjee, are film producers, while her paternal and maternal grandfathers, Sashadhar Mukherjee and Kumarsen Samarth, were filmmakers. Kajol's cousins Rani Mukerji, Sharbani Mukherjee and Mohnish Behl are also Bollywood actors; whereas another cousin of hers, Ayan Mukerji is a director.
Kajol describes herself as being "extremely mischievous" as a child. She added that she was very stubborn and impulsive from a very young age. Her parents separated when she was young; but according to Tanuja, Kajol was not affected by the split as "we never argued in front of [her]". In the absence of her mother, Kajol was looked after by her maternal grandmother, who "never let me feel that my mother was away and working". According to Kajol, her mother inculcated a sense of independence in her at a very young age. Growing up between two separate cultures, she inherited her "Maharashtrian pragmatism" from her mother and her "Bengali temperament" from her father.
Kajol studied at the St Joseph Convent boarding school in Panchgani. Apart from her studies, she participated in extra-curricular activities, such as dancing. It was in school that she began to form an active interest in reading fiction, as it helped her "through the bad moments" in her life. At the age of sixteen, she began work on Rahul Rawail's film Bekhudi, which according to her was a "big dose of luck". She initially intended to return to school after shooting for the film during her summer vacations. However, she eventually dropped out of school to pursue a full-time career in film. On not completing her education, she quoted, "I don't think I am any less well-rounded because I didn't complete school".
1992–1996: Debut and rise to prominence
Kajol made her acting debut at the age of seventeen in the 1992 romantic drama Bekhudi alongside debutante Kamal Sadanah and her mother Tanuja, who played her mother. Kajol played Radhika, a girl who falls in love with Sadanah's character despite her parents' wish for her to marry another man. Although the film turned out to be a box office flop, Kajol's performance was noticed and she was signed for Baazigar (1993), a thriller by Abbas-Mustan, which emerged as a major commercial success. Inspired by the American film A Kiss Before Dying, the film co-starred Shah Rukh Khan, Shilpa Shetty and Siddharth Ray, and saw Kajol portray the leading role of Priya Chopra, a girl who falls in love with her sister's murderer. The film marked the first of her many collaborations with Khan.
In 1994, Kajol appeared in the melodrama Udhaar Ki Zindagi, as the granddaughter of the characters played by Jeetendra and Moushumi Chatterjee. The film, which was a remake of the Telugu film, Seetharamaiah Gari Manavaralu, failed to do well at the box office. However, Kajol's performance earned her the BFJA Award for Best Actress. She subsequently gained wider public recognition for her role in Yash Raj Films's hit romantic drama Yeh Dillagi, starring alongside Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan. The film, which was an unofficial remake of the 1954 American film Sabrina, narrated the story of a chauffeur's daughter who becomes a model, and engages in a love triangle between two brothers. The success of Yeh Dillagi proved to be a breakthrough for Kajol, and her performance fetched her a first Best Actress nomination at the annual Filmfare Awards.
In 1995, Kajol starred in two major commercial successes—Rakesh Roshan's Karan Arjun and Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge—both opposite Shah Rukh Khan. The former was a melodramatic thriller, based on the concept of reincarnation, in which she played Sonia Saxena, a supporting character who forms the love interest of Khan. The film eventually emerged as the second-highest-grossing film of the year in India. She justified playing a minor role in the film by saying, "I did Karan Arjun because I wanted to know how it feels to be an ornament. I had nothing to do in the film except look good". Kajol's next three releases that year—Taaqat, Hulchul and Gundaraj—failed to do well commercially; the latter two were her earliest collaborations with her future-husband, the actor Ajay Devgn.
Kajol's fifth and final release of the year, the romance Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, was not only the biggest commercial success of 1995, but also one of the most successful films of all time in India. The film, which earned a worldwide gross of ₹1.23 billion (US$18 million) at the time of release, has been continuously running in Mumbai ever since. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was also a major critical success; it won ten Filmfare Awards, and Kajol's performance as Simran Singh, a young Non-resident Indian from London who falls for Shah Rukh Khan's character was praised, earning her a first Filmfare Award for Best Actress. In 2005, Indiatimes Movies ranked the movie amongst the 25 Must See Bollywood Films, citing it as a "trendsetter of sorts". In that same year's retrospective review by Rediff, Raja Sen stated that Kajol was "wisely picked ... to play Simran, the real-as-life actress bringing warmth and credulity to the initially prudish and reluctant Simran. Not to mention the on-screen chemistry that has become the stuff of legend." In 1996, Kajol starred in Vikram Bhatt's action drama Bambai Ka Babu, opposite Saif Ali Khan and Atul Agnihotri. Upon release, the film emerged as a major critical and commercial disaster.
