FREMONT, Calif. – “Shivaay” is his flagship project. And Ajay Devgn is back and how. Fans are reveling in his towering on-screen presence in the three minute-50-second-long trailer – a visual masterpiece – which hit the 5 million mark within a few hours of its release on YouTube Aug. 7.
You can’t take your eyes off him, when you see him scaling mammoth, ice-draped peaks or beating goons to a pulp or expressing his emotional side which is when his brooding eyes take over. The beauty of the trailer alone is enough to pique anyone’s interest.
Devgn, who with his actress wife Kajol, was in the U.S. to promote their home production, spoke exclusively to India-West about the film Sept. 23 at the Cine Grand Theater here before heading off to a press conference with the Indian American media. He sounded a little under the weather but his calm demeanor showed just how confident he was of his product.
“Basically, it’s an emotional drama. Action is on a big scale but the action you are going to see is completely a part of the emotion,” the national award-winning actor told India-West. “Action was a demand of the story. But if you see, while doing the action, all the actors they are emoting, they are in pain.”
Set against the beautiful landscape of Bulgaria, the trailer of the film has won rounds of applause not just from the fans but also from his contemporaries in Bollywood.
What makes “Shivaay” so special and why is it sending fans into a fizzing excitement? The sheer scale of the film’s action pieces is massive and nothing short of spectacular, and the technology of the film truly sets it apart: stunning cinematography coupled with special effects and emotional as well as romantic moments thrown in for good measure seem to be the perfect recipe for a blockbuster. His intense performance helps take it all that extra mile.
With “Shivaay,” Devgn said he aimed to make a film at par with Hollywood.
“People turned around and said we can’t make the level or quality of films that are seen in Hollywood,” he told India-West. “And I was like, ‘that’s not true.’ If you attempt it why can’t you do it? I think we have achieved that.”
The film revolves around his character, a Himalayan mountaineer, an innocent everyday man, who eventually takes the form of Shiva – the destroyer — when he needs to protect his family. The film also features actress Saira Banu’s grandniece, Sayyeshaa Saigal, Polish actress Erika Kaar, and British child actor Abigail Eames.
Along with playing the protagonist, Devgn has directed and produced this mega budget film with an incredible musical score.
Two songs from the film, the heavy duty title track, “Bolo Har Har Har,” and the romantic number, “Darkhaast,” have been released, and are multiplying his fans’ love for him.
Each song, he said, is very much an extension of the plot, and he kept a close watch on the making of the songs just to ensure perfection of every kind.
“In the past two years, we have worked a lot on the music,” Devgn told India-West. “I was a nightmare to Mithoon and to my lyricist because of any line out of context of the story… Basically they were like storytellers for me. And so that gets tough for them to make music like that and still keep the melody intact. So that was a challenge.”
“Shivaay” is slated to release this Diwali, Oct. 28, alongside Karan Johar’s “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,” which stars Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Anushka Sharma and Fawad Khan. Shah Rukh Khan appears in a cameo.
“There is no pressure,” he said. “I am very confident. I don’t know whatever happens tomorrow…I mean you can compare it to any film in the world, emotionally, drama-wise or visually. I think that we have achieved.”
A lot has been said and written about the high-profile behind-the-scenes tussle between the two production houses regarding the impending release.
“You know it’s more a media hype I would say,” Devgn told India-West. “So many times in the past, two films have come together and whichever is better will do better. So that’s a normal thing. Diwali is a big period so there’s place for two films any which way.”
Devgn released the trailer of his Diwali release before Karan Johar announced the same date for his ensemble cast film.
When further quizzed on whether this clash will cut into each other’s business, Devgn said sometimes it does, so he tried to evade the clash but to no avail.
“There is no fight,” Devgn told India-West. “Of course, I did send them a message because I had announced earlier that it would harm both the films any which way so if they could consider. I had spoken to Fox. But I can understand that their situation also because there are no release dates and everyone wants to release their films during good periods. So it’s fair enough.”
The heightened buzz around Devgn’s most ambitious project went up a notch as news came out of the British pop-rock boy band, The Vamps, collaborating with the film.
“I got a message from The Vamps that they would like to collaborate and I was like, ‘who are The Vamps,” the actor quipped. “I was told why don’t you ask your daughter. I called up my daughter and she freaked and her friends freaked, and that’s when I realized that The Vamps were so big. Especially for the tweens, I would say. We sat down and worked on a song, and it worked out very well.”
The actor, who has excelled in both comedy and action, said that he focuses more on the character than the genre.
Expressing his thoughts on “Shivaay” and what audiences can expect from the film, Devgn said: “I just hope everyone sees the film. When you come out of the theater, you are teary-eyed, you have a smile on your face and you just want to talk to your loved ones. If that happens I would know I have succeeded.”
The couple, who was on a three-day trip to the U.S., stopped in New York, Chicago and Dallas before coming to the San Francisco Bay Area. They took a trip to the Google and Facebook headquarters here. The actress also made her debut on Facebook the same day. On having Kajol by his side on this tour Devgn said: “It’s nice to have her here. She is a part of the film, and here I am doing so much alone, I needed a support and any which way she has been doing that.”
Later at the press conference, Devgn spoke about his journey in Bollywood, and how he never “succumbed to norms.” “People thought it’s wrong. They said I should do things differently in the sense that since I am in the entertainment business I should be more social, more outgoing. But I didn’t think I needed to do that and work speaks.”
Kajol commented that she was “never having a directorial debut” since “it takes too much time, patience and requires too many peace making capabilities that I do not have.”
While Devgn said “Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha” is the one film that they would love to do again, Kajol cited the lack of “perfect scripts” in order to bring them together on screen.
“Sometimes you need some passion and not be a businessman to make some films,” Devgn said when asked about the stark contrast in the films that he appears in vis-à-vis the ones he produces.
The “Singham” actor said he became an actor “by mistake.”
“I have always been behind the camera. I was an assistant director who made small films. One day I was suddenly pushed into acting and I was too young at that point. I did it with the attitude that if it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t,” he said.
The actor, who beat a bad bout of hypothermia while shooting in Bulgaria in extreme cold conditions, said, “The doctor said you can’t work for two days and I was like, I have to finish this. I was dizzy, could not speak but it took me half an hour and I was back to work.”
“We are spontaneous actors,” Devgn said when asked if the couple ever thought of opening an acting institute. “We both do not believe in method acting anyway. I am not saying it’s wrong. After one or two takes we both become very fake. We are wrong people to teach acting to anybody.”
The “Meet the Devgns” tour was sponsored by Wells Fargo.