Ajay Devgn complains that people don’t know enough about India’s history. He says that is the reason for telling stories of “sacrifices” on screen so that a renewed sense of patriotism can be reignited in Indians. After last year’s Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, where he played 17th century Maratha warrior Tanhaji Malusare, Ajay Devgn Bhuj: The Pride of India released on Friday.
The film is inspired by the life of IAF Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik (Ajay Devgn), the in-charge of the Bhuj airbase during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, who reconstructed the airstrip with the help of 300 women from the local village Madhapar so that Indian Air Force planes could land.
Speaking to the media in Mumbai ahead of the film’s release, Ajay said he didn’t know about the story of Bhuj before the film came to him. “That’s the problem with our country. There are such great sacrifices that people don’t know about. It’s not there in our history books. And if we don’t talk about our sacrifices and heroes, how are we going to love our country?” the actor asked.
There has been a surge of patriotic cinema in Bollywood in the last few years – from Akshay Kumar’s Kesari that was based on the Battle of Saragarhi to Vicky Kaushal’s Uri: The Surgical Strike. This Independence Day also saw the release of Sidharth Malhotra-led Shershaah, based on the life of Kargil War hero Captain Vikram Batra. What has made the industry wake up to such stories?
Ajay corrected “not patriotism but stories of real-life characters” are finding takers now. “Because they are amazing and great to tell. Ten writers together cannot write a story like this. When you hear a story like this, you feel you should tell a real story and inspire people,” he said.
He added that while people knew “what happened in the US”, they had little awareness about their own history. “So, why should we not make it? If you get something after a lot of effort, you value it. If people know about these sacrifices our heroes made, it will tell them our pace in history. If it makes even two per cent of a difference, we are sorted and the country is sorted. Then we don’t need to say, ‘Oh I love my country’. You just need to respect it,” the actor said.
Another reason why such stories didn’t make it to screen as often as they do now was lack of resources, the superstar said. “Now people are coming out with such stories. They are so inspiring. Earlier when we used to hear these stories, the technology and budget didn’t allow us to make a Bhuj or something on that scale. That’s changed.”
Such films have been often criticised for being jingoistic. How did he make sure that Bhuj: The Pride of India didn’t follow the same fashion? “Keep characters and screenplay very real and know where to draw the line. In our film, there’s no jingoism. In Tanhaji also, there was no jingoism. They were fighting for the country but not crying that they loved their country,” the actor answered.
Bhuj: The Pride of India has been helmed by Abhishek Dudhaiya and also features Sonakshi Sinha, Sanjay Dutt, Nora Fatehi and Sharad Kelkar. Originally planned as a theatrical release, is now streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.