When Ajay Devgan first heard he had to whip himself in London Dreams, he wasn't comfortable with the idea. But after director Vipul Shah convinced him to do so, the actor went all out and flogged himself black and blue for hours to get a 25-second clip right.
"We had a detailed discussion. Audiences could easily end up laughing at what is meant to be a moment of extreme self-loathing. Ajay was very concerned about how he would look whipping himself on screen. I assured him that we'd shoot the sequence in a way that it would look nothing less than stunning," director Vipul Shah told IANS.
It's a sequence where the impulsive emotional character punishes himself.
"It is sequence of repentance, but it is not religious. I saw the self-flagellation as a perfectly-defining moment for the character. It's not done with a whip. It's done with a belt. And Ajay hit himself powerfully. Once or twice I called 'cut' in more ways than one. But Ajay didn't want a cut. He didn't want to go through the experience in pieces. It was that harrowing for him," said Shah.
"And that too for a shot which would last no more than 25 seconds on screen. I'd tell him that we should stop. But Ajay insisted we do it non-stop. We didn't want the aesthetics to be lost. I've never taken longer on any sequence."
Shah admits that sequence goes against Ajay's image.
"It's not a very macho thing to do. And it certainly goes against the image of the action hero and the comic hero. Quite naturally Ajay was zapped when he heard that he was to do sequence which required him to punish himself by whipping himself."
The director also clarifies that the scene has nothing to do with religion and that Ajay isn't playing a Muslim character in "London Dreams".
"I'd be very alarmed if people see in a religious light. It'd just show we're cynical about religion. Ajay plays a very intense and emotional character who does shock people with his extreme behaviour. I wanted to shock audiences.
"Ajay's character is on the edge. I had to show that edginess. Ajay is such a chilled-out, in-control person. He would never be expected to punish himself. But I'd rather let the character define its actions rather than the image of actor."
The film, that also stars Salman Khan and Asin Thottumkal, is scheduled for an Oct 30 release. Does Shah expect censor trouble? "I expect trouble from the censors any time."
Right before we see Ajay whipping himself, we get him whipping up the laughs in All The Best. The laugh riot, which is directed by Rohit Shetty, is set for October 16 release.
But Shah is not at all worried.
"In a span of two weeks, audiences will see Ajay in two drastically different roles. If London Dreams was funny, I'd be nervous. But mine is a completely different film from All The Best. London Dreams is my most intense film to date. And if Ajay is the only leading man to whip himself, I'd say he has guts," he said.