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“Tanaji: The Unsung Warrior Is A Special Film To Me- Ajay Devgn

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Jyothi Venkatesh

What is your role in the film Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior?

I play the titular role in the movie – Chhatrapati Shivaji’s general Tanaji Malusare

How was it working with your wife Kajol in Tanhaji The Unsung Warrior?

Working with Kajol once again on the sets of our upcoming film Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, I felt like being at home. Incidentally, you will be aware of the fact that Tanhaji will my Ajay’s 100th release. Working on the ambitious period drama, I don’t know what the feeling is, because I felt that we are at home and not on a film set. We behaved with each other in front of everybody the way we behave at home. So, I won’t be able to differentiate.

You and Kajol have worked together in several films in the past. In what way was the experience different this time around?

Kajol and I have worked in Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, Dil Kya Kare and U Me Aur Hum. In Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, I play the role of the brave Maratha military leader Tanhaji Malusare while Kajol is playing my wife Savitribai Malusare. There is no difference between work and home! (Laughs)

Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is your 100th film. How do you feel?

Apart from being my 100th film, I feel that it’s really a special film because when you play a historical character like Tanhaji, who has been such a great warrior, it increases your responsibility as an actor. Sharad Kelkar also said the same thing when he was asked about his experience playing the role of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the film. So, it is very important to see you don’t portray such characters in wrong manner.

You are seen doing unbelievable stunts in the trailer of the 3D film. Is it true that   it will be high on war violence?

As far as the stunts go, I injured myself several times executing them. Right now, my leg is injured.

What kind of preparations did you have to do to get into the skin of your character of Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior?

As an actor, who had submitted himself completely to his vision as a director, I should confess that I only followed my director. It was quite tough for me, because whatever books or documents that I had read for the making of this film, there wasn’t much detailed information available about Tanhaji’s behavior, and I had no other alternative but to imagine and maintain dignity of the character while portraying it.

Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior also features Saif Ali Khan!

Saif plays Uday Bhan in the film. Saif and I got along very well right from our first film, which was Kachche Dhaage (1999) and then we had Omkara (2006) a couple of years later. Unluckily, I would say, we didn’t work together as much as we should have. For Tanhaji, we wanted an actor like Saif who is all the time at loggerheads with Tanhaji, who has the apt personality and gravitas. I feel Saif is perfect for the role. With Saif, I had also earlier worked in films like LOC: Kargil too. I also enjoyed working with all my co-actors.  I just cannot wait for Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior to open on January 10, 2020.

Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior happens to be your 100th film. How was your experience as an actor?

Frankly speaking, mentally, I feel that Tanhaji : The Unsung Warrior is my actually first film and it is just that two zeroes have been added to it. I am as anxious as I was when my first film (Phool Aur Kaante, 1991) released. You should know because you were there at Sun N Sand when the party to announce my first film was hosted by its producer way back in 1991. As an actor, you work so hard on every film and you want the audience to love what you have made. This anxiety always remains, no matter how many films you make. If I had to describe my 100-film journey in one word, it would be ‘satisfying’. When I was doing my first film, I never thought even that would get made… ab toh 99 filmein aur bann gaye hain !

How do you feel when you look back at your career till date?

When you work, you learn every day. You learn from your own mistakes, you learn from the mistakes of others. You don’t always understand it then but when you have to apply that learning to a situation you are thrown in, then you realize how invaluable it is and how much you have learnt from every film and every role. All I have learnt is to be honest to my work and most importantly, to mind my own business. You just need to love your work.

What is your advice to aspiring actors?

First, they need to decide whether they want to be a star or an actor. If you want to be an actor, then your talent and dedication is enough. To become a star, maybe things like public relations, attending parties and being seen at the right places are important. An actor can become a star, but if you just concentrate on becoming a star, chances are that you will not make it as an actor.

How was it to be in the shoes of Tanhaji?

We had to prep a lot for the war sequences. Apart from that, it was necessary to understand the mindset and psyche of a great warrior-hero who sacrificed his life and his family. It was not at all an easy thing to do… you or me will not be able to do it. I needed to understand the mindset of the man. It was a tough film to shoot as the making of the film it was a learning process.

What was your initial reaction when director Om Raut narrated the script to you?

When the director narrated the script to me and I learnt about the sacrifices that Tanhaji made, I thought that the world needed to know more about him. He’s an unsung warrior — as the tagline of the film says — and I feel that the two paragraphs on him that we studied in school don’t do him enough of justice. He deserves to be known better. There are so many such unsung heroes, from every state, in our country. The attempt is to start a series of films on unsung heroes so that the whole country knows about them. Like if someone made huge sacrifices for Bengal in history, maybe most people in the south don’t know about him or her. I don’t know who we will make a film on next, but we are working on a few scripts.

There is an allegation against you that Tanhaji sets out to present history inaccurately. What do you have to say to that?

There are many people in this country who just watch the trailer of a film and jump to conclusions and start making assumptions. We haven’t shown much in the trailer… it’s anyway an inter-cut of different moments from the film and so it’s wrong to assume what the film says or doesn’t say. What we have shown in the film has been gleaned from authentic sources from historians, from the family members, from historical texts. At the same time, while staying within the limits and parameters of historical accuracy, we have attempted to take certain cinematic liberties to make the film entertaining. When anyone tells a story, the attempt always is to enhance it in a way that the audience gets engaged and entertained.

You are shooting for Boney Kapoor’s Maidan in Kolkata. How was it shooting in Kolkata?

I shot Raincoat (2004) and then portions of Yuva (2004) in Kolkata and went back to shoot for Maidaan after a long gap. I have been waiting to come and shoot there for a long time… it’s been 15-16 years, I think. But I must tell you that in the 10 days that I was there to shoot for Maidaan, I put on 4kg just eating the lovely sweets I was offered.

How was it meeting the soccer legend P.K. Banerjee, when you set out to act in Maidaan?

When you meet such people, you can’t put the experience into words. He’s one of the greats to have played the game and now that he’s old and infirm, it’s tough for him to even talk, you do feel bad. Meeting him was a very, very emotional moment for me.

How was it playing Syed Abdul Rahim in Maidaan?

Like Tanhaji, I am of the opinion that he is also an unsung hero. He was the architect of modern Indian football and during the time he was the manager and coach of the Indian football team, and the team was known as ‘The Brazil of Asia’. Today’s generation knows nothing about this. In fact, when the makers of the film first told me about this story and this man, I thought they were lying. I also googled and read about him and realized that every word written about him is true.

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