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“I have never been a prisoner of any particular image”

As superstar Ajay Devgn celebrates his 50th birthday on April 2, what stands out in his long innings in the industry is his versatility. On this occasion, we celebrate the fact that Devgn is one of the very few actors who has stayed relevant over the years. And there’s his charisma too. If we list the actors who have ruled at the Hindi box office over 100 years, there is only a handful of stars that stand out due to their fan following and charm. Devgn is also among the most bankable stars we have, delivering some of the industry’s biggest hits of all time, even after being in the industry for nearly three decades.

To mark his special day, Vajir Singh talks to the superstar about his incredible journey, his undying love for Hindi cinema and how he has managed to stay on top.

It’s time for your 50th birthday.

(Smiles)

Happy Birthday in advance.

(Smiles)

Any special plans to celebrate your birthday?

Have I ever done that? It’s going to be as usual, with my family.

But this is a special one.

Well, every day is a special day. For an actor, for me, every Friday has been a special day. Day one of the shoot is special to me. The day I come across a script which I choose to do is a special day for me. And the most special day for me is when my audience acknowledges the hard work that’s gone into making a movie and when they appreciate my work.

For anyone and everyone, what’s most special is his or her work getting appreciation. And I’ve been lucky that, during my career, not only has the audience had faith in my choices but has also lapped up my work.

It’s been a fruitful journey for you in Tinsel Town.

Instead, I would say it has been a very satisfying journey for me so far. But being an actor, you’re never satisfied and there’s always a hunger to do more, to do better, to attempt something you’ve never done before. For an actor, being hungry to do more and do better is of utmost importance. The more the hunger, the better it is. The moment you feel you’re satisfied, it’s an alarming situation.

Apart from this, the day you feel you’re not taking away anything from the sets once ‘pack up’ is announced, you’re drifting away from your art. Every day, I take away something or learn something on the sets. For me, that’s the most important thing. Even a spot boy can tell you or teach you or make you aware of something you haven’t been attentive to. 

How did you feel when you saw yourself on the big screen for the first time?

(Smiles) Nice.

What’s the one thing you did or you want the younger generation to know in terms of sustaining in this competitive industry and staying on top of the game?

To start with, there’s no rule or method. For an actor, it’s all about picking up the right film and evolving with every movie. As an actor, you shouldn’t be a prisoner of any particular image. Though I was called an ‘action actor’ in the initial stages of my career, look at the kind of movie I have chosen. While I was doing action-packed movies, I also did a film called Dhanwan, which was a romantic film. And this was in the initial phase of my career.

My debut film Phool Aur Kaante is mainly known for my entry scene, which was on two bikes, but it was a love story. And in my debut film, I even played a father. I was very clear from day one that I was not going to repeat any of my acts and it is the script that makes or breaks a film. As actors, we can only enhance the potential of a script with our performance. As actors, we need to discover and rediscover ourselves every now and then.

If you look at my filmography, you will see instances where I have done movies which had an action backdrop but not too many fight sequences. Though Company was a film about the underworld, I didn’t raise my hand on anyone in the film. Ditto with Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. And my audience wasn’t disappointed.

I may not use my fists in a film but, eventually, it is my character that defeats everyone. In these movies, my character uses his intelligence to play a cat-and-mouse with everyone in the film. The movie keeps you on your toes because of the character I play.

What difference do you see in the audience, then and now?

Change is constant in every field. We see a drastic change in each area of filmmaking, every three or four years. Why just us, I have been around for so many years and I’ve seen our audience evolving. And to match up to the audience, we filmmakers have to evolve too. We’ve been trying to outdo ourselves with each movie that we make. What used to work with the audience then doesn’t work now. We also need to respect the evolving audience and serve them what they want. 

You have been delivering 100-crore movies one after another but after a point, doesn’t it put pressure on you?

Whether we accept it or not, as stars, we are always under pressure to deliver. And this pressure is created by us and media hype when we do a Rs 100-crore movie. Earlier, we used to celebrate silver and golden jubilees; now it’s the `100-crore club. While such films don’t always open well, they pick up with word-of-mouth. But I’m never worried about the fate of any of my movies. I just ensure that audiences watch them.

Every film has its own merits and limitations. We need to judge a film by its investment. A case in point is Drishyam, which may not have had taken a gigantic opening like my other movies like Singham or the Golmaal series or the recent one Total Dhamaal but neither did the collections nosedive once the initial craze subsided. And the same thing happened with Raid, which opened very well and with positive word-of-mouth, the film’s collections too kept growing.

Every film has its own charm. Let me tell you something funny. During interviews, journalists ask me why I don’t act in films like Zakhm any more or The Legend of Bhagat Singh. And when I do small movies like Drishyam or Raid, I’m asked while I’m delivering blockbusters with commercial movies ‘why I am attempting these small movies?’ I don’t reply and they get their answers when the movies release  (Smiles).

You were never fond of giving interviews but with social media becoming very instrumental in promoting movies, you have no option but to be seen and talk about your movies…

(Cuts in) I think it’s good. I have always been a private person and once I’m done with my work, I just switch off. But looking at the huge investments in movies that we make, it is very essential that you convey what you’ve made to the audience. If it’s not conveyed in the right manner, how do you expect the audience to come to watch your movies? You need to tell them what’s in store for them.

Talking about speaking to the media, I have always been speaking to them. Earlier, there were fewer publications or journalists, so I would speak to fewer people. Right now, there are more, so I speak to more people and that’s why you feel I’m speaking to the media. But the truth is, I used to speak to them then and now too. While their tribe has grown, I am the same (Laughs).

Lastly, is there anything you want to tell your fans?

Keep loving and watching cinema.

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