It isn’t easy to be Ajay Devgn at this point, as the star himself admits. As his co-production, Son of Sardaar (SOS), gears up for release, he has a lot on his mind. After all, taking on one of the film industry’s biggest production house over an alleged malpractice does not lead to peace of mind. Yet, whatever the consequences, Ajay says, he’s ready to take the war to its end.
And then there’s his career to think about too. SOS is just the latest of his releases. The actor, who’s somewhat of a lone ranger in the world of Hindi films, also has a motley mix of movies coming up, ranging from action-packed Himmatwala, and the intense Satyagraha, to a fun-filled film with Prabhudheva to Singham 2.
Dashing around the country to promote SOS, Ajay spared some time for HT Café, to chat about matters that are close to his heart.
What is your state of mind at this point?
Slightly upset and confused, but largely I am happy. Upset because, in the last 22 years of my career, I have never been in any controversy. But in this case, I consider somebody’s action as unfair and I am taking a stand, fighting for a fair release of my film. You take the records of the last 10 years’ Diwali releases and see for yourself how two films have got an equal and fair release. I know I am right and that’s why I am not feeling guilty about it. But I am largely happy that SOS has shaped up well. I am very confident about it. Like all my other films, I have a gut feeling about this too. I know if it’ll work or not!
Do you think you’ll be perceived as the villain in this controversy?
I am aware that I am emerging as the baddie, but what can I do? Sometimes you do not know whether your decisions are right or wrong. But you have to do it because you have no choice. And where there’s no choice, I believe those decisions cannot be wrong. And I am not the lone fighter here. There are other people as well. I’d made it clear in the beginning to people who requested me to push the release of my film to a later date. I told them, ‘fine, let all the makers of upcoming films release their movies two weeks later than scheduled.’ That’s a fair request, I think.
Do you think Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) has an edge because of Yashji’s death?
I can’t comment on that, but Yashji’s passing away is an unfortunate loss for all of us. I am in a tight spot, emotionally. But our dispute precedes Yashji’s illness and his death. It’s bad timing, but we have to do it. Yashji was a legend; we have all grown up watching his films. I have tremendous respect for him and his work. And trust me, the audience does not care whether a film is the product of a big banner or a small banner. If it’s a good product, it will talk for itself.
Will Kajol attend the premiere of JTHJ?
That’s absolutely Kajol’s choice. I have never stopped her from doing anything, let alone associating with Yash Raj. She’s been close to them and has acted in quite a few of their movies. And anyway, this is not a personal fight.
Is it true that there’s bitterness between you and Yash Raj Films because you refused Yash Chopra’s Darr years ago?
I have no bitterness against anyone. I was offered Shah Rukh’s role in Yashji’s Darr (1993), but I let it go. That was a mistake. I had just started out and was very young, too under-confident to understand the intricacies of an anti-hero role. I couldn’t figure out whether it was a hero or a villain. Maybe I was wrong, but then that’s how life is. You make mistakes and learn. I was never offered any other role in Yash Raj movies. If I had been, I’d have certainly done it.
You said you have a gut feeling about your films…
Yes, and that gut feeling was mostly right. I am always in touch with the ground reality. I am in touch with exhibitors and distributors. They give me honest feedback. I also watch the film, and I put all these factors together and somehow, know the fate of the film. I have always been right in my predictions, except for two films. I thought Vijaypath (1994) and Hogi Pyar Ki Jeet (1999) wouldn’t do well, but I was wrong. Other than this, I don’t remember my predictions going wrong. For instance, I knew my recent films Rascals (2011) and Tezz (2012) wouldn’t work and see, they didn’t!
Tell us, why should people go to the theatre for SOS?
I don’t have to tell the audiences anything to lure them. They decide whether a film will be good or bad by watching its first promo. After that, whatever promotions we show, they’re just a reminder that there is a movie coming up. Impressions are made on the first day of the film. All the super hit films in the past made their mark with their first promos. And I feel SOS has it all. It’s very intrinsically Punjabi in its essence. Punjabis have everything larger than usual — the lassi glass, their anger, their loud laughter, their Patiala peg. And they have big hearts. Every character and situation in the film is treated like that.