1997–98: Widespread success
In 1997, her portrayal of Isha Diwan, a psychopath serial killer and obsessive lover, in Gupt: The Hidden Truth, was lauded by critics and proved to be a major turning point in her career. She explained that playing Diwan was the "toughest role" of her career as it was "difficult to play a mean character". In an interview with The Hindu, director Rajiv Rai quoted, "[I] tapped the versatile artistry in Kajol in Gupt! [She] had a complex role and she certainly brought a rare finesse to her etching of that character in the film". The suspense thriller, which co-starred Bobby Deol and Manisha Koirala, also emerged as a major commercial success. Kajol eventually became the first actress to be nominated for and win the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Negative Role.
Following a leading role opposite Aditya Pancholi and Saif Ali Khan in Sanjay Gupta's box office flop, the reincarnation romance Hameshaa, Kajol starred as an aspiring nun in Rajiv Menon's Tamil film – the romantic drama Minsaara Kanavu – opposite Arvind Swamy and Prabhu Deva. Since she don't speak Tamil, her voice in the film was dubbed by the Tamil actress Revathi. Kajol revealed that she found dancing alongside Prabhu Deva difficult and it "took me 20 retakes and 30 rehearsals" to get the steps right. Her performance met with appreciation with The Indian Express reviewing, "Kajol is full of beans and fits into her character with commendable ease. Hers is perhaps one of the most expressive faces of the present."
The film was dubbed in Hindi as Sapnay and released in Northern India. The original Tamil version was a box office success, but the dubbed version emerged as a commercial failure. Her next release was Indra Kumar's romantic comedy Ishq alongside Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla and Ajay Devgn, in which she played Kajal, a poor girl in love with a rich boy, played by Devgn. Upon release, the film emerged as a major commercial success, with critical praise directed to the performances of the four leads.
In 1998, Kajol established herself as a leading actress of contemporary Hindi cinema by featuring in three of the top-grossing productions of the year. Her first release that year was Sohail Khan's romantic comedy Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, in which she played Muskaan Thakur, a naive village girl who falls in love with a rich boy (played by Salman Khan), but faces difficulties in convincing her elder brother about her relationship. The film not just emerged as a box office hit, but also garnered positive comments from critics, as did Kajol's performance. In her next release, the psychological thriller Dushman, Kajol played the dual roles of twin sisters, Sonia and Naina Saigal, alongside Sanjay Dutt and Ashutosh Rana. Directed by Tanuja Chandra and written by Mahesh Bhatt, the film revolves around Naina avenging the rape and murder of her sister, and won Kajol critical appreciation with reviewer Sukanya Verma writing, "Kajol is in superb form, both as the opinionated career-minded twin who is murdered, and as the avenger. Even she must have preferred less glycerine and more restraint." Despite underperforming at the box office, Dushman proved to be a major critical success. For her performance, Kajol won her first Screen Award for Best Actress and received a Best Actress nomination at Filmfare.
She next starred opposite Ajay Devgn in Anees Bazmee's romantic comedy Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, a remake of the 1995 American film French Kiss. In the film, she played the comic role of Sanjana, a clumsy woman who travels from Paris to India in search of her philandering fiancé, however, falls for another man, played by Devgn. A review from Planet Bollywood noted, "Kajol, like usual, is brilliant in her role as Sanjana. She makes you cry, laugh, get angry, and smile all within the two and a half hour movie. Her acting is on par with Meg Ryan in the English flick". The film emerged as a "super-hit" commercially and fetched Kajol a second Best Actress nomination at Filmfare that year.
