His versatility as an actor of merit has been steadily proven over the years. Ajay Devgn, two time National Award winner, now aims to raise laughs and bag success with ‘Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji’, a realistic comedy helmed by Madhur Bhandarkar, wherein he shares screen space with Shazahn Padamsee. Ali Peter John quizzes the maverick actor?
His initial ambitions were a tad different, although Ajay Devgn did fancy being a part of the film fraternity. Ajay aspired to be a director and had no ambition of making it as an actor when he was a student at the Mithibai College. It was a chance decision taken when a tempting offer was made to him by a director called Kuku Kohli which changed his original ambition.
Kohli planned to make an action film called ‘Phool Aur Kaante’and asked his father, Veeru Devgn who was a very popular fight director if he could try making a film with his son. The father agreed. ‘Phool Aur Kaante’ was made with Vishal changing his name to Ajay and went on to become one of the biggest hits of the 90’s.
The sucess led other filmmakers to make many more action films with Ajay and all of them did wel;. It took Ajay time to be recognised as a good actor and he showed the first fine when he did a film called ‘Haqeeqat’ which was also directed by Kohli. But the real actor in Ajay emerged when Mahesh Bhatt saw the raw fire in him and cast him as the hero of one of his most sensitive films, ‘Zakhm’ based on the riots of Mumbai in 1993.
Ajay surprised one and all when he won the National Award for ‘Best Actor’. He followed it with another surprise with his performance as Bhagat Singh in a film of the same name directed by Rajkumar which also got him the National Award. He then came in touch with a director like Prakash Jha who made him play some of his more important roles in films like ‘Gangajal’, ‘Apaharan’ and the recent ‘Raajneeti’. Ajay was now regarded as a complete actor who could play any role without any difficulty. He has been having a field day in recent times with some of his films doing very well at the box office and he is also trying to act in a variety of roles in films of every genre and succeeding.
On the anvil is ‘Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji’ where Ajay shares screen space with Shazahn Padamsee in the film directed by Madhur Bhandarkar.
Ajay, a man of very few words speaks about the phases his career has gone through….
How would you describe your role in Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji’ ?
I was always wanting to be a part of one of Madhur’s films which were so real and a great challenge for any actor. But when Madhur approached me to do his new film, it was a very different film from all his other films. I was a little hesitant, but ultimately decided to do the film and I must say I made a very good decision. Madhur has made a very interesting film about the various kinds of love and I love my role in it. People who have seen Ajay Devgn till now will discover a totally new Ajay in this film. Incidentally, it is a film full of fun and even with a message like Madhur has in all his films, but I fail to understand why his film has been granted an ‘A’ certificate by the Censor Board when many other films which are packed with scenes of vulgarity and double meaning dialogue and other scenes which are in very bad taste are passed with much more leniency. This act of the Censors will certainly take away a major chunk of the audience for whom the film has been made.
You seem to be doing all kinds of lighter roles these days?
I even did many such roles with Kajol at one time. I think we both made a very good team, with both of us encouraging each other to do our best to make a big difference to the films we did. And yes, I needed a break very badly. I was working at a very hectic pace and realised that I was burning myself out. It was time to change and I knew how some great actors like Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan had also taken breaks when they were over doing things and repeating themselves. It was when I sat back and gave my career a serious thought, that the idea to go for change was born in me.
People who have seen you in your early films still ask if you really did all those death-defying scenes which could even have killed you?
I would not have done the films if I was not convinced that I could do all the action scenes myself. I don’t know why people doubt my ability to do all those daring scenes. I was after all the son of a very great master who was also called a fight director who had trained me in doing the most daring scenes. He has taught me the way to fight fear of any kind. I, Ajay Devgn did all those scenes, I swear!
According to you, what was the turning point in your journey as an actor?
I think it was the films I did with directors like Mahesh Bhatt Santoshi and Prakash Jha. They were the directors who brought me out of the cage I was being trapped into as the hero who everyone said was the best action hero, who doesn’t even need a double. These directors some how saw all the talent that I had within me and they took the risk of casting an established action hero in roles which the best actors would find difficult to play. They challenged the actor in me and shirking challenges in not in my blood. I learned all that was good about acting and filmmaking from these good filmmakers who I think came to my rescue at the right time. If they had not taken me seriously, I would have no bones left in my body and would have never lived to be recognised as an actor. I will always be grateful to these men who have the power to change even a stone into an actor.
Are you aware of the competition that is growing among the actors of your generation?
I have never thought of competition as something that would affect my career. I think every actor has to make his own place by fighting competition in a very positive way. I am the last actor who will take recourse to any kind of publicity and gimmicks to prove that I am better than the best. I only know the reality which is the passion to do good work and the perseverance to achieve what you want to, will ultimately triumph. I am open to any positive competition from the best of the different generations of actors, even the new good talent that is coming in regularly. Competition is a must for any creative field and nowhere does this unwritten law apply more than in this field of acting. If you ask me, competition only helps in bringing out the best in you.
How would you describe your career till date?
I would sound like a very ambitious and even arrogant man if I said I was not satisfied. In many ways, I am much more satisfied than I could ever imagine. There was a stage when I was branded as an action hero and was doing films which actually had no class and they were leading me nowhere. But the blessings of God and the encouragement of my father kept me going with the hope that things would change for the better. I would have had all my bones broken by now if I had continued doing all those daring action films which kept me travelling between studios and the closest hospital, but destiny had some other kind plans for me.
What are the plans of the ever changing Ajay in the future?
My company has to go on making films and I have to go on acting. The only difference is going to be in the different kinds of films we make and the very interesting and exciting roles I will be accepting because I now need to grow from where I have reached. An actor who is serious about his career has to keep growing, otherwise he will be like an old tree which has lost all its life in the fire it has caught itself in.