The many roles of Kajal

Before Durban’s Kajal Bagwandeen-Singh made it big on the silver screen, there were years when a young Kajal was waiting for her big break. That major role, that movie hit … that would irrevocably change her life.

“For me it was landing the lead role in Bombay Crush, the musical. I sat outside the audition room with my BCom Accounting Honours notes studying for my exams in between learning lines and dance moves. It was the first time I auditioned for a lead role and eventually landing that role was a turning point.”

Photo: Jono Nienaber Photography; Hair: Stephanie Green; Makeup and Styling: Neil Ramautar; Venue: Pure Photographic Studio; Decor: Douglas & Douglas

From musicals and entertainment shows to series and feature films, Kajal has lit up South African screens with professionalism and passion. It is no surprise that at 39, the multifaceted actress, producer, casting director, businesswoman, wife and mother is where she is in her 20-year-long career.

Best known for her roles in the films Jozi, 3 Days to Go, soapies 7de Laan and Isidingo, Netflix’s Indian Detective and as a household name as the vivacious presenter on Eastern Mosaic and Mela. Kajal has a deep love for film and has many big screen acting credits to her name. Even in the early days of her career she was undoubtedly headed for great heights.

Reflecting on her introduction to the world of performing arts, she speaks openly about how seemingly insignificant moments in life gave her gentle nudges in this direction, and how she hated dance classes as a kid.

“I would think up any excuse not to attend. But my parents made sure I continued. Slowly, as I gained confidence, I started enjoying it and it became a very big part of my life and of me. It also gave me the opportunity to perform around the world and learn from so many incredible teachers.”

Kajal’s career organically moved from the stage to TV and then to film, where she proudly wears many hats. Her passion has taken the starlet behind the camera and behind the scenes as she works on innovative projects under her production and casting company Imagine Worx.

Kajal and her co-stars in The Honeymoon, Tumi Morake and Minnie Dlamini

Her latest project, The Honeymoon, sees her star alongside Tumi Morake and Minnie Dlamini in a fun and wild comedy adventure in which three besties learn to survive a terrible situation when things go awry for one of them on the eve of their wedding.

Shot on location in Durban and Zanzibar, Kajal says filming the movie was one of the most memorable but challenging times of her life which revolves heavily around her three-year-old son.

“Ten days in Zanzibar – one of my favourite destinations in the world! – we all melted into our roles and into a friendship which translated so beautifully on screen as well!  We laughed, drank fresh coconut water, ate spiced mango from the streets, and let’s not forget the breastmilk pumping on set! But inwardly, I was broken-hearted.”

Kajal and her co-stars on the set of The Honeymoon.

Since filming took place during the pandemic, and dates, location and travel restrictions were an issue, neither Kajal’s husband Quinton, or her son’s caregivers were able to go along.

“It was the first time I’d worked on a film after becoming a mother and I was still learning to navigate that space. While it was the best decision to leave my son at home, for his safety, it was incredibly tough. Coping would not have been possible without today’s technology and the support of my husband, family, co-stars, director and the rest of the team.”

Of motherhood and the scary reality of postnatal depression, Kajal says it really puts things into perspective.

“Motherhood is a rebirth of oneself. It’s magical, beautiful and also wild but, I have eaten so much humble pie since becoming a mother.”

After attending a hypnobirthing course, Kajal opted for a home birth. Two months into lockdown her son, who was posterior (looking at the stars), decided to make an appearance.

“For two days I had surges and contractions while my uterus attempted to turn him around. How incredible is the human body! The night before his birth, we laboured alone. Me, Quinton and our two beautiful Boxers, Layla (who is a rescue) and Zeus. Every time I had a surge, Layla, would rest her head on me. She was my very own doula.”

Kajal with her boxers Zeus and Layla (a rescue). Photo: Captures by Talia

After a difficult labour, assisted by a qualified midwife team (Cheryl’s Gentle Births), Kajal got exactly what she wanted – an unmedicated birth in the comfort of her home and a healthy baby on her chest.