However, her biggest success that year was her final release, Karan Johar's directorial debut, the romance Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Co-starring Shah Rukh Khan, her cousin Rani Mukerji and Salman Khan, the film emerged as an all-time blockbuster in both India and overseas with a worldwide gross of ₹1 billion (US$14 million). Kajol played Anjali Sharma, an unattractive fun-loving tomboy, who later transforms into a feminine and beautiful girl, and is secretly in love with her best friend, played by Shah Rukh Khan. A review carried by The Times of India wrote, "Kajol is almost mesmeric as Anjali, the firebrand youngster who doesn't know whether she should settle for best girl or basketball buddy. [...] Kajol with her baggy apparel, her bouncy bob cut and her boyish banter is absolutely riveting." She eventually won her second Best Actress award at the 44th Filmfare Awards ceremony and first Zee Cine Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film. Filmfare included Kajol's work in both Dushman and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in their listing of Indian cinema's "80 Most Iconic performances".
1999–2001: Commercial fluctuations and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...
In 1999, after her marriage with Ajay Devgn, Kajol featured in a supporting role alongside him and Mahima Chaudhry in Prakash Jha's drama Dil Kya Kare. She played Nandita Rai, the other woman in the life of Anant Kishore, played by Devgn. In an interview with Filmfare she explained, "The only reason, I agreed to play my character was because it had shades of grey. I would have probably refused the wife's role. Because I felt it had nothing for me to do." Upon release, the film met with largely negative reviews. Critic Sharmila Taliculam, however, described Kajol as "the only person who gives her role a semblance of sanity". Commercially too, the film failed to do well. However, her next release, Satish Kaushik's woman's film, the drama Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain, emerged as a critical and commercial success. Starring alongside Anil Kapoor, Kajol received another Best Actress nomination at the Filmfare ceremony for her portrayal of Megha, the deceived wife of Kapoor's character. The film met with wide media coverage for being one of the few woman-centered films to emerge as a commercial success in India.
Kajol's third and final release of 1999 was the critically and commercially unsuccessful romantic drama Hote Hote Pyar Ho Gaya, alongside Jackie Shroff, Atul Agnihotri and Ayesha Jhulka. The following year, she featured alongside her husband once again, in his home-production Raju Chacha. The children's film, with a production cost of ₹300 million (US$4.3 million) was described as the "most expensive Bollywood film ever", at the time. Upon release, the film met with negative reviews and flopped at the box office. Kajol's first release of 2001 was Rahul Rawail's comedy film Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi, where she played the double role of Tina and Sweety Khanna, twin sisters who are separated at birth. The film was a major commercial failure and fetched negative reviews from critics. Writing for Rediff.com, Savera R Someshwar criticised Kajol's decision to star in the film; termed her as a "glamorous prop" and described her performance as "uninspiring".
Later that year, she played a leading role in Karan Johar's family drama Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham..., which was a blockbuster in India and the top-grossing Indian production of all-time in the overseas market until 2006. Cast alongside Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor in prominent roles, Kajol played Anjali Sharma, a young Punjabi woman from Delhi's Chandni Chowk area, who falls for the rich Rahul Raichand, played by Khan. Kajol, faced initial difficulties while filming for her scenes, as she was required to speak in Punjabi, a language she wasn't fluent in. However, she learnt the right pronunciation and diction with the help of producer Yash Johar and the crew members. Her comic-dramatic performance met with unanimous critical acclaim and won her several awards, including her third Filmfare Award and her second Screen Award in the Best Actress category. Taran Adarsh labelled her as "first-rate" and predicted that her "Punjabi dialect will win her immense praise". The Hindu wrote, "Kajol ... steals the thunder from under very high noses indeed. With her precise timing and subtle lingering expression, she is a delight all the way."
Following the success of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham..., Kajol took a sabbatical from full-time acting. In an interview with The Times of India she revealed, "I'm not quitting films, I'm just being selective. Fortunately, I'm in a position where I can pick and choose." She added that the reason behind the break was to concentrate on her marriage and "start a family".
