MUMBAI—In a career of over 26 years, Ajay Devgn has done every genre of movie from action and romantic stories to social dramas, horror, comedy, offbeat films, biopics and even negative roles.
He has produced and directed films, sung songs, produced regional cinema and even been narrator for good friend Bobby Deol’s home production “Yamal Pagla Deewana.” Two National awards (“Zakham” and “The Legend Of Bhagat Singh”) and many more acting trophies, the Padma Shri and more are among Devgn’s standout achievements.
When we met at the Novotel Hotel in Mumbai, Devgn was in a hurry and wrapped up the India-West interview in a rapid-fire that is the shortest interview we have done of a big star this side of Salman Khan’s 10-minute interview before “Bodyguard” d in 2011!
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Did you meet Sharda Prashad Pandey, the man on whose life “Raid” is based?
A: Yes, and that was necessary because this film is not just about one incident – this raid – but also about the person he is. We had to understand his honesty, and why he was so honest. Over 30 years ago, only he had the courage to conduct an income-tax raid on the big man, coming up with an incredible amount of black money, equivalent to hundreds of crore in today’s times.
Q: Isn’t it true that your friend and producer Kumar Mangat had the story with them for over a decade?
A: Yes, but he made me hear it just a few years back. Actually, he only knew about the incident, and though I knew we had to make a film on it when I heard it, a script had to be developed from it. The story had so many intriguing and fascinating layers. We had to create a whole world from this incident, and write a complete script based on it. And it was tough writing such a film.
Q: Did you give your own inputs?
A: Each actor offers inputs on every film he does. We selected Rajkumar Gupta because he is a very sensible person. There should always be back and forth in ideas, scenes and shots, as every film is about teamwork.
Q: How different is this process when you are a director yourself?
A: There is no change. (Smiles)
Q: Is this the best time to make subjects like these?
A: Yes, because the audience now is of different kinds, thanks to the Internet, our exposure to world cinema, and everything else. Today, even my watchman also watches movies on his phone. So accordingly, we as artists and filmmakers are also changing, and we can make some stories that we could not make a few years earlier. But if you see my career, I was doing such films from the beginning.
Q: Is there any real change, however, in the audience, who welcomes your “Golmaal Again” with wide open arms?
A: For the audience, it has always been about entertainment. A social message is only optional, not compulsory. At the end of the day, it is always about good films and bad films. Name one good film like “Golmaal Again” that has failed. As for entertainment, there is no fixed definition. It can be where you make the audience laugh, or it could be where you make them cry.
Q: How much further change will you expect with the arrival of web films, Netflix and Amazon and so on?
A: There will be some change. So we must make films now that people want to watch only on the big screen.
Q: You have explored Marathi cinema with “Viti Dandu” or “Aapla Manus” and are now doing a serial on Baba Ramdev. Are there any other areas that you plan to explore?
A: I am not into planning that I must do this, that or anything else. I should just want to do specific projects, like the show I am doing on Baba Ramdev. I do not think, “Now let’s also do a TV show!” or do some specific kind of film or some regional cinema. It is only about what is excites me at the moment when I hear a concept, like the story of this film. Someone asked me if I would act in a Marathi film. I will, if I get a script that interests me, but not just for the sake of doing it.
Q: How was it working with Ileana D’Cruz and Saurabh Shukla again?
A: Ileana is a very sweet girl who performs very well. Her character is sharper than mine, so she gives me a push to do what is right. I have worked before with Saurabh, but in this film, the main conflict is between him and me, so the interaction was much more. Saurabh has always been a great actor, and he is great fun to work with too.
Q: A question that niggles: you are one hero who has worked with almost all the top heroes. Why don’t we see multi-hero films now?
A: There are no good scripts, and I don’t know why that is! I think that the topmost heroes do not want to do films together. But I am willing to work with anyone.
Q: Is it because the budgets would shoot high?
A: (Shakes his head)
Q: So what are you doing now?
A: I am doing a rom-com with director Akiv Ali and my production “Tanaji.” I am also working on something I am planning to direct, and I am producing the film in which Kajol is starring.
Q: What about the film you were making on the Saragarhi Mutiny?
A: Two people are making it, so I have dropped out. I will make it if those movies don’t shape up well! (Chuckles) That was just a joke!