Ajay Devgn birthday special: The brooding hero who continues to fight the corrupt system
The year was 1991 when Ajay Devgn, probably the most unconventional looking Bollywood hero, made his debut with Phool Aur Kaante. While India was still wondering how a man -- who looked nothing like the boy-next-door, Hindi film industry’s favourite ‘type’ -- can get a Bollywood launch vehicle, Ajay had already found box office success. Twenty eight years later, the man has not only survived but has beaten his contemporary, Akshay Kumar, to the tag of the country’s favourite aam aadmi hero. Sounds like an oxymoron? We suggest you check out Ajay’s filmography, which is rich with characters who stand by their principles and against a corrupt, heartless society.
As the actor turns 49 today, he is achieving yet another milestone -- his film Raid is about to enter the Rs 100-crore club. The movie, that also stars Ileana D’Cruz and Saurabh Shukla, has already earned Rs 94.19 crore within three weeks of release.
To Ajay’s fans, Raid’s Amay may sound similar to Bajirao Singham or Gangaajal’s Amit Kumar -- he is the lone crusader fighting the corrupt system without fearing for his family or his safety. At times, he fights his battles with his fists; in other films he stays strictly within the purview of law. However, through all of them, he is the brooding man who draws comfort from his beliefs and never wavers from the path he considers right.
Be it Raid or Aarakshan or Satyagraha or Shivaay or Singham, Ajay’s characters are helpful and humane, but they also nurture a clear angst towards either the society, his own family or sometimes the almighty! It is to the credit of Ajay who has managed to make every single one of his characters stand out and yet capture the Zeitgeist. The actor -- known for his action roles in the 90s -- changed his image with the arrival of 2000s. While there were intense roles such as Zakhm and Omkara, comedies like Golmaal series and Son of Sardaar, Ajay largely came to be known for his role as crusaders who stand for their principles. More often than not, his characters are middle-class, live in a reality far away from glitzy cities and their aspirational lifestyle. They inhabit the Indian heartland and are rooted in patriarchy, something that helps people living in small towns easily identify with them.
The hero, as portrayed by him, may be on the side of law or against it but will always be justified morally. “The fact that the audience has evolved gives us a lot of leverage. Earlier there were times when we had a subject, but couldn’t make because the audience didn’t like it. Now due to the exposure, people have started liking different subjects. Audience knows what is happening across the globe and it widens our horizon as well,” Ajay had said at the time of promoting Raid.
From Gangaajal (2003) to Apaharan (2005) and Halla Bol (2008), Ajay’s recent roles can also be seen as vigilantes who are passionate about rectifying the systems of his country and society. Does that sound similar to what Akshay Kumar does with his films like Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty and Gabbar Is Back?
“I consider myself as a product and the other actor also a product. We have two different target audience and genres. I am where I am and I am going to remain there. There will be a point when I will have to wean off. That happens with everybody in life. It is natural. So I just be happy and work for myself,” Ajay had earlier said.
There is a significant difference between films and characters of Akshay and Ajay - while Akshay’s characters are mostly happy-to-help, goofy-when-not-on-duty and hold an overall positive attitude, Ajay’s are often intense and brooding. For example take a film like Qayamat A City Under Threat (2003), only Ajay Devgn could carry the entire film on his shoulders without uttering a single dialogue till the end. He only mouths one dialogue in the film, and yet, manages to make us cry, laugh and love along with Rachit, his character.
Filmmaker Milan Luthria, who has worked with Ajay in several films including Kacche Dhaage (1999) and Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (2010), had said, “He (Ajay) has always held on his own. Be it a clash or whatever. He is a phenomenal performer recognised by the countries, governments and across various platforms. He has carved a niche and his range of characters is quite unique. It’s vast from comedy to emotional to intense to all kinds of films.”
From Phool Aur Kaante (1991) to Raid (2018), Ajay believes in keeping the struggle of his characters real yet entertaining. As he said at a recent event himself, “It is difficult to stay relevant in industry. You just cannot take things easily. You have to work hard for it and if you achieve something, it doesn’t mean it will last with you forever. You have to keep struggling and be where you are and try to move forward till you can because there will be point where you will start moving backwards.” Reinvention, it seems, is the name of the game and Ajay believes in doing so with a generous dose of entertainment.
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