Ajay Devgn, who enthralled the audience in Singham, is back with its sequel, Singham Returns. Donning his policeman’s uniform, Bajirao Singham is all set to provide entertainment to the audience and create new records at ticket counters this August 15. Here’s what he has to say about the sequel and the business of cinema
(Cuts in) It’s not me, its Bajirao Singham who’s back. From the feedback I received for my performance as Bajirao Singham the last time, I’ve understood that it’s not me as an actor, but the character Bajirao Singham, who has returned. It doesn’t happen with an actor every time… that he plays a character who is loved and appreciated by all age groups. The audience actually believes it’s not an X actor, but an X character that they are watching on screen! That was the impact Bajirao Singham has left on people with Singham. And now he’s back!
Can we say Bajirao Singham returns with double the entertainment this time?
I would say that double the entertainment would be an understatement. If Singham was a story of an honest police officer and a villain, Singham Returns is so much more. This time the story has much more, yet will connect with everyone. As the previous one was, this film too is not preachy. It has some facts taken from what we get to read or hear in our day-to-day life.
If the audience connected with the character Bajirao Singham the last time around, this time apart from the character, the audience would also connect with the storyline. Singham had a basic story but it was conceived and presented differently. This time, the film has a solid base but the bottom line is the same - it’s pure entertainment for the audience.
Obviously! Why would an X number of audience spend a certain amount to watch a film? Each film has its own merits and target audience but films like Singham and Singham Returns have universal appeal. They cater to all age groups and also appeal to a niche audience who believes in watching a certain kind of cinema.
That’s the reason Singham gets good TRPs even today when it comes on television. In fact, if you think comedies are the best genre on the small screen, then the Golmaal series should be getting good TRPs on the television, and they do, but you must check the TRPs of Singham. Even today, I get messages from my journalist friends that they are watching Singham on television with their families and enjoying it.
This has happened not only because the movie did huge business, but because of the way the film was conceived and visualised by Rohit (Shetty) and the way everyone related with the character of Bajirao Singham.
Singham did huge business and a lot more is expected from Singham Returns. Being in the industry for so many years, do you still feel the pressure?
If I say there’s no pressure I would be lying. Yes, there’s pressure. There’s always some pressure. Not just for me, but for all of us, be they technicians, the director or the actors. Who doesn’t want their hard work to be rewarded? All of us work so hard - right from the spot boys to the entire technical crew to the actors… and after giving months to a project, obviously we do expect it to win the hearts of our audience. In turn, we get rewarded. This is not just limited to our film industry. It is true for each and every field. You, as a journalist, want your articles to be appreciated; it’s the same with each one of us.
Coming back to your question, I will give you an example. When Bol Bachchan released, it opened really well but we didn’t start celebrating. That’s not because we weren’t happy with its opening but because we kept waiting when for it to touch the Rs 100-crore mark. And by the time the film did so, we had moved on. So we couldn’t celebrate the success.
Any film takes its own time to its goal, but you can’t always wait for it to happen. Sometimes you’re already busy with your next venture. So there is no excitement of celebrating the success.
(Laughs) I always think when will my film touch a certain figure and I can assure you other actors also do the same thing. However, media wants an X actor’s collection to beat Y actor’s collection. They’re more interested in competition.
See, with each day, the collection is only growing. Earlier, this magical mark of Rs 100 crore was unimaginable, and there will be a time when we will even touch the Rs 1000 crore mark! And it is not going to end. Business is only growing with each passing Friday. Earlier, we would talk about Jubilees and it ended with 100 days, followed by another 50-day run; and now it’s the Rs 100-crore mark. So the definition of success is changing. But if you look at it closely, it’s the business which is actually growing.
Instead of checking who’s making what or scoring how much, we should be happy that our industry is growing. I have been a part of this industry much before I became an actor. I have closely seen the changing face of cinema and I’m happy that today we’re here, and tomorrow we will be far ahead.
