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Ajay Devgn’s hit formula: Desi character a must

Ajay Devgn speaks about 'Bol Bachchan',sniffing out a dud and why controversial gimmicks are a strict no-no.

Written by Priyanka Sinha Jha |
June 29, 2012 12:46:26 pm

Larger-than-life heroes are here to stay,says Ajay Devgn,a constant in the 100 crore film club. In a candid interview,he speaks about Bol Bachchan,sniffing out a dud and why controversial gimmicks are a strict no-no..

Hindi films can’t just work on thrills and frills. The character has to be Indian —Singham,Dabangg,Rowdy — they were all very Indian in their look and feel. Just like one of us. You can’t connect with a person who is living in London or is a James Bond or something because for that,we can always watch a Hollywood film’

‘The first promo of the film is like the first 15 overs in a cricket match. If you have scored well,it will determine the final results. For promoting a film you should be true to yourself. What is not true should not be used. It’s ridiculous because manufactured controversies don’t really help the film

Ajay,you have two films coming up in quick succession in the next few months,but first things first— you play a pehalwan in Bol Bachchan!

(Smiles) Yes. I play a simple guy,a pehalwan who thinks he speaks very good English and everybody else is very scared of him,so they are afraid to tell him the truth! That’s why in the trailers,you see him literally translate Hindi muhawaras into English which is rather funny. He also believes that one should never lie and values honesty as the highest virtue and how that creates circumstances for people to con him.

So you take off from where (the late veteran actor) Utpal Dutt left off in the original Golmaal? And Abhishek is Amol Palekar’s Ram Prasad and Lakshman Prasad redux?

Sort of,though it’s pretty different too. I think it’s also very different from what I have done—-here’s a tough man who is funny. Usually you play either a funny guy or a Singham like toughie but here with the two combined there is some novelty to it. Abhishek is a very old friend and we all felt that he would do justice to the character of Abbas Ali,and he has.

Interesting that the Golmaal series bore no similarity to the original film by that name while its adaptation is titled Bol Bachchan…

Bol Bachchan works better as a title for this film. And it’s bigger than Golmaal. The idea is based on Golmaal — we bought the rights for it also but when you adapt a film that is about 35-40 years old,you have to change it completely.

And how did the idea of a song with Big B come about?

The idea to have Mr Bachchan came about because the title has Bachchan in it. We asked him if he would do it and he immediately agreed. We are very thankful to him for that. He worked hard and the song has come out very well.

You mentioned that your character in Bol Bachchan is a funny-tough guy,so are action and comedy or a combination of the two,the genres that work best with the home audience?

I think the key to success (for a film) is entertainment not the genres of comedy or action. I would love to watch a film which is very sophisticated or even a romantic film,but on a DVD. I won’t go to the theatre to watch it,but when you have a Spiderman or something similar,you would like to go to the theatre to watch it. Action and comedy are two genres that work particularly well in the big screen format. The audience can just sit back and enjoy the experience without getting educated on cinema.

After significant success in both action and comedy,would you not like to venture into other genres?

Once in a while you get a script,which is really fantastic… But it’s rare.

If there could be another Zakhm,I would certainly do it but till the time one finds something as good,one continues with films that work at the box-office because ultimately it’s about the business.

Speaking of business,the business in Bollywood seems pretty brisk and constantly expanding too…

The business is going up because of the expansion of multiplexes and in a year or two,we will say that 100 or 200 crore is not a very big amount because the budgets are also going up. So, there are many films today that do 100 crore and just break even.

Tell us something about Himmatwala,yet another adaptation of a film from the past,that you have signed up for.

Yes,I am starting Himmatwala in August. It’s completely different from the original. Just the basic idea has been picked up from the original film. The way it’s been adapted is completely entertaining.

And there’s a film with Prakash Jha as well?

After Himmatwala,I start work on Prakash Jha’s film Satyagraha which is a political thriller drama. The film is very engaging and it will have some realistic action. Prakash Jha has a knack for picking up a realistic script and making it in a very entertaining manner. Like Gangajal or Apharan… or Rajneeti to a point. He has learnt that knack. When we discuss stories I always insist that it should be something which is thrilling and entertaining,the typical Prakash Jha brand of films.

Were reports of a misunderstanding between both of you (about Raajneeti) true?

I know that what he did wasn’t intentional. The character didn’t shape up the way we wanted. It was a very strong character but in the end,it lost steam.

Would you say that the audience has been missing the larger-than-life Hindi film hero in our recent films?