2006–2010: Fanaa and My Name is Khan
Kajol returned to films in 2006 with Kunal Kohli's romantic thriller Fanaa, opposite Aamir Khan. She, however, refused to term Fanaa as her "comeback film" because, "I never retired. I had just taken a break". The film emerged as a major box office success with a worldwide gross of ₹1 billion (US$14 million). She portrayed the role of Zooni Ali Beg, a blind Kashmiri girl who unwittingly falls in love with a terrorist, played by Khan. Both the film as well as Kajol's performance were well received, with reviewer Sudish Kamat calling her the "only reason to watch the film" and adding, "Kajol performs like she never took a break from celluloid and peps up the film with her presence." A review carried by Bloomberg noted, "[Kajol] still has the ability to light up the screen with ease, making her one of the few leading ladies who can more than match Khan's method-driven prowess." Her work in Fanaa fetched Kajol a fourth Filmfare Award and second Zee Cine Award in Best Actress category.
After the success of Fanaa, Kajol worked intermittently through the rest of the decade. She next starred in her husband's directorial debut, the drama U Me Aur Hum (2008) as Piya, a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Devgn described Kajol's participation in the project by saying, "She is always thorough with the nitty-gritties of her character before she begins shooting. Since the screenplay work happened at home, Kajol was present for all the sittings and even gave her inputs." Upon release, the film performed moderately well at the box office and earned positive critical reviews for her performance. Udita Jhunjhunwala noted, "Kajol completely comes into her own here as an ailing woman unaware of her vulnerability and delicate situation. She is superb." Raja Sen added, "[Kajol] can span through happy-breezy with her eyes closed, and so the first half doesn't even pose her a challenge, but when Alzheimer's strikes Piya and she begins to forget all that matters in her life, Kajol raises the bar strikingly high." The following year, Kajol received another Best Actress nomination at the Filmfare Awards ceremony.
Kajol was next cast opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Karan Johar's My Name Is Khan, a counter-terrorism drama based on the ethnic profiling and discrimination faced by American Muslims after the 9/11 terrorist attacks My Name Is Khan released in February 2010 to highly positive reviews and emerged as an international success with a worldwide gross of ₹2 billion (US$29 million). Kajol's portrayal of Mandira, a divorced, Hindu single mother who marries a Muslim autistic man was praised by critics, with Rajeev Masand observing, "Bringing emotional depth to what is essentially Rizwan's story, Kajol is immensely likeable as Mandira, using her eyes to convey volumes, topping the performance off with a powerful breakdown scene that literally puts her through the wringer." Kajol won her fifth Best Actress award at the Filmfare for the film, thereby sharing the record for the most Best Actress wins with her late aunt, Nutan.
She next starred alongside Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal in Siddharth Malhotra's moderately successful family drama We Are Family, an official adaptation of the 1998 American drama Stepmom. Kajol played Maya, a character originally played by Susan Sarandon, and which she described as "a control freak", believing it "is something which every woman would identify with." While reviewing the film for Hindustan Times, critic Mayank Shekhar stated, "The premise is stuff dry tissues are made for. Yet, the pathos here is produced not from moments, but from performances alone: a stunning Kajol's in particular. She appears superior to Susan Sarandon, I suspect." New York Times's Rachel Saltz wrote, "The always appealing Kajol knows how to play melodrama without being melodramatic, and her naturalism gives the movie a genuine emotional kick." Her final release of the year was Toonpur Ka Super Hero, a live-action animated film, opposite Ajay Devgn. In an interview with The Express Tribune, Kajol mentioned that it was difficult to work on the film. She added, "Dubbing and shooting was equally frustrating. You had to keep so many things in mind and there were a few action sequences too where I had to do action in front of a green space, so I was smiling, scowling, laughing – all in the wrong places!" The film was a critical and commercial failure and fetched Kajol mostly negative reviews for playing a role that provided her with "no scope" to perform.
2015–present: Dilwale and beyond
After another five-year absence from the screen, Kajol co-starred with Shah Rukh Khan for the seventh time (alongside Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon) in Rohit Shetty's comedy-drama Dilwale (2015). She portrayed Meera Dev Malik, the daughter of a mafia don who falls in love with a man from her rival family. Reviewers were generally negative about the film, however, Kajol's performance received a mixed-to-positive reception. Suhani Singh of India Today wrote: "Kajol is a radiant presence on the screen and delivers what's expected out of her – which is not much." Dilwale emerged as a major commercial success at the box office, grossing more than ₹3.8 billion (US$55 million) worldwide, and ranks among one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time. Kajol's performance in the film garnered her Best Actress nominations at various award ceremonies, including Filmfare and Screen.
