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( and I wish Ajay Devgn a very happy 51st birthday today. To mark his 51st birthday which falls today on April 2, we reproduce the  interview of AJAY DEVGN by JYOTHI VENKATESH, which appeared in THE DAILY issue dt June 20, 1993, exactly 27 years ago, when Ajay was friendly with the media and also brutally frank and not just a man of few words like he is now)

Ajay Devgn is busy as a bee today, working in two shifts a day flitting from one set to another. Success has not changed him and he continues to remain affable, down to earth and what’s more and approachable and accessible. Not for him, the starry airs of a Salman Khan or for that matter an off- the- press stance. I met Ajay for this interview on the sets of producer Sudhakar Bokade’s Sansar being directed by K Vishwanath. Karsima and Ajay were shooting for a song picturisation that day. Since tough taskmaster K Vishwanath hardly spared Ajay in between the shots, I decided to nab the young actor after the pack up in the evening. Before getting ready for his next shift for Bedardi at the same venue- Filmistan in Goregaon, Ajay talked to me at length for two hours –yes you read it right two hours at a stretch on his attitude to work, his films on the floor, his price, his position, his family etc.

“I wonder why my critics dub me an action hero. I am not just all brawn or a fighter. My forthcoming films like Mahesh Bhatt’s Girvi, Sunil Agnohotri’s Singer and last but not the least Sanskar with K Vishwanath as the director will prove once and for all that I am not just an action hero. Before Jigar clicked at the box office, there were people in the industry who used to tell me that Phool Aur Kaante was a fluke in my career and refused to give me the credit for its success. So I am glad that Jigar clicked. Yet instead of acknowledging my contribution to the film as an actor, I am being criticized for being just an action hero who cannot act. If only action was running, any fighter could have become a super star. Isn’t it?

“Today you cannot make a film without action because it has become a part and parcel of our day to day life. Every film has action chaahe Salman ho ya Aamir ho.  I am comfortable while doing action roles as well as emotional romantic roles. Let’s face it, even action roles need a performer to portray emotions. If a producer offers to cast me in an out and out negative role which does not justify why the hero is black, I will not agree to do the role. You see in the public eye, the hero is always the hero-paak aur pavitra. Amitabh Bachchan tried to be negative in Pukar. What was the result? The public didn’t accept him in a negative role. I do not want to take a calculated risk at the box office by doing negative roles. However, I do not mind at all doing anti hero roles.

“It is not true that I am greedy enough to hike my price when a producer repeats me in another film of his. I decided not to work in producer Salim’s film even though Jigar produced by him turned out to be a big it only because I did not like the way he behaved. If I am not comfortable with a person while working in a film, what is the big idea in doing the film? Even if the subject is superb, I will refuse a film if I do not vibe with the maker, whether it is Subhash Ghai or for that matter Ramesh Sippy. (Ironically, Ajay has not worked with both of them)

“Do you know that till date I have not gone to a producer and asked for a role? I have struggled on my work, my performances and my films, though I did not have to struggle for a break as an actor when I set out to make acting my career. I became an actor because I was keen on taking up acting right from my childhood, not just because my father was keen on making me an actor. Believe me I never wanted to become a fighter or fight composer like my father fight composer Veeru Devgan.

“Actually my father was planning to produce Jigar with me as my debut making picture. When Salim expressed his desire to make the project, my father readily gave it to him because he was too busy to take tu direction immediately and did not want me to wait for my break indefinitely. I am glad I made my debut with an outsider like Dinesh Patel with Phool Aur Kaante. You see your father can launch a film for you but he cannot make you a star or for that matter an actor if in the first place you cannot act for nuts. I am basically a shy fellow, an introvert who does not open up easily. I should get to know a person for sometime before I start confiding in him. I can be very frank too. If I like a person, I say so, but if I do not, I make it very clear, I have landed in soup many a time because of this attitude but then I am not ready to change myself for the sake of others. I am what I am.

“Not many in the industry or my fans are aware that I was actually signed on to do the role which earlier Sanjay Dutt was doing in Khuda Gawah. In fact, director Mukul Anand had already signed me on after Amitabh Bachchan had okayed me. Mukul flew down to Chennai to discuss Sri’s dates for the film. I was all set to start my work on the film. Phool Aur Kaante was still being made. To my shock, Mukul came back and apologized to me and told me that Sridevi was particular that he should sign up Nagarjun for the role because she had already committed the role to him.  I was thrown out of Khuda Gawah because Sridevi rejected me.

“I do not charge unreasonable and fancy price. I ask for a major territory which is what today almost every actor in demand is asking, be it Amitabh Bachchan or Jackie Shroff for that matter Chiranjeevi or Rajanikant. Why should I let a producer ‘use’ me by paying me less and sell the film at a price which is in keeping with my market price? Today I am even ready to cut down on my market price provided the producer is ready to sell the film at a lesser price. I tell the producer that he should not sell his film at more than such and such amount if I charge him my price. Because I know for a fact that today a film or an actor does not flop. It is the price which flops. I will be benefitted if a film clicks. A picture will click if it is made at a cost of 25 lakhs and collects a crore. If it is made for a crore and collects a crore and a half, the profit is less and there are chances of it flopping too.

“Today I am doing several films. I am not insisting on doing only solo projects where I alone will be able to hog the footage, because I feel that footage is not important. What is important is the impact you make in the given footage. If the actor knows his job, he can prove himself even if he gets two scenes. If he is not a good actor, even if he gets 50 scenes in a film, he will not be able to prove that he is a good actor. I have absolutely no hang ups working in two hero projects. In K C Bokadia’s film I am working with Dharamji, Vinod Khanna, Mukesh Khanna etc. In Rajesh Roshan’s Karan Arjun, I am being teamed with Shah Rukh Khan, who is one actor in the current crop of heroes ,who is very promising, though I feel that there is no competition in the industry because every actor  has his own individuality and position. There are lots of roles in the industry for everybody. You do your work, they do their work. There is no question of competition or one trampling upon another’s work.”

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