In a tête-à-tête, Ajay Devgn talks about his desire to go back to intense roles and his never-changing equation with Shah Rukh Khan, among other things...
Ajay Devgn sits reclined on a sofa stacked with oversized cushions as we step into a sea-facing suite of a suburban hotel for an interview — his first for the day.
Promotions are on for his upcoming project, 'Drishyam', and although expectations for a big Friday opening are not exceptional, his face has a certain calmness about it. "Once people watch it, they will talk about it. That will bring more people to the theatres. I am confident of that," says Devgn with a firm resolve.
He's ready to talk more about the film, but then his gaze shifts to the centre table in front of him — one of his two phones starts ringing. He rejects the call, types out a message and puts his phone on silent. "Let's start with the QnAs," he smiles, adjusting the collar of his crisp white shirt, and we start shooting the questions. Excerpts from a candid chat:
Q. Your upcoming film is a remake of Malayalam thriller, 'Drishyam'. It has also been attempted in other languages and so, the story is more or less known. Can the audience expect a novelty factor from your Hindi version?
A. I feel it has shaped up brilliantly, so whoever has watched the original will still want to watch this film. I am not worried about comparison because I know my film will be on par with the Malayalam one. But, as far as my performance is concerned, I have put in my best efforts. I am not competing with Mohan Lal (protagonist of the original film) because there is no competition at all.
Q. Have you watched the original 'Drishyam'?
A. No, because it starred Mohan Lal. Since he's a fabulous actor, I felt he would have influenced my performance in some way or the other.
Q. We have seen you playing the cop in many films, but in 'Drishyam', it's Tabu in khaki…
A. Tabu and I are childhood friends. The film has a story of conflict between the two of us and so, we needed someone like Tabu to play that intense character. I don't know who thought of Tabu, but it was a masterstroke.
Q. It is not a typical masala film and might not give you an opening that you're so used to. Are you prepared for it?
A. This is one of those films for which you cannot make a masala promo to lure the audience. This is a story-based film with edge-of-the-seat thrills, and not arty or boring. I am aware that this film will not get a bumper opening, but it will work through word-of-mouth publicity. Quite a few films, of late, have found success through word-of-mouth buzz and that makes me hopeful about my film besides the confidence and scope to do what we want.
Q. When we talk of Ajay Devgn these days, we normally have an image of an action hero or an actor with good comic timing. With this film, do you know you will have an image makeover?
A. I hope so and I have made an effort in that direction. Now, it is for the audience to decide. People have accepted me doing serious cinema in the past and I intend to achieve that again.
Q. Do you miss doing such serious films?
A. Of course, I miss doing serious films. Many people used to ask me why I wasn't attempting the kind of cinema that I used to earlier, like a 'Zakhm' or an 'Omkara'. But such scripts don't come your way regularly. It took me seven or eight years to find a story ('Drishyam') where I didn't have to think twice before saying yes.
Q. Don't you feel it is time for you to push commercial cinema to the background for serious and story-based films?
A. You need to strike a balance. For me, a good film is something that has a fabulous script, a good director and an exciting character. My next project is 'Shivaay', which is a commercial film. It is a larger-than-life action-oriented drama, but without the buffoonery and out of place songs. It will go on floors by the end of this year. But, no, I am not done with commercial films yet. The audience wants good cinema, but give them some novelty, some sensibility. You can't just add five songs, throw in some action and comedy scenes and present it in the theatres. People who follow this formula need to work very hard, keeping in mind that the present-day audience is very smart.
Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn in Bulgaria
Q. Your dinner pictures with Shah Rukh Khan in Bulgaria recently went viral. So, have you finally buried the hatchet?
A. To be honest, there was no rift between me and him. It was a fight between his film and mine, not between Ajay and Shah Rukh (In 2012, Devgn had accused YRF of manipulating the distributors to allocate higher number of screens for SRK-starrer 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan', which clashed with his 'Son of Sardaar'). Neither of us has ever used each other or turned around and said something bad about the other person. We never had a problem at a personal level. We just happened to be in a situation where we had to protect our respective products and I never held any grudge against anyone. We both have always been fine with each other and the so-called rift was the media's creation.
Films starring Ajay Devgn that you might want to watch again…
>> 'Singham Returns' (2014)
>> 'Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai' (2010)
>> 'Omkara' (2006)
>> 'Golmaal' (2006)
>> 'Gangaajal' (2003)
>> 'Raju Chacha' (2000)
>> 'Pyar Toh Hona Hi Tha' (1998)
>> 'Zakhm' (1998)
>> 'Ishq' (1997)