In 2017, Kajol starred opposite Dhanush in Velaiilla Pattadhari 2, a sequel to the 2014 film Velaiilla Pattadhari. The film marked her return to Tamil language films after she was last seen in Minsaara Kanavu. Kajol said that she was "a little apprehensive" about doing the film, but later accepted the role due to Dhanush and director Soundarya Rajinikanth. VIP 2 received negative critical reception, but was a box-office success.
In 2018, Kajol portrayed the title role of an aspiring singer in Pradeep Sarkar's comedy-drama Helicopter Eela, based on Anand Gandhi's Gujarati play Beta, Kaagdo, which marked her comeback to Bollywood since Dilwale. Upon release, the feature met with a positive response from critical reviews; however, Kajol's work earned her overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics, and the film proved to be a major box-office disaster. She has next committed to reunite with her husband in two films: Om Raut's period drama Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior—a biopic on Tanaji Malusare—and an as-yet untitled romantic comedy whose director is yet to be confirmed.
In 1999, following the launch of Ajay Devgn's production company, Devgan Films (renamed as Devgn Entertainment and Software Ltd.) Kajol worked towards building a website for the company. In 2000, she launched an online portal, Cineexplore for the production company. She explained, "The portal takes into account every aspect of film-making. My role is that of a supervisor. I just have to overlook the proceedings. We have our hands in everything. We are making software for TV and music videos."
Ajay Devgn established another production company Ajay Devgn FFilms in 2009. She, however, clarified that she wasn't involved in the production aspect of the company, but participated in supervising and "overseeing everything". She was named a part-time member of Prasar Bharati in 2016.
Kajol has been actively involved in several philanthropic endeavours related to women and children. According to her, "every child deserves education", as "education is the basis of society". In 2008, she was awarded with the Karmaveer Puraskaar, for her contribution in the field of social service.
Kajol is involved with Shiksha, an NGO that works in the field of children's education. In 2009, she launched the Shiksha 2009 campaign, to support the cause. In 2011, Kajol participated in a fashion show organised by the Cancer Patients Aid Association, to generate funds for the organisation. She is the international goodwill ambassador and patron of The Loomba Trust — a charity organisation devoted to supporting widows and their children around the world, particularly in India. Speaking about the issue, she said: "It's sad to know that widows are still considered a blight in our society. There are widows who are still not marriageable. I strongly feel for them and take it as a social responsibility to eradicate the issue."
In 2012, Kajol was appointed as the brand ambassador of Pratham, a charity organisation for children. In April, she featured in a short film about education and literacy, with the children of Hanuman Basti Primary School in Mumbai, for the organisation.
Kajol began dating fellow actor, Ajay Devgn, in 1994, while filming for Gundaraj. Members of the media, however, labelled them as an "unlikely pair" due to their contrasting personalities. Devgn explained their relationship by saying, "We never resorted to the usual 'I Love you' routine. A proposal never happened. We grew with each other. Marriage was never discussed, but it was always imminent". They subsequently got married on 24 February 1999 in a traditional Maharashtrian style ceremony at the Devgan house. The wedding was subject to wide media scrutiny, as certain members of the media criticised Kajol's decision to settle down at the "peak of her career". Kajol, however, maintained that she would not quit films, but would cut down on the amount of work that she did.
Following her marriage, Kajol moved in with Devgan and his parents at the latter's ancestral house in Juhu. While media members speculated about a lack of compatibility between her in-laws and her, Kajol clarified that they were "like parents to me" and encouraged her to continue working in films. Tabloids have often romantically linked Devgan with other Bollywood actresses, and have reported about an imminent divorce. Refuting the rumours, Kajol stated, "I don't believe in those rumours because I know the way this industry functions. [...] You cannot continue a marriage without the basic trust. Frankly, I don't care for such talk."
In 2001, Kajol was pregnant with her first child. However, due to an ectopic pregnancy, she suffered from a miscarriage. On 20 April 2003, Kajol gave birth to a daughter, Nysa. Seven years later, on 13 September 2010, she gave birth to a son, Yug. She described motherhood as "fab" and added that her kids brought out "the best in her".