Recently,Ajay Devgn and Akshaye Khanna visited the Screen office to talk about their latest action-thriller Aakrosh,honour killings,their chemistry with each other and everything filmi.
It was the fifth edition of Screen Preview and the team was suitably excited. Two reclusive actors,Ajay Devgn and Akshaye Khanna,were coming to the office,alongwith producer Kumar Mangat Pathak to talk about their latest release Aakrosh. The no-nonsense actor Ajay,true to his image,got down to business as soon as he arrived. Dressed in a white kurta and faded blue jeans,Ajay held forth on everything related to films. Akshaye joined him soon and the duo was so in tune with each other that they were completing each others sentences.
Aakrosh – Reality Bytes
Ajay Devgn: I would call Aakrosh an action thriller. The last action thriller that I did was Qayamat,which was a big hit. People came up to me and said I should do more of action films. When director Priyadarshan came to me with a subject on honour killings,a topic that was inspired from a lot of articles that have been appearing in newspapers since the last two years,we got together to work on a script.
Aakrosh has a good balance of a real issue and a commercial action movie. The heroes fight and solve the case despite the resistance of the local police and natives because basically honour killings are done by powerful people. Thats why I think that even our government establishments have not been able to do much about this issue.
Akshaye Khanna: It is a hardcore Hindi commercial film, not a boring social drama. But the backdrop is a serious issue. The film is just an analysis made by the director and writers and we just followed it. In small towns,things like honour killings are common.
We have tried to be sensitive to the audience,yet we have not shied away from anything.
Ajay: I think action is the highlight of the film. It has been shot stylishly,yet it is very real. When both of us (Akshaye and I) beat up 25 guys,it looks convincing.
Akshaye: But its not Dabangg.
Ajay: Yet it is larger than life. In general,there has not been much evolution in action movies in India. Earlier, people would believe in fist- fights and now it has gone on to thrills and focusses primarily on equipment and graphics. Everything has changed but the point is that people still like dhishum-dhishum fights.
Censor and sensibility
Akshaye: Though we have freedom of expression,we are touchy and sensitive about everything,especially films. It is ridiculous.
Ajay: In our country,we should be prepared for anything,and nothing should shock us. Aakroshs release was delayed mainly because the censor board asked for 30 cuts. If we would have followed their diktat,the film would have lost its flavour. So we approached the Revising Committee. We were happy to get an A certificate with not more than three or four cuts.
Akshaye: I got to know about the issue of honour killings only recently,since the press started reporting about it. As people living in big cities,we are aware of it to some extent,but we dont know the seriousness of the issue. We are not aware that almost 3,000 people are slain every year because their parents or community elders do not agree to their marriages or relationships. The statistics are horrible and I feel that this issue should be addressed immediately. These are extremely complex issues. We had discussions when we went to Delhi for the promotion of the film and we also met some people from the Khap Panchayat.
Ajay: This issue is very deep-rooted. When you argue with them,you realise that you dont have answers for several questions.
Ajay: Their objection is to marrying into the same gotra. They even asked us,Will you let your children get married to each other?
Akshaye: They said,For us this is wrong,for you it may be right.
Ajay: I am perplexed. In todays age,there cant be hard and fast rules (about gotra). Also,there is no law addressing this issue.
Kumar Mangat: They are so particular about the gotra that even a person living in Kanya Kumari cannot marry someone in Mumbai if they belong to the same gotra.
Akshaye: I asked someone about the solution to stop honour killings. I was told that there is no solution. I cited the example of the Kashmir problem that we have with Pakistan. Nobody has a solution,but why do we still talk to them? Because we might come to a solution only through dialogue. If the media could do something through dialogue,then they should take the initiative.
Kumar: When I was planning a film with Priyan,he suggested the idea of honour killings. When he narrated it to me,I realised that it was a subject that I have been wanting to make since a long time because I had heard a lot about this issue. We had the script ready and then discussed it with Ajay and Akshaye and both agreed to do the film immediately. I was sure that this would make a good film as the subject was strong.
Even as we were in the midst of making the film,this incident occurred in my own village (near Punjab) that shocked us. A girl from the higher Brahmin caste was in love with a lower-caste boy. The two eloped and got married. But the girls parents brought her back home and were all set to get her married to some other guy. When her husband got to know of this,he came to the village with a valid marriage certificate. But they killed him. Every villager was involved in the crime.
Akshaye: After setting the boy on fire,they started thrashing him and then threw him out of the village.
Ajay: Nobody was arrested.
Kumar: After this incident,I decided never to go back to my village.
Ajay: The motive behind such killings is to set an example for anyone who is thinking of marrying out of their caste.
The A team
Akshaye: We have a great cast. It is a perfect combination of everything. The last film that Ajay and I did together was Deewangee. That was eight years ago. I think we should do more films together because not only do we get along very well off-screen,but we make a formidable pair on-screen too. We know Ajay is a good actor,but what I have realised about him is that he is a very secure artiste,unlike other actors. Ajay knows what he is doing. Its an excellent quality that many people dont have. He is also a wonderful person.