Is it true that the title Son of Sardaar was given to you by Akshay Kumar?
I had asked Akshay for the title, and I know it was extremely close to his heart. But it’s a very good gesture on Akshay’s part to give it away and I am indebted to him for it. Akshay told me, ‘Tu bola, aur yeh title tera hogaya (you said it and it’s yours).’
Salman Khan also gave away his song and did a cameo in SOS, right?
Salman is like a sardaar — very large hearted. I approached him for the cameo and told him I wanted to use his song ‘Po po’ in my film, and he happily obliged. Friends like Salman, Abhishek Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt are there forever and we don’t need to talk to each other every day, nor do we need to hang out together. We have known each other since we started our careers (except Abhishek).
But a lot has changed since corporate houses have come in. Filmmaking may have become more defined and good for business, but it’s killed the family culture that existed in the film industry. Earlier we would walk onto each other’s sets unannounced, have so much fun... But at least the warmth is still there amongst the actors of that generation. There’s no sense of rivalry or fight, in fact they all support each other.
But your unspoken rivalry with SRK is being whispered about in the industry.
We’ve never worked together or hung out, so that’s probably why there are whispers. But that doesn’t mean we have a problem. I wish SRK would promote my film and I would promote his film and both our films would work.
Are you actually a sardaar yourself?
My forefathers and grandfather used to wear the turban. I guess my dad, after coming to Mumbai, changed the tradition. I was very confused, so I discussed it with my dad and discovered yes, I am a sardaar, but without a turban.
Is it true that you were reluctant to become an actor?
My dad was keener that I become an actor, so he would make me practise stunts. But I was more keen to be behind the scenes. At 13, I started making my own video films and by 17, I was making my own short films and also assisting directors. When Kuku Kohliji offered me Phool Aur Kaantein (1991), I accepted at dad’s insistence and quietly thought that if the film flopped, I wouldn’t make the rounds of producers’ offices with portfolios. As it was, I was happy, enjoying my college days and making films. I was a part of a group of friends including Vikram Bhatt, Sameer Arya, Bobby Deol and Atul Agnihotri, and between us we would make movies, act, direct, edit and be the cameramen too.
You’re 43 years old now. Life is…?
Much happier. I’m satisfied, relaxed and very confident of my actions. Physically, I feel much fitter and stronger than when I was twenty. Someone asked me, how did you stand on two horses in SOS? And I replied it was more difficult that standing on two bikes, which I did in Phool Aur Kaantein. By God’s grace, so far I have never had to hit the pits in my career. In my 20 years in the industry, I have almost always had a hit every year, except for two years. There has been consistency. I’ve never been insecure in my career.
I have corrected a lot of mistakes in my life but never harped on them. So I have no regrets in life.
And what were the most memorable moments of your life?
I went to Gaiety to watch the reaction of the audience to Phool Aur Kaaten when it released. Someone threw coins and one coin hit my head. I picked it up and kept it with me. I still have it. Next was my National Award for Zakhm. I was in Australia and Kajol woke me up to share the news. ‘What is the National Award?’ I asked her. Those days, we didn’t bother about awards and all that. And of course when my kids were born.
People miss seeing you in your trademark intense roles, like the National Award-winning role in Mahesh Bhatt’s Zakhm (1998).
Even I am eagerly waiting for solid and intense roles like that. But who writes scripts like that these days? I would lap it up if such a script came my way, without thinking of the consequences. Anyway, Satyagraha is on that level of intensity. Prakash Jha and I are discussing Gangajal part 2 as well. I would like to switch from one genre to another so that I don’t get bored of myself and the audiences feel happy too.
We’ve heard you are hugely inspired by Amitabh Bachchan.
Who isn’t? We all have grown up watching his films. Sabke andar thoda thoda Amitji basse huwe hai (every actor has streaks of Big B’s acting in them). Whether you accept it or not, we are all, in some way, inspired by Amitji. He has done intense films, and then moved to comedy, action.Yes, he’s a great inspiration.
