Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai
Getting Ajay Devgn to talk in an interview is no mean feat.
But after a successful 2012 -- where two of his films Bol Bachchan and Son Of Sardaar entered the Rs 100 crore club -- Ajay seems more relaxed with the press.
During a media interaction, he spoke at length about his new film, Himmatwala, a remake of the 1983 hit starring Jeetendra and Sridevi. He also talked about the box office potential of his films, why 40-plus actors are still ruling the roost in Bollywood and why he thinks his wife Kajol is the number one actress in the film industry.
How did Himmatwala come about?
Sajid (Khan, the director) told me that he couldn't make it with anybody else. Sajid and I have been friends from college days and he was a big fan of (the original) Himmatwala.
He always wanted to remake the film. The script is totally altered. Today's youth haven't seen films that were made in the 1980s, which were melodramatic and had the typical mother-son, brother-sister emotions.
This film is an out-and-out commercial film with the right dose of melodrama.
'I'm still awkward with dances, but I think I have improved'
According to Sajid Khan, your entry scene in Himmatwala will be one of the top three ever seen in Hindi cinema...
Trust Sajid when he says that (smiles).
My entry is very dramatic, yet simple. Sometimes an entry scene ends up getting gimmicky, like the entry motorbike scene in Phool Aur Kaante, or riding on two horses in Son Of Sardaar.
Going by your own admission of having two left feet, how difficult was it to cope with so much dancing in the film?
Technically, I can do everything, but I'm not a dancer. I'm still awkward with dances, but I think I have improved.
I just did what suits me. But surprisingly, I didn't rehearse for a single dance step.
I've done my best in Himmatwala. Let me wait for the audiences' reaction.
'For me, my father is my Himmatwala'
Who according to you is a himmatwala and who has been a himmatwala in your life?
Himmatwala is someone who can take the right decision at the right time and stick to his decision.
For me, my father (Veeru Devgan) is my himmatwala. He worked hard for so many years to make me what I am today. I am thankful to my mother too, who gave me a good upbringing.
Were you a fan of films made in the 1980s?
The films made during in the 1970s were much better. I am not a big fan of '80s cinema. Although I did like some films from the '80s and Himmatwala is one of them.
It is a film which can make you smile, cry and entertain you even today.
'We should never remake classics'
Bollywood has been adapting quite a lot from the South and a lot of old films are being remade recently. Is it to play safe or is it lack of ideas?
Remakes are happening in Hollywood also. There are some successful stories that you want to revisit and tell in your own way.
There are so many films being made that are new too. It is not challenging to work in a remake. The director has to rewrite it in a way that is justifiable.
If you give the script of Himmatwala to four different directors everyone will have their own take.
Sridevi, who acted in the original film, said in an interview that Himmatwala shouldn't be remade as it is not a Mughal-E-Azam.
We would never try to attempt a Mughal-E-Azam because we can never beat that film. There can be only one Mughal-E-Azam.
We can only do films that we feel we can present in a better manner.
Sridevi is right. Himmatwala is not Mughal-E-Azam. We should never remake classics. I think for Sridevi, Himmatwala is Mughal-E-Azam and so is my first film Phool Aur Kaante for me.
Your last few films have either been comedies or action films. Are you consciously restricting yourself to the commercial format?
It hasn't been a conscious decision. My next release is Satyagraha, which is an intense film but at the same time very commercial.
Today, in our industry, there are very few actors who are accepted by the audience in all genres and I am lucky to be one of them.
I have been very lucky that I didn't have to struggle to get films. I would agree that I had to do a lot of hard work but I guess that holds true for everyone.
The stars that are ruling the roost are all 40 plus. They are still the ones the industry depends on. How do you analyse this?
When the audience accepts an actor, they accept him for life. I think boys become men in their 40s. You cannot cast young actors in films like Ghajini, Dabangg, Rowdy Rathore or Singham.
Even in Hollywood, it's all about men. I'm sure there are young boys in Bollywood who will eventually grow to be men and do the films that we are doing presently. Heroism is being a man.
'I don't want to do any film that has an A-certificate'
Do you sign a film for its box office potential?
Yes, I do, because after setting a benchmark, there's a responsibility that I have to live up to and provide full entertainment to the audience, especially my fans.
I have not heard a script like Zakhm that makes me not care about the box office, only for the sheer power of the script.
After the debacle of Rascals, you came out with a statement that you will never do a film that has double-meaning jokes or vulgarity.
I have decided not to do anything that you can't watch with family. I don't want to do any film that has an A-certificate.
I was recently watching a Hindi film with my family and after a while my father got up and went away. Later, when I asked him the reason, he said that the girls in the film were wearing skimpy clothes and he thought we would be embarrassed to watch it with him.
I don't want to do such films. It is a myth that if you show vulgarity or actresses in skimpy clothes then the film will work.
What are the benefits of being a star?
There is no way anyone can enjoy star power. If an actor makes the smallest mistake everyone pounces on us and tries to make an issue out of it.
Apart from the media we also deal with a lot of people who try to act smart with us. We have to tackle everyone.
As a celebrity I have to think twice before I say anything. It's just a myth that celebrities enjoy star power. I feel it works in a negative manner for us.
'Kajol doesn't want to do something she isn't fully satisfied with'
Kajol, at a recent press conference, stated that no actress is better than her in Bollywood right now.
I read that and I think she was misquoted. What she meant was that it takes time for any actor or actress to grow in this industry. Everyone takes time.
But do you agree with her statement?
Without being biased, I believe she's the number one actress and the best actor we have in Bollywood today.
There are rumours that Kajol will be soon be seen in a film
Yes, we are working on a script. She doesn't want to do something she isn't fully satisfied with.
You are against blocking screens for release. So what do you have to say when UTV films is clubbing your film with Chennai Express and blocking single screen theatres to edge out Akshay's Once Upon a Time in Mumbai-2?
If it is true I am against it. My support is not with anyone but the system. Although I don't have a choice as I am not the producer of Himmatwala.
I'm still fighting my case in court and I still maintain that I'm fighting against a wrong practice. I am not fighting against any actor or company. My support is for the system.