Ajay: I think for an actor,acting should come naturally. And Akshaye is a natural actor. Akshaye has done five films with Priyadarshan while Aakrosh is my first film with the director,who is better known for his comedies and has been quite successful at them. But I feel Priyan should make more action dramas. His earlier movies like Sazaa-e-Kaala Paani,Kanchivaram and some of his South films that have bagged awards were brilliant. I think he makes action films better than comedies.
Akshaye: It is difficult to explain our joys of working with Priyan to outsiders. He is a very efficient person who is clear about what he wants. He manages to extract the maximum work from his team with minimum effort. It is very relaxing to work with him. Ajay: Yes,it is very comfortable working with Priyan.
Akshaye: Paresh Rawal plays a pivotal role. He is probably the highlight of the film.
Ajay: He is fabulous.
Akshaye: Since so many years,he has been doing just comedy. His fans who have liked his work will get to see him in a role wherein he is simply brilliant.
Hard-hitting item number
Ajay: I dont know how important it is to have an item number in a film. But in Aakrosh,there was a particular situation because of which it was added. But personally I dont believe in them.
Akshaye: We may not believe in them but there is a huge audience out there.
Ajay: There was a similar question put to us in Delhi and I said You stop watching them and we shall stop adding them.
Akshaye: Music is an integral part of our culture and tradition. Every celebration or festival is associated with a particular kind of music.
Ajay: Songs make our films different and people enjoy them. But again it depends on what kind of movies you are making and to whom you are catering. If a film has a serious theme,I dont think there should be songs. But yes,songs are absolutely essential in a love story and other kind of films.
Marketing and promotions
Kumar: We promoted Aakrosh as much as necessary. We do not believe in overdoing things. There are certain rules even for promotions,be it television,newspapers or films. But we have done it all.
Ajay: I think there is no end to it and you can go on and on with promotions. But it helps only to a certain point,and after that it is your work and the film that speaks.
Kumar: Even in South India,there is a rule that in a day you can play the promo only 10 times on a channel. The advertisement also has to be of a certain size. It is only in Mumbai that we are competing with each other and going completely overboard.
Ajay: There is no limit to what extent one can go. There is no unity in the industry and it has become a ridiculous situation. Here Kumarji has two actors,Akshaye and I,who refuse to go out and he had to push us for promotion. Of course,we also did our bit but we did not go crazy over it. Also,for a movie like Aakrosh,it would not make sense to go to music shows on TV and talk about the film. Instead,we have had healthy debates and discussions on this topic.
The connect between audience and films
Ajay: The film should be entertaining. And entertainment does not mean that it should make you laugh. It could make you cry,yet you could enjoy the film. That is what works.
Akshaye: I think the audience has to accept more artistes. Many actors are launched every year. But only few get accepted. You know the film industrys major problem is that we have less heroines. After Saawariya in 2007,when Sonam Kapoor was launched,it is in 2010 that Sonakshi Sinha has been accepted with Dabangg. A new face has been accepted after three years!
Ajay: Actually,every month a new face is introduced but she has to be accepted. It is not that every film has to have a big star but that again depends on the movies budget. Today the budgets have gone haywire. If you can manage to make a small-budget film with an actor,the promotional budget is so high that such a project is not viable. I would blame this entirely on the corporates because they came in and started offering everybody obscene amounts of money. There was immense competition. Suddenly they have realised that they made a mistake and are now trying to change things. I blame the corporates for the problems that the industry is facing today.
Ajay: I did Aakrosh,Raajneeti and now I am doing Rajkumar Santoshis Power. But I think everyone has been doing multi-star films. If the script and the set-up is good,I dont think it matters.
Ajay: I think that by the end of next year I shall be directing a film again. It took so long because I have been very busy with acting.
Akshaye: I dont think I shall ever take up direction,mainly because I dont have that urge in me. It is not something that I would enjoy and its too much of a responsibility.
Ajay: In my two decades in the film industry,I feel I have evolved as an actor. For that matter,everybody grows and gets to learn everyday. You learn from different directors and good actors. You even learn from bad actors and directors. That growth keeps happening. And as for genres,I have done them all. I dont think now there is any new genre left.
The arrival of 3D
Ajay: I dont think anything has changed in 3D. Basically,it depends on whether the script demands 3D. Hollywood has been using animation in the biggest possible way but it will take some time for us to accept it in a big way. I have done Toonpur Ka Superhero that has a lot of animation because of which it has been for a long time in the making. It has also cost us a bomb. But the animation is awesome.
Akshaye: Even I have lent my voice for an animation film that releases next year. I think you will see more and more of animation movies that will surely succeed.
Ajay: I personally feel the reason why these films wont work here is because when we make animation movies we think only about kids. And the humour and story is targetted at them. Elders cant relate to it and find it very childish. We dont target a universal audience here. We have to start making films that cater to children as well as elders. Toonpur Ka Superhero is for everyone.