June 4, 2002 
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Ajay Devgan
'Who was Bhagat Singh?'
Ajay Devgan wants to answer the question

Fans who have seen Ajay Devgan in his last few films have just one complaint. The actor has lost too much weight.

Few know that Devgan was only doing his job. His latest role as the legendary Bhagat Singh required him to shed weight. Always the thorough professional, he did just that.

As far as efforts go, Devgan has left no stone unturned -- from perfecting the look to reading up on the martyr's life.
He is confident that the audiences will identify with him come June 7, when he is pitted against Bobby Deol as they both vie for attention as Bhagat Singh.

Here Devgan relives moments spent while making the epic film.

I knew Rajkumar Santoshi was looking for an absolute newcomer, but I had heard he wasn't too happy with the guys he had tested. I never dreamt I would be the chosen one.

When he told me about it, I first went on an astral plane. I was excited, for obvious reasons. Then I started feeling nervous. I did not want to end up being miscast.

Today, I am extremely confident. I think my makeup men have done a wonderful job. Rajji has made an authentic historical without one eye cocked on box-office collections. My nervousness has disappeared for I am sure the public will identify with me as Bhagat Singh.

I went through books and reference material. To be honest, I did not dig out any material from libraries myself. Rajji did all the homework and offered me everything on a platter. He put in three years of research. So you can imagine how much I was given to read!

Ajay Devgan I really understood Bhagat Singh's character only after I had read about him extensively. I knew very little about him; blame it on our school curriculum. If you go through the history books at the school level, this freedom fighter has not been given his due.

When I started working on the film, I was told to lose weight. I had to ensure I did not put those kilos back on. That was tough all right.

We had Bhagat Singh's younger brother Kultar, staying with us for a week when we shot in Pune, Maharashtra. He gave us deep insights into his brother's life, facts that have not been revealed by history.

That two films on the same subject are releasing on the same day can't be helped, I guess. It is too late for either of the two [the Deols, who are producing 23rd March 1931 -- Shaheed and the Tauranis, who are backing The Legend of Bhagat Singh] to back out now.

There should have been an adequate gap between the two. I don't think it is a question of overdose, because our children need to be told about this hero. Believe it or not, many youngsters have come up to me during my shooting stints for The Legend Of Bhagat Singh, asking, 'Who was Bhagat Singh?'

People know Bhagat Singh threw a bomb at the British, but do they know why he did it? It is things like these and many others that we explain clearly in our film.

We have not simply recreated Manoj Kumar's Shaheed. Like Manoj Kumar, we have catchy, inspiring tunes [composed by A R Rahman] -- but we have gone much beyond that. We have dwelt upon Bhagat Singh's vision and ideologies.

We have fiercely harped on his immeasurable one-track passion to free India from British clutches. We have shown some tremendous torture scenes -- like the British forcing a liquid diet through the nasal passage and then throwing chilies into the throat -- which will rattle every viewer.

This fearless freedom fighter was a great visionary. He had clearly stated our country would be besieged with problems like communalism and corruption. Isn't that what's happening today?

Ajay Devgan May I stick my neck out and say that if he had been living 15-20 years after Independence, our country would not be in the shambles it is in today.

More important, he embraced death with a smile. Many others fought with valor and gusto, but filed a mercy petition with the British when it came to death.

You know, at Pune, someone told Kultar Singh that he should bless me. Kultar replied, 'How can I bless my elder brother?' I could not help crying.

Comparisons between the films are inevitable. But I am sure we have a better film on hand. Anyway, the public and the media are so smart today that the fate of a film is decided at the first show itself.

Why should our films be an exception?

All I want is that people should see my films. The acclaim in the theatres is far more important than the applause while walking up the stage at an awards function.

Ajay Devgan spoke to Vickey Lalwani


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