It is not just the lifetime collection which is growing, but the system is changing. Look at the films that we used to make earlier and look at what we’re making today. Earlier, our business was limited to our country and few neighbouring nations. Now, we release our movie in countries we never imagined or dreamt of. And last but not the least, look at the way technology is changing.
As an actor, my criterion is that I have to do a commercial film, and a role that I’ve not tried before. But I always keep commercial viability in mind. Also, the budget plays a very important role. These days, we work backwards. First, we zero onto a script and the second step is to calculate the returns and then the rest follows. If you feel that a film will recover only a certain amount, you must cut down on the budget.
Today, no one thinks of distributors and exhibitors. But I do. If you don’t give them the worth of the money they are spending for your film, then the next time, they won’t come to you.
True, gone are the days when the audience would only be interested in the entertainment of watching a film; today they want to know what kind of business it is doing. Earlier, only the producers or the distributors would be interested in the business part, then it was the media who got interested, but now even the audience wants to know.
Earlier the word of mouth would help the collection to grow, but now, for several movies, growth in collection helps the growth in business. There was once an era of 100 days, Silver Jubilee, Golden Jubilee and Platinum Jubilees. When I began my career, so many of my movies achieved all these goals. At my office, when I see all the trophies of Silver, Golden and Platinum Jubilees, I feel I miss those days. But things have changed. The time is different, audiences want more.
This is the generation of ‘first day’, ‘first weekend’, ‘first week’ and ‘second weekend’ after which the movie runs well only if the content is strong. Then you can think of a few more weeks. It is all about going all out, grabbing as many eyeballs and collecting as much as you can, as early as possible.
That’s why the first look is termed as ‘make or break’ for a film.
Correct! And I totally believe in that. If the first trailer is not received well, uske baad app kitna bhi zor laga do, nothing can help you. We have seen so many examples. People have gone out and promoted like mad. Promotions are only about reminding people that what you saw in the trailer is worth watching on the big screen.
So, how has been the response to the trailer of Singham Returns?
Just like the response to Singham was. It had surpassed all our expectations. The same way, the response to the trailer of Singham Returns was also far, far more than what we had expected. Through the trailer, we wanted to tell the audience what we have made. We wanted to convey that the sequel is much bigger, far more entertaining, and that the canvas is HUGE this time.
In the risky and unpredictable business of filmmaking, people are always searching for ‘safe’ formulas and dependable ingredients that increase the chances of success. And box office collections prove that more than anything else, it is action that our audience prefers. Perhaps
things were different earlier. Looking back, legendary actors of our industry such as Dilip Kumar saab, Raj Kapoor saab, Dev Anand saab, Shammi Kapoor saab and Rajendra Kumar saab ruled from the ’40s to the ’60s without action being their USP.
However, if you look at the history of our cinema ’70s onwards, action films have been at the forefront, thanks to stalwarts such as Amitji and Dharamji. The genre has dominated the blockbusters list of the last four decades or so. From time to time, you may have short spells where say… romantic films may have been the flavour of the season, but if you see the overall trend, action is by far the most successful genre, followed perhaps only by comedy.
But the most important thing in an action film is that the Indian hero should know how to use his fists and be able to single-handedly take on an army of armed villains. Only then will the audience accept you as a hero, and not just a male actor. I think Singham is a good example of what audiences expect from a hero, and I guess the film’s collection speaks for itself.
Having said that, for a film to work, everything needs to come together – the action has to be supported by a great script, stellar performances, good direction and a lot more. Inserting mindless action without any context doesn’t guarantee success. Similarly, there is no reason why a well-made love story or a thriller or a horror film will not work at the box office.
Lastly, today we see a different Ajay Devgn. One who is doing one film at a time and believes in limited releases in a year.
I did make mistakes in the past by accepting all the films coming my way, but not anymore. It was a conscious decision taken by me few years ago, and now I’m working at ease. I’ve also decided to get into direction for the second time in my career. That apart, I’m also producing a couple of films.