“Becoming a first-time mother during a pandemic is an experience I share with a select few. The best part of it was that I got to cocoon with my son without interference from the outside world. The hard part was not having community around me. I am eternally grateful for my mother, who ensured that for the first 40 days I was nourished and had help.”

Eight months into her journey with sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, endless nappy changes and the constant Covid buzz, Kajal felt herself drowning.

“I’d had a wonderful pregnancy.  I’d never felt more confident and more beautiful in my life, and suddenly I couldn’t recognize myself. Postnatal depression had entered my life.”

Fortunately, with the help and support of her husband, family and homeopath, Kajal got through it.

She says surrendering is her biggest lesson, her mantra of motherhood. “It’s not about sacrificing; it’s about embracing the present, embracing change and discovering this new person. It’s also realizing its okay to miss your old life at times but be reminded that these early years of our children’s lives are indeed fleeting and those co sleeping early morning snuggles will one day be missed.”

Photo: Jono Nienaber Photography; Hair: Stephanie Green; Makeup and Styling: Neil Ramautar; Venue: Pure Photographic Studio; Decor: Douglas & Douglas

Outside of film, Kajal is a self-confessed homebody who loves cooking, entertaining and spending time in the garden. Her personality, much like her Morningside home, is warm and tangible. She’s a lover of nature and natural light and has built a sanctuary out of her home, which is surrounded by a mature garden with towering palms and age-old trees that add incredible energy to the space.

“I’m quite fanatic about what I eat and feed my family. Intermittent fasting was second nature for me for many years but, it doesn’t work for me anymore. I now eat within an hour of waking and have a raw yolky drink (with egg, milk, collagen and honey) every morning. We eat whole foods, pasture raised animals, fruit and veg, and stay away from seed oils and anything processed.  This means I cook, a lot! But I am happier for it.”

When it comes to wellness Kajal keeps a simple routine.  Aside from being aware of what she eats, she always removes make up before bed, cleanses and moisturizes twice a day and oils her hair once a week. She thrives on strength training, reformer Pilates and boxing for exercise, and hydrates with coconut water or an adrenal cocktail in the day.

“A day at the beach, a weekend in the bush and any extra quality time with loved ones are also so vital for mind, body and soul. Watching sunrises and sunsets is another one of my favourite things to do, and a little retail therapy at any vintage or antique store is a highlight when time allows.”

Kajal’s love for animals sees her assisting rescue organisations where possible and she is an advocate of rescue adoptions. Zeus and Layla and her family continue to enrich her life and serve as her inspiration to keep going no matter what life throws at her.

“I’m still learning to navigate many things in motherhood and life, but I believe that if you give something the space it deserves, anything becomes doable.”

Details: Catch The Honeymoon movie in Cinemas countrywide on March 31. Be part of the excitement and get the latest updates by following IG and FB: @honeymoonmovie, Twitter @MovieHoneymoon and @KajalBagwandeen

You can watch the trailer here …

Photo: Jono Nienaber Photography; Hair: Stephanie Green; Makeup and Styling: Neil Ramautar; Venue: Pure Photographic Studio; Decor: Douglas & Douglas

Kajal’s top tips for staying sane in times when it all just seems too much

  • Breathe. We so often forget the power of our breath.
  • Pause before reacting.
  • Exercise! Move your body.
  • Get into nature and take in the sunshine.
  • Have a good cry. Let it out.
  • Hold space for yourself.
  • Remind yourself that this too shall pass.
  • Talk about it or journal it.
  • Make a to-do list or a visual board so you can see the bigger picture.
  • Rest and Sleep
  • Eat whole real foods

With warmest thanks to the following for giving of their time and services to our photoshoot with Kajal:

Connective consulting: NATALIE ISMAIL of Dwell On This,
Photos: JONO NIENABER PHOTOGRAPHY, [email protected]
Hair: STEPHANIE GREEN of Hair by Stef, @ hair_by_stef.1
Makeup/ styling: NEIL RAMAUTAR, 072 168 8202
Venue: Pure Photographic Studio,
Decor: Douglas & Douglas, 082 498 7244,