Discussing his political thriller, B-town’s dark horse justifies his statement about the ‘father of the nation’, why he’s still so greedy, corruption, issues affecting the common man, what the youth and the country need today, the failure of Himmatwala, why he backed out of Aarakshan, Prabhu Deva’s next, Singham 2 and much more…
Getting Ajay Devgn to talk in an interview is no mean feat. But after the Son Of Sardaar controversy (his war with Yash Raj Films), the otherwise shy and reserved actor who’s known for his largely monosyllabic replies has become outspoken and is always interesting to chat with. Though his last courageous attempt, the BO dud that was Himmatwala got him only brickbats – and the prolific actor isn’t used to those – for all the gravity-defying maar-dhaad and ridiculous dialogue. So this time Devgn consciously decided to adopt a non-violent stance in Prakash Jha’s Satyagraha. The powerhouse of talent who’s gung-ho about his new issue-based film has a lot to say….
Your character Manav Raghavendra in Satyagraha seems to be very ambitious, to the extent that he’ll do whatever that takes to reach the top. On the other hand, he also talks of the nation’s progress. Does your character reflect some sort of dichotomy?
Yes, it says that greed is very important. If you don’t have greed, why would you work hard and progress? Greed is the engine to progress and if channelised in the right way, it will make the country progress to see that you live in a better environment and a better scenario. And only that greed can take you forward. If you want your future to be good, you have to see that your country’s future is good too.
Manav has grey shades that are similar to your character in Halla Bol. In that film, Pankaj Kapur awakens you to fight for a cause…
Yeah, but then it faltered and the story was not really told effectively. In Satyagraha, the issue is very clear and connects with everybody’s suffering – rich and poor. The rich are worried about the rate of the dollar, whereas the poor are concerned about price of onions. I know people keep saying that the film’s characters are modelled on Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, but that’s just a small part. It’s about how four people from different fields and different beliefs come together to fight for a cause.
Are you still greedy as an actor?
Of course I am! I’m greedy to do good work all the time and that’s what keeps an actor going.
Do you think Satyagraha has more relevance in today’s time?
Satyagraha means that you protest for something peacefully without resorting to any violence. Brutality won’t help. I know people will curse me for saying this, but I believe Mahatma Gandhi was a very aggressive and violent person. Agar aapke andar utna gussa nahi hoga, then you cannot think and plan. Imagine you’re abusing me and I’m laughing at you – aapko aur gussa aayega. Lekin mera aggression andar kitna hoga ke main aap pe has raha hoon? That’s very important and Gandhiji’s non-violence weapon helped him. I guess today’s youth who’s already infuriated with society issues such as corruption, crime, etc, do protest and social networking sites are responsible for creating awareness among them that was not there two decades ago.
You’re the only actor who’s attempting lot of social films – Gangaajal and Apaharan directed by Prakash Jha, Halla Bol and Lajja…
(Cuts in) Zakhm too, which was a very beautiful story.
Is there some craving in you as a person and an actor that you think it’s your moral duty to do films based on social issues?
I think it’s personal satisfaction as an individual, but as an actor you feel like attempting various subjects. I’m very lucky that the audience has accepted me in such films, because generally people don’t like watching issue-based movies. I do what I feel as a person through social networking sites or any other medium. Even Kajol does, for that matter. We support girl child and environment related causes. After the Delhi rape case, I tweeted against it, but till evening it was blocked because aggression badh raha tha youth mein!
In today’s time, when political parties are trying to politicise and capitalise on their vested interests, the real life situation for the common man has become quite frightening. What’s your stand on what the country needs today?
The country needs one strong majority – I mean a political party. It’s our fault that we all decide and think differently. If there’s a coalition, people won’t be able to take a proper stand. That doesn’t mean any party is good or bad, but we should all select one party so that there’s a majority and issues are rectified. Aaj Obama ko bhi do term lag gaye to curb the inflation.
But ruling party ki majority hai…
Lekin utni nahi hain na ke woh sahi decision le paaye! It’s like if I want to do something, you also have to say yes, but you have your own agenda, so you’ll say no. So we are not being able to progress or pass any law. That’s the problem.
Will people watch Satyagraha for the cause or for the stars?
The best part of Satyagraha is its story, the characters and their emotional bonding. The issue is secondary. It’s a beautiful story, with a political backdrop. Everything gets sorted in the end. It’s very important for an issue-based film like this; you have to solve it, otherwise people will get dejected thinking that desh ka toh kuch nahi hua. Satyagraha shows a practical solution that the youth will relate to and realise that one has to think of something else besides a candle march.
There’s a perception that you are Prakash Jha’s favourite, besides Manoj Bajpayee, and have to do his every film….
That’s what you think and you’re projecting it as a perception! I always read scripts and then take a call. When I read the Aarakshan script, I told Prakashji that it was quite thanda and aapka mudda logon ki samajh mein nahi aayega. So I backed out of that film. As a friend, I suggested he not do it. He’s a very intelligent filmmaker who knows how to deal with an issue and keep the entertainment value up at the same time. I told Prakashji to stop making political dramas.
Sajid Khan said Himmatwala had the potential to cross Rs 100 crore. What went wrong with the remake?
While shooting the film, there was a feeling that something was going wrong. But it’s wrong to be critical about Sajid. He’s a good filmmaker. But I think the 1980s were shown and shot like the 1980s instead of giving it a contemporary look like we did in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai.
You’ve started shooting Prabhu Deva’s untitled project. How’s it coming along?
Fabulous! I was more than taken by surprise. His sense of humour is very subtle and nice. It’s an action comedy.
When will see you direct a film again? It’s been a while since U Me Aur Hum…
For that I need at least a one or one-and-a-half year break to think, as I don’t have time right now.
The current issue regarding the number of screens between Chennai Express and Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara reminds us of your problem with Yash Raj Films during Son of Sardaar. What’s your take?
This happened in Hollywood too and there was a law made. The person who suffered there went to the court, like I went to court. What happened with me, I had anticipated six months back. I knew that wouldn’t help SOS, because it was too late and the court cannot take a decision in a week or two. I thought such things shouldn’t happen with other people in the future. So I raised my voice against it. But unfortunately people didn’t understand that at that point of time, considering they knew what was happening. If they can’t protest, let them suffer.
That incident made you cautious as a producer and actor…
I’m always cautious. I’m still fighting the case in court.
So when are we going to see you with Kajol?
I don’t know. Let’s see. After Prabhu’s film, I’ll start shooting Singham 2, which we are looking forward to release next year on Independence Day.
Have you seen Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara?
Would you want to see the film?