May 18, 2002 
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Ajay Devgan
A revolution in his eyes
Ajay Devgan in and as The Legend Of Bhagat Singh

Vickey Lalwani

After a hectic shooting schedule in Agra and Manali, director Raj Kumar Santoshi does not show any sign of fatigue as he works towards the completion of his latest venture The Legend Of Bhagat Singh at Mumbai's suburban Film City.

Santoshi, who has the reputation of being one of the slowest filmmakers in the industry, is determined to finish his project before Dharmendra's home production 23 March 1931 -- Shaheed on the life of the martyr Shaheed Bhagat Singh (starring Bobby Deol in the title role).

A confident Santoshi states, "I have made an authentic film. I did not cast Aishwarya Rai simply because her presence in a miniscule role would leave the audience asking for more. I want the people to forget for those three hours that they are living in 2002. I want to transport them completely into the pre-Independence days. I am making a historical, not a multistarrer."

Ajay Devgan as Bhagat Singh Interestingly, Santoshi first wanted a newcomer to play Bhagat Singh. "But Ajay Devgan came closest to my perception of Bhagat Singh. This boy has the eyes of a revolutionary. His introvert nature conveys loud and clear signals that there is a volcano inside him ready to burst. As for Sukhdev and Rajguru [Bhagat Singh's comrades], the selection was done by the computer -- those who matched best were chosen," says the director.

For now, a college festival dance is being picturised. A group of boys donning red pagdis [turbans] do a bhangra [Punjabi dance] to A R Rahman's catchy number Pagdi sambhal jatta. They split up in opposite directions and Devgan, wearing a yellow turban, appears between the two factions. The shot is okayed after three attempts.

"Apart from this song, my film is complete and ready for release in June," Santoshi explains. "We have not done anything in a hurry. We started our film much before the Deols did. There is no need for us to compromise in terms of quality."

Shrugging off comparisons with the 1965 Shaheed, Santoshi says, "I have not recreated Manoj Kumar's Shaheed. My film goes beyond that. Manoj's film was a great source of inspiration on the lyrics and music front, but he didn't dwell on Bhagat Singh's ideology and vision, which I have. In my film, you will realise that Gandhiji could have saved Bhagat Singh."

Ajay Devgan as Bhagat Singh He continues, "I have not distorted history. In fact, I have touched even those aspects of Singh's life which do not find a mention in history. His younger brother Kultar Singh stayed with us for seven days during our shoot in Pune and gave deep insights into his brother's life. Besides, I made Ajay read a lot on Bhagat Singh."

Pack up. Ajay Devgan joins us. "This film is the most challenging assignment in my career and I hope people appreciate the research and effort we have put in," says the reel life Bhagat Singh.

Raj Babbar and Farida Jalal play Bhagat Singh's parents. Amrita Rao, who made her debut in the recent Ab Ke Baras, plays the girl who loved Bhagat Singh so deeply that she remained unmarried all her life and was known as Bhagat Singh's widow.

Produced by Tips' Kumar S Taurani and Ramesh S Taurani, The Legend Of Bhagat Singh also stars Akhilendra Mishra (Arjan of Lagaan) as Chandrashekar Azad, Sushant Singh ( of Jungle fame) as Sukhdev and D Santosh as Rajguru.


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