In SOS’s favour
*The film is expected to be a mass entertainer
*Ajay returns in a Sardar avatar, sporting a turban 10 years after playing the lead role and sporting a similar look in The Legend Of Bhagat Singh
*The film gives audiences a new pairing. The actor will be seen opposite Sonakshi Sinha for the first time
*The music is quite popular and has caught on
SERIES OF EVENTS
Ajay Devgn sends legal notice to YRF
In a development that has shocked many in Bollywood, actor-producer Ajay Devgn has served a legal notice to Yash Raj Films for unfairly using their dominant position in the industry and putting pressure on the exhibitors to give prominence to their upcoming film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ), over Devgn’s Son of Sardaar (SOS). Both the films are set to release on Diwali, i.e. on November 13. FULL STORY
Yash Raj Films issues strong rejoinder to Ajay Devgn’s notice
Shocking is how Bollywood production house Yash Raj Films has described actor-producer Ajay Devgn’s allegation that they indulged in “malpractice” to put pressure on the exhibitors, especially single screen theatre owners, to screen YRF’s SRK-starrer Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) and not Devgn’s Son of Sardaar (SOS) that releases the same day. YRF'S TAKE
CCI to solve dispute between Yash Raj, Devgn's firms
The Delhi High Court today asked the CCI to "expeditiously" decide the complaint of Ajay Devgn Films Private Limited that its Diwali release Son of Sardaar was not getting enough single-screen theatres as Yash Raj Films has "used its dominant" position for better exhibition of its Shah Rukh Khan's starrer Jab Tak Hai Jaan. MORE
Shah Rukh Khan reacts to Yash Raj-Ajay Devgn tussle
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan on Friday said he was thankful he was not directly involved in legal tussle between producers of Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Son of Sardaar. He was referring to actor-producer Ajay Devgn sending a legal notice to Yash Raj Films for allegedly asking exhibitors to give prominence to Jab Tak Hain Jaan over Son Of Sardaar. SRK SPEAK
YRF versus Ajay Devgn Films: Diwali BO competition heats up
The moods of the people behind the films Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) and Son of Sardaar (SOS), which are both releasing on Diwali, are getting more explosive by the minute. In the complaint they filed against Yash Raj Films (YRF) in the Competition Commission of India, Ajay Devgn Films (ADF), accused them of impeding the distribution of their co-production, Son of Sardaar. YRF V/S ADF
After YRF’s rejoinder, Ajay Devgn hits back with a statement
A day after Yash Raj Films (YRF) issued a statement against Ajay Devgn Films (ADF) for filing a complaint against them with Competition Commission of India, ADF’s lawyers have hit back with a strongly worded statement that reads: A producer/distributor/exhibitor cannot be allowed to enter into a tie-in arrangement which adversely affects competition. AND THE WAR GOES ON...
Ajay Devgn's plea against YRF rejected
The Competition Commission has rejected the complaint from actor Ajay Devgn against Yash Raj Films for alleged abuse of dominant position in the Hindi film industry, saying that the plea does not have any merit. FULL STORY
Knew I would be portrayed as villain in YRF-ADF tussle: Ajay Devgn
Now that the war between Ajay Devgnand Yash Raj Films has thickened over the number of screens alloted for the release of Son of Sardaar and late Yash Chopra's Jab Tak Hai Jaan, the actor-producer insists that he is waging a "fair" fight and knew he would be painted as a villain after he serves a legal notice on the issue. DEVGN SPEAKS
Kajol may not even get invited by Yash Raj Films
Actor-producer Ajay Devgn’s big fight with Yash Raj Films (YRF) over their Diwali releases — Son of Sardaar (SoS) and Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) respectively — may just spoil things for Kajol. Or so fears her hubby Devgn, since Kajol has been one of YRF’s leading ladies but that equation may change in the wake of this ugly situation. READ
Everyone knows talks of being fair are rubbish: Ajay Devgn
Stating things as they are and only demanding a fair consideration of the current situation, Ajay makes himself heard and that too pretty strong. READ NOW
COMPAT refuses to stay Jab Tak Hai Jaan release, but issues notice to YRF
The Competition Appellate Tribunal refused to stay the screening of Jab Tak Hai Jaan produced by Yash Raj Films but issued notices to the production house on Ajay Devgn's plea over alleged abuse of dominant position. MORE