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'I have always fought good battles'

I have always fought good battles
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What has the journey of Ajay Devgn Films been like so far?

Ajay Devgn (AD): It’s been very good. We co-produced our first film in 1996 - Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha. Then we made an array of films like Hindustan Ki Kasam, Dil Kya Kare, Raju Chacha, All The Best, Bol Bachchan and Son Of Sardaar. So it’s been fabulous, touch wood. Except for Raju Chacha, where I got very ambitious. The film didn’t do badly but the budgets were too high. We were talking of a Rs 30-crore budget 13 years ago.
I had built a set and we were doing animation for the first time but I was happy that it was us who introduced CG in India. Apart from this film, all our other films have done well and made money. My intention is not to make just films but to only make good films. Otherwise, I would be making ten films a year! The idea is to make good films and to get the right scripts. In fact, currently we are working on four or five scripts, which will go on the floors in a few months. As always, they’re progressive cinema but also entertaining.

You were the first actor to get into production.


AD: (Cuts in) Yeah, I think so! Kuch scripts aisi hoti hain jinko padhke lagta hai ki yeh aapko bannani chahiye. And you always want to experiment with it. Like Dil Kya Kare was one of those films. It did very well overseas. There were some scripts that I really wanted to make and Raju Chacha was an ambitious one, where I wanted animation of that level. And which I didn’t think any other producer could have thought of at that level for me and could actually do it. That’s why I thought I might as well do it!
So, it’s all about belief in a film and if you rope in someone else, he or she would want to chip in with their ideas. You may want to make a particular film your way and the other person may not be on the same page. Some people approach you with their vision and if you believe in their vision, you team up with them. At the same time, when you come across a film and you think only you can justify it, you go with your gut feel.

You have a very lean, mean organisation.


AD: I believe that few people can do their job but it is very important that they know their job. Today, when we meet with corporates, Tees log aakar baith jaate hain, ussmein se 15 log kya kar rahe hain hamein pata hi nahi hota. Meeting kis baat ki ho rahi hai pata nahi hota. But that’s how they work and this is how we work. We know what we’re doing.
There are no chairs here, there are faces. This is the basic difference between a corporate studio and a production house. I don’t mean to criticise corporatisation but too many cooks can spoil the broth. A crowd only leads to confusion. But our company knows who’s doing what, their respective strengths and weaknesses, and each one of us gives our best.

All the films you have produced feature you as the lead actor in them. Do you see that changing?


AD: Yes, that’s changing! Like I said, we are working on four to five films right now. Out of them, only two of them feature me in the cast.

Apart from being the first to get into production and distribution, you’ve always believed in budding talent and have worked with first-time directors.


AD: (Smiles) Anees Bazmi, Rohit Shetty and Bunty (Milan Luthria) started with us. When I worked with these guys, they were all new directors and now they are very big directors. I am going to do the same in future too.

Looking back… What made you sign Prakash Jha for Dil Kya Kare although he was in a lull phase?


AD: I heard the script of Dil Kya Kare and, yes, Prakashji was going through a lull phase. I told him I loved the script a lot. It was a unique script at the time and I wanted to promote films like that. So I asked him if he would let me produce it. He agreed immediately. Basically, I am the only commercial actor who started dabbling with films like Thakshak or Zakhm because I wanted to balance things. I have learnt a lot from Bhatt saab (Mahesh Bhatt), Prakashji (Prakash Jha) and Govindji (Govind Nihalani). My growth as a performer has come from their abilities.

After Dil Kya Kare, you worked with Prakash Jha again, on Gangaajal, which was like
Jha-sir’s revival in commercial cinema.


AD: Because I believe in that kind of cinema. I feel Prakashji found a great balance between telling a story, engaging the audience and saying something more. You don’t expect films like these to do extraordinary business because they are also social-oriented. Somewhere, you should do films like these as well as long as they are not disasters. They are like oxygen to acting and the other films are oxygen to stardom.

You have stood by directors, regardless of their track record. Did you do that to create goodwill?


AD: It is not about goodwill! Rohit and Bunty started their careers with me as assistants. We shared a great rapport and I promised them that I would do a film with them whenever they were ready. And that’s what I did.

The fact that your banner carries your name, do you think it becomes a liability sometimes given your stature as a star?


AD: One has to be very careful with what you are associating with. Now, I can’t name the film but I wouldn’t want to be associated with a vulgar film.

What type of films does Ajay Devgn Films stand for?


AD: Commercial, good… everything! Where people like watching the film and where you can make something that is sensitive and nice, and which is still commercial.

One final question – how does Ajay, the actor, help Ajay Devgn, the producer, and vice-versa?


AD: I make better cinema that way. Ajay, as an actor, has his upside also for a production house. In terms of a producer helping the actor, you realise that there’s a certain sincerity when you think ki yaar agar you’ll leave it and not do a good job then kitna nuksaan ho jayega. As a child, I used to go on the sets with my dad. I won’t name the actor but woh aaram se 2:30 pm tak aate the aur sab dhoop main baithe rehte thhe. Tab namake-up vans hoti thi na umbrellas hote thhe. And that actor would come giving gaalis and throwing his weight around. And the entire unit would bad-mouth him behind his back. I never forgot that. That’s when I decided I would never arrive late for a shoot. Warna log mujhe bhi gaali denge.

– With special arrangement with Box Office India
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