Absolutely. A film has to be larger-than-life. If the hero fails,you feel completely dejected. So a hero is supposed to do things that the audiences want to,but can’t.

We made those films till the eighties and even nineties and suddenly we became over-intelligent because of the arrival of the multiplex model (of films that work). And there was this feeling that because multiplexes have come in,the audiences have changed but I don’t think that is true. So we stopped making those films,but in the South they continued with them and their heroes became superheroes. And the success of their films (as Hindi remakes) has made us realise that our audience also wants the same things but at the time we started,we were behind the south industry in that genre. So we had to pick up those rights and remake them.

Salman Khan,in an interview with Screen,said that action films in India need to have a strong emotional core,would you agree?

Hindi films can’t just work on thrills and frills. The character has to be Indian — Singham,Dabangg,Rowdy — they were all very Indian in their look and feel. Just like one of us. You can’t connect with a person who is living in London or is a James Bond or something because for that,we can always watch a Hollywood film. We need our own songs,storyline and drama and then you can add to that technically.

After a very successful tenure,two of your films — Rascals last year and Tezz recently did not do well. As an actor,do you have a premonition about the fate of the film?

When you are doing a film,you do come to know halfway through whether it is working or not. When I feel a film is not working,I lose interest in the film and it shows. I will admit that it is not a great thing to do because it is highly unprofessional. You keep running away from the feeling,but deep inside you do know it.

About Rascals,I had agreed to the film because of Sanju,but somewhere down the line,I realised that the script wasn’t moving. Where Tezz is concerned,it got a little outdated because it started three years back and by the time it released in theatres,superhero films had started working. I won’t blame the director completely,but I knew it wasn’t working because the hero was a failure throughout the film. There was nothing heroic about him so it didn’t work.

The Amazing Spiderman will release just ahead of Bol Bachchan with reports suggesting that release dates were reshuffled to avoid a clash,so would you say that Hollywood is giving us tough competition –– at least the biggies?

Yes,Hollywood films have started giving us competition,though not serious competition. Sure,we have to be careful about when we release our films. There are very few of them that really matter to the Indian audience but they do cut into the business.

Kajol and you have not come together (for a film) in a while so is anything on the cards? Is she involved with the production,especially the films under your banner?

Nothing has been planned as yet. She does check on the accounts etc but not otherwise as she has her hands full with the kids.

Unlike a lot of your contemporaries who work on one or two projects in a year,you have three-four films releasing on a regular basis.

I might not be doing one film a year,but I am doing one film at a time. I have never thought that three films are coming together or something –– I just say yes to a script that I like. Though now I have also tried to cut down on my work as working like that is a lot easier. You can concentrate on that one role,the look etc.

After all these years,how would you define yourself as an actor? Have you devised a way to approach a character? A method if you will…

I go through my lines and after I get that out of the way,I just give the shot,I really don’t know. Yes,you learn from what has worked and what hasn’t. That is what is called experience. Not that one can always be right about such things,but it’s a good starting point when you take on something. When I am playing a character,I feel if I go against my image it really doesn’t work. An actor’s job is to be able to do every kind of role,but again there are limitations brought about by my perception. For example if I play a sissy,it won’t be accepted so you have to decide what you can portray or not.

It’s been a while since you were seen in a romantic film so will any of your forthcoming films,Son of Sardar being one,see you as a romantic hero?

I haven’t heard a great romantic script in a long time therefore the gap. Son of Sardar is more of an action-comedy set in Mumbai,Punjab and London. I will start Prabhudeva’s film next year and there is Rohit’s film,but it’s too early to talk about them.

You have a successful partnership going with Rohit and yet both of you work with different people too. Does that bother you –– for instance the fact that he is now working with Shah Rukh Khan?

With Rohit there is a comfort zone. He is finishing a film with Shah Rukh,meanwhile I will also finish two films before we team up for another film. It works better that way. If we worked only with each other it could get predictable,so it is better to take a break and then come back.

Do you believe in creating make-believe controversies when promoting a film?

The first promo of the film makes your film. It’s like the first15 overs in a cricket match. If you have scored well,it will determine the final results.

I don’t ever bother with image makeovers etc. For promoting a film you should be true to yourself. What is not true should not be used. It’s ridiculous because manufactured controversies don’t really help the film. In fact,they harm the film. I think it’s just panic that people feel ki film garam ho jayegee.

Do film reviews impact the business?

Reviews don’t matter. It is the audience,the word-of-mouth that eventually works for a film.

priyanka.sinha@expressindia.com

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