'I have started a series called Unsung Warriors.'
'This time, the film is about Tanhaji. The next film will be on someone from Rajasthan or maybe Punjab.'
'I don't want to pick a warrior that everyone knows about.'
Why is Ajay Devgn making a movie on Tanaji Malusare, the military leader in Shivaji's army?
The actor, who leads the cast of Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, has a beautiful reply for us.
"When the British came to India, they did expunged stories of bravery from our textbooks. We don't have history that inspires us and tells us how we fought for our independence. That is why we started a series on Unsung Warriors, so that the entire nation knows about such heroes," Ajay tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh.
Why did you make Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior in 3D?
The look and technology (required it).
It is a different kind of a film.
This is not a comedy film, this is a 3D film.
If you watch it in 2D, you will enjoy 50%. We have designed the film in 3D.
Generally, what a lot of filmmakers do is that they convert their films into 3D.
We have not shot our film in 3D. We have used a different technology, which you don't see in India.
Even a lot of Hollywood films don't have such 3D technology.
The kind of visuals we have created have never been done before.
You have always had a great fascination for technology.
I have always thought that we can do things as good as or better than them (Hollywood) with our limited budget. Their budgets run into 1,000, 2,000 crores, whereas we hardly have Rs 100 crores at our disposal to make a film.
From the first CGI to the first Helicam to first Panavision camera, I have brought everything to the country.
My CGI company started with that and today it is one of the biggest CGI companies in India.
I am very proud of the product we have created.
Drama and story are already there, but we used technology to enhance everything and it has come out fabulous.
And it's all made in India.
We have not taken any help from overseas.
For the action choreography, we did hire one or two technicians from abroad, but as far as the other technological departments are concerned, it's all Indian.
What motivated you to make Tanhaji?
Two things. I have started a series called Unsung Warriors.
In Maharashtra, everyone knows Tanhaji, so he is not an unsung warrior. He is a famous warrior here. He fought for the whole country.
He fought with Aurangzeb who ruled Delhi.
Aurangzeb's plan was to annex Kondhana so that he could take over the whole of the south. But because of Tanhaji, he could not do that.
But how many people know him outside Maharashtra? Up North, nobody knows him.
He has been relegated to a paragraph in our history books, that's it.
Also, I feel that when the British came to India, they altered our entire education system.
The first thing they did was expunge stories of bravery from our textbooks. They thought if Indians would read about the bravery and sacrifices of soldiers like Tanhaji, they may raise their voices and revolt against the Britishers.
After the British left our country, we did not make an attempt to alter our textbooks.
What is there in our history books today? There are some chapters on the British and the Mughals and some foreign history.
We don't have history that inspires us and tells us how we fought for our independence.
That is why we started a series on Unsung Warriors, so that the entire nation knows about such heroes.
This time, the film is about Tanhaji. The next film will be on someone from Rajasthan or maybe Punjab.
I don't want to pick a warrior that everyone knows about.
We could have made a film on Shivaji Maharaj but everyone knows him.
Apart from that, when we set out to tell a story, entertainment is the most important thing.
A film should have the correct emotions, the correct drama and the correct action that tug at your heartstrings.
How cautious are you when you deal with a historical subject?
You have to be very cautious. You cannot wrong history.
But we have to remember that every historian has written different things in the books.
At times, they contradict themselves.
If you follow one particular book, someone will come and say it's not right.
In that situation, whom would you follow?
In case of Tanhaji, very little information is available. There is a beginning and an end.
But when you make a film, you have to create a story that bridges the beginning and the end. And when you do that, you have to add drama and emotion.
You have to dramatise it so that it does not look like a documentary.
You have to be careful that whatever you create out of your imagination should not look unreal.
It should look authentic.
It should justify the story.
There was a hue and cry about the portrayal of a Rajasthani king in Ashutosh Gowariker's Panipat. Your film has a similar character...
(Interrupts) See, there is a contradiction about what is written in history about Udyabhan. No one knows where he come from. What is known about him is that he was a Rajasthani.
He was not from any kingdom.
He was an outcast.
He had betrayed his own Rajasthani king.
We have not shown that some Rajasthani king did not support us (the Maratha kingdom), but there is always a black sheep in any community.
I don't think they should have this problem. We have not underlined him.
In the past, if there was a clash of releases between two big films, some film-makers would postpone their film.
(Interrupts) It cannot happen now.
Earlier, films would release every second or third Friday.
There were free weeks.
Now you tell me if there is any free week? Every week, there is one or two films releasing.
If somebody asks me to defer the release of my film, where would I go?
Similarly, if I ask someone to shift their film, where will they go?
So many films are being made today.
Even on January 24, there are two-three films releasing. Not because they want to clash -- nobody wants to clash -- but there is no space.
What made you cast Saif Ali Khan?
Because the character we wrote is very edgy and quirky, and Saif is very quirky.
We wanted someone who looks evil and, at the same time, has quirkiness also.
He was perfect for it.
Also, I thought that to stand against me, we wanted a mard.
I am very happy because people are really liking him.
Had this character been weak, the whole fun of the clash between a hero and a villain would have fizzled out.
People say there is competition when two actors are pitted against each other, but if the opponent is not strong enough, where is the hero's heroism?
How much has he evolved through the years?
He has become very, very, involved and evolved.
Saif was the only person on set who would request for another shot even after the director had okayed the previous take.
He has worked with that enthusiasm.
That's the difference I see in him.
Whose idea was to cast Kajol as Savitribai?
When we talk about sacrifices that these men made, I feel their families sacrificed more.
So there is this woman who, without any sign of tension or worry on her face, lets her husband go to war.
She anoints his forehead and sends to the battleground without knowing whether she would she see him again.
That kind of character not everybody can pull off.
I needed a great performer, so I asked her and she agreed.
How do you look at 2020? You have several releases.
Fingers crossed! First, I am looking forward to Tanhaji.
Mohnish Singh dabbled as a copywriter before making a transition into entertainment journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org