AJAY DEVGN ON HIS LATEST FILM, WHAT BOLLYWOOD HAS TAUGHT HIM AND WHY HE DOESN’T CARE MUCH ABOUT CRITICS
by MOHNISH SINGH
A Bollywood mainstay for nearly three decades, Ajay Devgn has shown a remarkable ability to morph himself into any character he has been presented with, whether that is a daring cop, formidable gangster, boisterous friend and everything else in between.
The versatility has enabled the National Award-winning actor to mix up the genres, which is perfectly illustrated by his impressive body of work.
He returned to the comedy genre with newly-released film Total Dhamaal, which is the third instalment of the super hit film franchise and boasts an impressive star cast.
The film has delighted fans of the slapstick comedy genre and given him another win.
Eastern Eye caught up with Ajay to talk about Total Dhamaal, why he does not pay much attention to critics, his massive fan following and upcoming projects.
What led you to co-produce Total Dhamaal as well as star in it?
The budget of this film was very high, so I thought I should come on board as a producer also.
Was it difficult to put together such a huge star cast under one roof?
No, it was not difficult at all. When I heard the script of the film, I kept laughing for two hours. I said to Induji (Indra Kumar), ‘if you are going to make the film exactly the way you have narrated it to me, I am 100 per cent going to do it’. Whosoever heard the script of the film found it extremely hilarious. When you go to watch a movie like Total Dhamaal, you cannot start looking for depth in its plot. It’s a fun franchise. It is hilarious. It will make you laugh for two hours. And that was the reason everybody agreed to do this film.
You are teaming up with Indra Kumar after a long time. What changes do you find in him now?
I feel everything is exactly the same. Induji is also the same. He has not changed a bit, even appearance wise. He still looks the same. He is very fit. His attitude towards his work is also the same. Even Madhuri is the same Madhuri. (Laughs). Talking about Anil Kapoor, he can never change.
There are many actors, especially from your generation, who do a lot of social work. Would you like to talk about any social work that you are involved in?
You already know about some of the social work I do, like the plastics ban, women empowerment and things like that. But then there is the kind of social work I would not like to talk about. I think that is the true spirit of a cause. I am not doing it for promotion and publicity. One does social work for their own happiness. There are many actors who do their bit of social work in whatever way they can, but not everyone talks about it.
You mentioned that you agreed to Total Dhamaal because you liked the script. Have you ever done a film just for friendship’s sake?
Many times. But this is not one of them, (laughs). If you go to watch this film with your friends and family you will find how hilarious it is.
Critics can be unkind towards comedy films like this. Do you read critics’ reviews?
I don’t read reviews often, because I know they don’t write good reviews about me (laughs). But some of them do praise you and your work. I do not care much. I care for audiences’ response. If that’s good, it’s great. If that’s not good, then I admit to having gone wrong somewhere. See, if I start paying attention to each and every criticism coming my way, I cannot work. No matter how much you try, you cannot please each and everyone in this world. Be it at home or in your profession, you just cannot make everybody happy. So, I believe you should listen to yourself and move ahead. Otherwise, you will get disturbed.
You are turning 50 this year and you have spent a good part of your life working in movies. What have you learned from the film industry over the years?
First of all, I don’t feel like I am going to be 50 soon. I might look 50 years old, but I am still young at heart. When people tell you that you have spent 28 years in the industry, it does not feel like I have really spent so many years working. It feels like I started yesterday. I feel time flies when everything goes fine in life. And when there is hardship, everything comes to a standstill. Everything in my life has been smooth all these years. Touch wood.
Your fan following among kids is amazing. What would you say is the reason for that?
I think it all happened because of my recent films like Singham (2011), Golmaal Again (2017) and Simmba (2018). We had never thought that kids would love a character like Singham. But the character gained a lot of popularity among children and women. When we made Singham, we did not understand what kids and women liked so much about that character of mine. Then we thought it was, perhaps, the honesty of the character that children and women connected to. That character was straightforward and honest. I think kids and women liked that.
Your upcoming project is Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior, which is being made under your home banner. How easy or difficult was it to bring Saif Ali Khan and your wife Kajol on board?
I am reuniting with Saif in the film after a long time. When I narrated the story to Saif, he liked it and immediately agreed to do it. Kajol will be having a special appearance in this film. The moment I explained her character in the movie, she loved it. So I did not face any issue regarding the casting of the film.
Are you open to working with new crop of directors?
Yeah, I am already working with them. I am hearing a lot of scripts and in talks with a lot of new directors. They are very good.
How do your kids appreciate your work?
My son is very young, but my daughter is very critical of my work. If she does not like something, she says it right to my face.
You have played a diverse range of characters in your storied career. But what do you enjoy doing the most – comedy or action?
An actor can never think like that. When you take up a character, you become that character. You cannot be yourself. If you create your comfort zones, you cannot work then. I like to rotate my work. If I am doing a comedy now, my next film will be completely different in terms of its genre and presentation. So that helps me; I enjoy that. If I keep doing the same thing over and again, I will get bored.
Tell us what was the most challenging part of doing Total Dhamaal?
There was nothing challenging as such. Having said that, comedy itself is a very energy-consuming job. You have to be alert all the time and bring in your comic timing the right way. That’s not very easy.
How easy or tough is it to do a franchise film keeping in mind the fact that you need to pick your character from where you left it years ago?
It gets tough. When we started Golmaal Again and did the first scene, we realised something was not right. You know, what happens is that you grow over the years. You become more sombre with time. So when we felt the scene was not right, we got a DVD of Golmaal 3 (2010) and watched it in order to revisit our characters; because a sufficient amount of time had passed. So, yeah, it gets difficult if you are doing the same character after several years.
After Aapla Manus (2018), will you continue producing regional films in future as well?
Only if a good script comes my way. See, I am not doing regional films just for the sake of it. But if something interesting comes up, you feel like doing it. So if I find a good script, I will definitely produce it.
Will we see your special appearance in Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi he is making with Akshay Kumar?
They are still working on the script. So I don’t know much about that.
There are reports that you have been offered Shankar’s Indian 2 with Kamal Haasan…
Let’s not talk about that.
People say that the new crop of actors cannot reach where Khans, Kumars and you have reached despite all the hoopla around their stardom. What do you have to say on that?
Everything takes time. We had to work for 28-30 years to reach where we are today. The new generation is doing phenomenal work. Let’s give them some more time. They will also gain a firm foothold. I feel they are there, but to build that kind of fan base, it does take some time.
What will be your next releases?
Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior, De De Pyaar De and a film with Boney Kapoorji.
Are you planning to direct any new project after your 2016 release Shivaay?
(Smiles). We are presently working on a script, but I cannot talk about it at the moment.
Total Dhamaal is in cinemas now