Raid, a drama about an income tax officer’s adventures starring Ajay Devgn, has been the dark horse of 2018 slowly notching up numbers quite like the actor himself. The superstar with an enviable Hindi hinterland following built during a film career that spans more than two decades has an interesting story about his debut. It so happened that Phool Aur Kaante released the same day as Lamhe starring Anil Kapoor, who was then the reigning star.
During the course of our conversation Devgn recalled, “Anilji told me also, ‘Don’t release the film on this day’. I was like just a newcomer, I had no control over such things. He said, ‘you will suffer.’ I said, ‘Whatever has to happen, has to happen.’ And then my film came and he said, ‘You screwed us, haan? Damn good.’ That’s so sporting. That was the kind of atmosphere which was there, that’s the kind of support I got.”
Watch: Ajay Devgn gets candid with Priyanka Sinha Jha in the first episode of Expresso Season 2
Fun fact – it was someone else who was supposed to do the film but that didn’t work out and Ajay Devgn, who had always enjoyed being behind the camera, got pencilled in. In fact, he even had to change his real life name Vishal to Ajay as that year 2 or 3 boys named Vishal were being launched in movies.
His action sequence in Phool Aur Kaante where he is seen riding two bikes and performing a split remains a top-notch action sequence of all time in Hindi films. An ad for Volvo trucks featuring Hollywood action star Van Damme probably comes close second. I quiz Devgn about it and he agrees with my vote for his version being the better one simply for the fact that it was performed without any aid of special effects or precautionary measures like the harnessing and cables etc. It took all of three days to shoot under his father Veeru Devgn’s supervision. The film catapulted him to dizzying success but he earned respect with his work. What makes him happiest about his success is that he earned it all on his own terms.
“All I wanted was to work, on my terms and conditions. Not things you have to do because you want to be a part of the industry.”
Of course, nobody knew then that action-director Veeru Devgn’s son who had been launched as an action hero would go on to excel in both action, comedies and drama. Devgn with his searing intensity has never failed to impress – be it Gangaajal, Omkara, Company, Zakhm or Once Upon A Time in Mumbai.
It was at the age of 18-19 that Devgn blazed his way on to the big screen but he was hardly a novice. “By the time I became an actor, I knew the whole process of film-making. I could make films myself. I used to be on the sets with my father after school. When I was about 9-10, I started helping in the edits. Then he started leaving it (editing) to me. He used to shoot a sequence, that time there was no CGI, and tell me, ‘I have taken a shot like this. Tell me how would you take it?’. He had got me a camera so the next day day, I would shoot the thing and show it to him. That really helped because I had not got any special training or performed (earlier). It’s all come from all this – being on the sets and watching.”
His father of course wanted an actor’s glory for his young son – a career in front of the camera. “I was keen that I be behind the camera. He (Veeru Devgn) was keen that I became an actor,” says Ajay Devgn.
The proud affection which slips into his voice when speaking of the senior Devgn hints at firm family leanings. The actor deeply admires his father who came to Mumbai from Punjab and once his career took off, he brought all his family members to Mumbai to live with him something he did not need to do. Personally, Devgn loves the comfort and warmth of family around his children who now take care of their grandparents. It helps that his spouse, actress Kajol has slipped into the joint family with remarkable felicity. So much so that in case of an emergency, if both the actors are out on a shoot, his mother is more likely to reach out to Kajol for help!
He admits Kajol is the better half. “She takes care of the house, she takes care of my parents. I think my mother would trust Kajol more with herself than me. If I am on outdoor and she is on an outdoor, she will tell her to call back, not me because she does not trust me to take care of her as well. She (My mother) really believes that if she’s (Kajol) around, she is safe. That’s the kind of bonding they have.”
With his own kids growing up — Nysa is studying in Singapore although Yug, he admits is still very young – Devgn is no stranger to parenting challenges. He admits with his wry smile that these days, he is often instructed by his kids to not be overtly dramatic. “You have to understand them and actually follow them. I still struggle because you have your own point of view and they have their own. So, you have to start understanding their point of view. If they are saying, ‘Don’t be over dramatic,’ it does not mean they don’t love you. The whole generation has changed. The way they emote has changed so that takes a lot of time to understand. It’s that same old thing of the generation gap. However cool you are, it is still there.”
Professionally too he is working with the new, younger breed of actors who he thinks are admirable for their ultra-focused professionalism. Of course, Devgn’s personal journey is one that shines for his ability to reinvent and turn out a winner ever so often. It has earned him the reputation for being one of the most bankable stars in present times despite occasional box-office setbacks,
The actor, of course, is characteristically blasé about his long innings of over 25 years. “I don’t think you can analyse such things. I mean you can work as hard as possible and it fails. Sometimes you don’t even bother about something and it works and you are surprised. So, you need to have determination. You need to believe in yourself and to not cheat yourself.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines