Lead actors of the upcoming movie Raid, Ajay Devgn and Ileana D’Cruz, talk to Bhakti Mehta and Suranjana Biswas about their characters and the unique storyline of the film
Bhakti Mehta (BM): The trailer has created quite a buzz among the audience. What kind of response have you got from your fans?
Ajay Devgn (AD): Ileana, I think you should answer this question.
Ileana D’Cruz (ID): It has been amazing and overwhelming. I do not want anyone to take this the wrong way but I actually had no expectations from anyone. I know it is a great film but I never once wondered what people were going to think of the trailer. I did not ask anyone. Even without that, there are so many nice things that people are sharing with me. People from the industry have been saying great things. Also, I have friends who are not all that filmy but they too watched the trailer and told me that they not only liked it but they absolutely loved it. They loved how it looked because it is so different. And that is one of the reasons I did the film. It is an amazing, beautiful story and I think it needs to be told. I think the response has been absolutely phenomenal.
BM: The film has an interesting tagline, ‘Heroes don’t always come in uniform’. How did you all come up with it?
AD: I actually came up with that line. That’s my take on the film.
ID: It’s totally apt for this film.
AD: Yes, it is. I have also done so many films where the hero is in uniform. The character I play in Raid too is as strong and as honest as the ones I have played before. Income tax officers do not wear a uniform and that’s what we are showing. It is not necessary to wear a uniform to do your job here; it is the need to do the right thing.
ID: Also, I have always felt that we hear only one side of the story. We have spoken about what it feels like to be the victim, the person who is raided. But I have never heard the stories of income tax officers. We have no idea what the officer goes through and it is absolutely amazing. Very brave too.
Suranjana Biswas (SB): What kind of research did you have to do to portray this character on screen?
AD: This particular story is a real one and is based on somebody’s life. I met the person whose life it was inspired by as part of my research. But it wasn’t really research; it was more like a chat to understand what had happened and what he felt.
More than me, our director Raj Kumar Gupta was involved in this conversation with the person concerned. Then, Raj and I discussed it at length after which I offered my own take on it. The difference this time was that this central character needed to be mentally aggressive. He is not a physical guy. He cannot be physically aggressive. So you will see that the whole attitude is very different from, say, a Singham.
BM: Ajay sir, as you said, you are playing a role based on someone’s life. Does that make it easier or more difficult?
AD: It is sometimes easier to play a fictional character but it depends on the character and the situation. When you are playing a role based on real people and incidents, it is easier because you can identify with the situation as it has actually happened. But it is also tougher to be somebody else. Hence, you need to strike the right balance for your role.
SB: What is the one thing that prompted you to say ‘yes’ to this film?
ID: Ajay first told me about this movie when we were promoting our last movie Baadshaho. He told me that it was not a very long role but it was definitely very interesting and a great story. I honestly had no idea what to expect but when I heard the story, I genuinely felt very positive towards it. It is such an interesting concept.
AD: (Cuts In) It is basically a story that needs to be told.
ID: Absolutely. There are many stories like this. I didn’t expect my role to be what it is. When I learnt that I would be playing his wife in the movie, I thought the character would be a typical, demure 80s wife. But she is actually a very spunky woman.
AD: And a very strong character with a lot of substance.
ID: Yes, it is very strong. I love the way she speaks to him and the equation they share. They are equals in their relationship and that’s really lovely. I liked the fact that my role was quite spunky. Even though it is not very long, it will leave a mark.
BM: When we had spoken to the producers and the director of Raid, they described the female protagonist as one of those heroes mentioned in the tagline that don’t need a uniform.
ID: It shows you the truth because the wives of income tax officers need to be immensely brave, especially when their husbands go out on raids. I think the situation might have changed a little but, back then, husbands wouldn’t tell their wives where they were going. They had no idea whether the husband was coming back the same day or coming back at all. It’s quite a scary situation to be in for a while.
AD: In fact, just yesterday, we met the family of an income tax officer. The wife was saying that her husband had never told her about all this, where he was going, and she kept worrying. So it does reflect the reality of what they experience.
SB: Both of you are doing this film almost on the heels of your last one, in which you had worked together for the first time. Was there a comfort level you shared the second time around in Raid?
AD: I think the comfort level between us was there from the very first day of our first movie.
ID: Day one, actually. I was super nervous on my first day on the sets of Baadshaho and he completely calmed me by saying that it was fine and asking me to just chill. I was nervous because I had so many lines. I remember Ajay was leaving that day, it was the last day of his schedule and that had me panicking. I was, like, will I be able to finish this on time? He had to be this quiet person in the scene and I had all these lines, I was a nervous wreck. But he was extremely helpful and calm throughout. We just broke the ice. Actually, there was no ice; we got along from day one.
AD: Yeah, we don’t have to work on comfort level.
ID: True. We just sort of work together.
BM: How much of a romance angle will we see in this film?
AD: The romance is very real. Actually, I wouldn’t call it romance; I would call it a relationship between a husband and wife.
ID: Yes, we are talking about the intimacy between them. It isn’t this cheesy thing.
AD: You cannot call what they share as ‘romance’.
BM: From the trailer, it is obvious that the film’s premise is an income tax officer conducting raids in people’s homes or offices. That plotline may seem a little limited to some. How did you make sure you balanced it with entertainment to make it engaging?
AD: From the promo itself, the audience is saying it looks very real and very commercial too. The thrill angle, the relationships and the tension make it very commercial. When I heard the script, it felt real but it has been written in the commercial space. That is the best part of the script.
SB: Director Raj Kumar Gupta and producer Kumar Mangat have said that this film is socially very relevant, which is a trend that everyone is following. What is your take on that?
AD: I think that filmmaking should not be limited to delivering a message. If it is in the story, if it comes out automatically, then that’s great. Here, in Raid, it does come out automatically. It talks about this man who is ready to risk his family and his life. Why is he so honest? The message is what he is doing for his department and his country. The film also explains a lot of things like the adverse effects of not paying income tax. Many people feel that there is no need to share the money they have. If you’re not educated enough, then you would think that is right. So there are these subtle messages in the film.
BM: This is also the first movie based on the subject of income tax, not only in India but the world too.
AD: Yeah, I have not heard of a film nor seen a film anywhere in the world on this topic. It is novel but it is not the criterion for me or the issue. The criterion and issue is that the story is so intriguing that you can’t think of anything else.
ID: It’s one of those films that needs to be shown. Not every story needs to have a moral. Sometimes, it is purely an entertaining journey. You don’t have to wait till the end and be like, achcha this is what they were talking about. You don’t have to wait for the end. You just go through the entire process and experience the film.
SB: What was it like working with director Raj Kumar Gupta?
AD: It was very nice. I think he is very sensible. He loves his work. He understands cinema very well. He only talks about work.
ID: (Cuts In) Actually, yes, he only talks about work. (Laughs). He is lovely, though.
BM: Ajay sir, you have worked with antagonists who have been larger-than-life, like in Singham. What was your reaction when you got to know that Saurabh Shukla, who is not known to play the villain, had been roped in for the negative character in Raid?
AD: It all depends on the character and the film they are in. Singham needed a villain that was larger-than-life because he was larger-than-life. Here, the villain is actually much stronger than the hero, mentally and physically, in terms of his army. He has the manpower; he has the backing of politicians. It is actually very realistic. He is one of those villains who exist in society today.
ID: He is literally strong because he has hundreds of people behind him. Massive clout.
AD: (Cuts In) And our hero is not someone who goes around throwing punches. He is not that kind of person.
BM: The movie has been shot in a very short span of time. Any challenges you faced while filming?
AD: It was shot in one go and there were no challenges. Everything was planned very well.
BM: From challenges during filming to challenges during the film’s release… how much will Raid benefit from a solo release amid so many clashes?
AD: Well, yes, solo release is always better. The only thing better than a solo release – and what people keep struggling for – is a holiday weekend. Those aspects are crucial to the business of a film. But that cannot happen all the time. We have so many movies but a finite number of weeks every year. Even though we have a solo release, the business of the film depends on many other factors. Take, for example, the recently released Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety. It opened at `5.5-6 crore, but the way it is going, it could touch `100 crore. So, it does not matter who your film is opening against or when it is releasing. A good film will always work.
ID: Yes, at the end of the day, the content of the film makes all the difference.
SB: Talking about box office numbers, do you track the collections of your films?
AD: We completely do. It is also our job to do that. We need to know how a film is working, what is working, how many screens and what not. It is part of the business.
BM: And when a film doesn’t do well at the box office…
AD: (Cuts In) Actually, I usually know how a film will fare even before it releases. So I am quite detached from it.
SB: What is your take on the business side of things, Ileana?
ID: I do not track numbers all that much. And if a film does not do well, I try to not let it affect me. If it isn’t doing well, I just try and let go of it the minute it is ready for release because it doesn’t make sense getting attached to it. At the end of the day, people will either like it or hate it. If they like it, great and if they don’t, then let’s move on and make something better. I try and move on.
SB: What would you like the audience to take back after watching Raid?
AD: It’s a nice film with a strong story. People will definitely appreciate it for what it is.
BM: Lastly, can you shed some light on what’s next for you after Raid releases on March 16?
ID: I haven’t yet signed anything after this. I am taking it a little easy for now. I want to really think before I choose my next project. I have been talking to my manager but we haven’t come to a decision yet.
AD: I am currently working on two films. One is Total Dhamaal and the other is the romantic comedy directed by Akiv Ali. Then, I will start the shoot for Tanaji.