Ajay Devgn Interview

Ajay Devgn’s “Baadshaho” releases on Sept. 1. The actor told India-West that to an extent, box office has to be important as filmmakers must recover what they spend. (photo provided)

MUMBAI—His fourth collaboration with Milan Luthria, “Baadshaho,” releases this week. The last three included Luthria’s 1999 debut “Kachche Dhaage,” “Chori Chori” (2003) and “Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai” (2010). But the new film gives off the general vibe of the first film, India-West told Ajay Devgn when we met him at the Hotel Sun’N’Sand. “It will,” said the actor calmly. “There is the rugged terrain of Rajasthan and the locations in the desert.”

Unruffled might well be the adjective specially coined for Devgn. He recently refused to get angry with Kapil Sharma when the latter did not turn up for his show after calling the “Baadshaho” team and making them wait fruitlessly. He refuses to comment on anything personal – from his problems with Karan Johar to his wife Kajol’s reported patch-up with him. He is also unfazed about another producer (“Not Akshay Kumar or Salman Khan” he notes) making a film on “The Battle of Saragarhi” that might release before his.

Devgn, who has not had a major blockbuster in years but still is among our top six superstars, opens up warmly about his films and other matters in a candid conversation.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: What is the kind of action in “Baadshaho?” Is there a lot of computer graphics?

A: We did not go in for the one kick, and ten people fly kind of action that is there in a lot of action films. I must say that length-wise, “Baadshaho” does not have much of action, but whatever is there is hard-hitting and realistic. Besides that, it is a story of relationships and drama.

Q: With so much experience in the genre, and the action-studded “Shivaay” behind you, did you give any inputs here?

A: No, yaar, because I cannot just suggest something without devising its execution on screen. You talked about the vibe similar to “Kachche Dhaage” – “Baadshaho” has a very Western-like feel. All the ‘Baadshahos’ (Ileana D’Cruz, Esha Gupta, Vidyut Jammwal and Sanjay Mishra being the others) are very street-smart, and you just do not know who is conning whom. So there is a lot of drama.

Q: What is your character in the film?

A: I play Bhavani, and he is smart, strong – but very emotional. This is also a film wherein every layer of a character unfolds gradually.

Q: Buzz sometime back was that Milan shot and then axed most of a sensual sequence between Ileana and you.

A (Shaking his head) That story was completely baseless. Milan will never thrust something into his story just for the sake of it. Even Emraan Hashmi goes without a kiss this time!

Q: Despite having a song with Sunny Leone?

A: Maybe she put her foot down! (Laughs) No, as I said, Milan does not believe in that kind of thing.

Q: Your film has two re-created songs, one of which has been removed now for a legal reason. What is your take on the proliferation of such songs?

A: If you ask me, re-created songs are more of a tribute than about ruining classics. They are fabulous songs, like “Rashq-e-kamar” here, that we might as well bring them back, for today’s generation knows little of the songs beyond the last ten years! Personally, this is my favorite song in the film.

Q: Kajol has just released “VIP 2,” her first Tamil film in 20 years. Have you watched it?

A: Not yet, yaar! I plan to catch up with it soon, as I have been very tied up.

Q: Isn’t she working in one of your productions?

A: Yes, and it’s a superb script directed by Anand Gandhi of “Ship Of Theseus” fame.

Q: Any plans to co-star with her?

A: Whenever we get the right script, yes.

Q: You have worked with Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar. Why don’t we see these two-hero or multi-hero films among you top stars now?

A: I think it’s about the budgets, but at least from our generation, we are all willing to work with each other. In fact, Salman and I have discussed a possible movie that has both the protagonists of “Singham” and “Dabangg,” like what happens a lot abroad, when franchises are mixed. But we should get the right script for that!

Q: What next?

A: I am very happy with every script I am doing now. My next film will be T-Series’ production “Raid,” which is based on real incidents and set in the 1980s.

Q: You are suddenly very active as a producer.

A: After my Marathi “Vitti Dandu” some years ago, I have again got a superb script that is being made in Marathi with Nana Patekar, who is also producing the film with me. Yes, I am doing several projects as a producer.

Q: “Baadshaho” is set in the 1970s, “Raid” in the ‘80s, and you are producing other films set even earlier. Is there any predilection for period films?

A: Not at all. Coincidentally, these are all period subjects. “Tanaji” is on the Peshwa warrior and cannot possibly be set in today’s times, right? Then there is “Battle Of Saragarhi” – and both these films need huge research. I will make these films at my pace. I cannot be hurried just because someone else is making his film on the same subject. It’s fine. I have had this experience before with my Bhagat Singh film when two other films were made fast! What is important is to make a “good” film.

Q: You are also doing a biopic on the life of Amritsar-based engineer Jaswant Singh Gill. And we also heard someone else is also planning a film on him.

A: No one else is doing a film on him – that is wrong information. Gill is such a humble man. He has been awarded by the President, but no one knows of him. He had saved 67 miners trapped 150 meters down in a coal mine in 1989 in West Bengal by designing a capsule, and now this technique is being used even by NASA.

Q: We have not had any release dates announced from you, after “Golmaal Again” in Diwali 2018, despite all these films.

A: I have decided to, as a strategy, not announce release dates at the time of the launch. Very often, you have to keep that date so much in mind that you hurry up with your film and compromise somewhere in the race towards that date. From now on, I will complete a film, and then choose the best release date in the next four months.

Q: Aamir Khan feels the same way, but both of you are clashing with each other on Diwali.

A: As I said, we decide on a date, and what others do is their prerogative too. It is fine. Aamir Khan’s film is a modest-budgeted, small production that is not going to grab 3000 screens. And Diwali is big enough to accommodate two good films. There will always be an audience that will want to watch both movies.

Q: How important are the box-office prospects to you?

A: To an extent, box office has to be important as we must recover what we spend. But in the end, it is more about how much people like you and want you.

Q: What are your views on Salman Khan compensating distributors for the disastrous faring of “Tubelight” and the same demand from them to Shah Rukh Khan for “Jab Harry Met Sejal?”

A: As far as humanity goes, it’s fine, and up to the producer, and in this case, the producers are Salman and Shah Rukh. But technically, nobody can ask for compensation. This is a business like all others. If someone is doing it out of regards for relationships, it’s great. But isn’t it true that if they lost money on “Tubelight,” they made so much in the last five or six films of Salman? So did they pay him back then? (Shrugs)

Q: Not just these two films, but most others are going wrong on either budgets or the exorbitant ticket rates.

A: The ticket rates not in our hands, because there is no unity, and to fight with multiplexes, we must unite.

Q: A new trend now is to show a film mostly on Fridays to avoid negative reviews. Isn’t that showing a lack of confidence in your product?

A: I think that this is a question the media should ask themselves. For every 20 reviewers, there are 100 who are not really critics, and they have brought about this precautionary measure. The latter tribe just tweets in the interval, “Shit film!” and spoils a film’s prospects and all the hard work put into it. Is that fair to us? And you guys also suffer, so it’s you who should take action to eliminate this tribe and think of the filmmaker as well!

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