I have become the baddie, but I’m left with no choice: Ajay Devgn
Ajay Devgn is in the news these days for his big fight against YRF, and his latest release. But the actor has so much more on his mind. Dashing around the country to promote SOS, the actor spared some time for HT Café, to chat about matters that are close to his heart.
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.
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.
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.