(watching thefilm) would easily notice it. But I’ve made a
commitment so I fulfill it (byfinishingthefilm).”
This sense of commitment — towards his films and
towards his friends — is the reason why, at times, he has suf-
fered professionally (Drishyam, incidentally, is co-produced
by his former manager and long-time friend Kumar
“I have done a lot of films for friendship and, whenever I
have done that, I have suffered,” he says.
This, says Devgn, who will complete 25 years in the film
industry in 2016, is something that the new generation of
actors “don’t do. There are very few friendships that exist in
the industry today. Our generation has maintained the
relationships, but the new generation are hard-core profes-
Devgn — who began his career with the hit film, PhoolAur
Kaante, in 1991, in an industry that was “close-knit”— says,
“The warmth is gone. Filmmaking and films have just
become a business.”
There is, he believes, something that could be learnt from
the way the present generation of actors approach their pro-
fession. “The new generation is evolving. They are emotion-
al, but at the same time very practical. Even my children talk
about practicality more than anything. I am not saying that
they are wrong. Like I said, I did films for friendship but now
when I look back, I think I should have said no to them
because it would have saved me and the producer too.
Sometimes, it’s practical to say no.”
Devgn says he now tries to “strike a balance” between the
films he would like to do as an actor and the films that his
fans would like to see him in. “Now, I make it a point to do
films that I like… films that I would like to watch in the the-
atres. But I always keep in mind that my work should be
liked by fans.”
And by those who announce the numerous film awards in
Devgn dismissed awards as he would an errant fly. “I don’t
believe in awards because they are a sham. It’s a show and
the organizing committee pays the actors to attend the func-
tion. Awards are given to almost all the actors who agree to
attend the function. It’s become a business.”
But there is, even for someone like Devgn, an award that
matters. An award that that has not yet been given to Aamir
Khan, who has been hailed as thinking man’s actor, or
Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan. The national award. An
award that he valued. An award that he has been honored
“I did not reach on time to receive my first National
Award (Zakhmin 1998). I was shooting in Ooty and was supposed to take a morning flight to Delhi, which got cancelled.
I called the authorities and told them that I wouldn’t make it.
They requested me to send someone from my family and my
mother went to receive the award,” smiles Devgn.
The second time around, he was holidaying
in Mauritius with his family. “I flew back to Delhi,” he recalls,
“received the award (for The Legend Of Bhagat Singh in
2003) and went back. It’s a fabulous feeling because there is
no show off, no speeches, no dances. It’s just the President of
India who is giving the award.”
Devgn, clearly, is a family man.
“I believe in spending more time with my family,” he says
firmly, though he will not talk about his brother, Anil Devgn
who directed Raju Chacha and Blackmail. “The mind-set in
our house is still very middle class. My parents live with me.
My mother runs the house. Staying connected with your par-
ents is very important. Right now my mother is
in Bulgaria with Kajol (she is shooting for Rohit Shetty’s
Dilwale). My father is here with me as he is unwell and can-
In an earlier interview, he talks about how he is “fortunate
to have such beautiful parents. It’s always important to have
a good upbringing.”
“A lot of people,” he grins, “are shocked when I tell them
that I live with my parents, but they have made me who I am
today. Back home I am just a normal person. I believe in the
traditional Indian values. I am a very orthodox person. If I
see a guy misbehaving, I straightaway blame the parents for
not giving him a good upbringing. I may be wrong, but I
think parents have a lot of influence on their children.”
Like many celebrities who live in the limelight, Ajay Devgn
loves his privacy. Unfortunately for him, it is not a decision
that’s entirely in his control.
As a star in the Hindi film industry — in fact, as an actor
who commands a reliable presence at the box office with anywhere between two to three releases a year and a legion of
fans — limelight is a double-edged sword he cannot ignore.
So, if he takes on Yashraj Films, the powerful production
house that had produced his wife Kajol’s runaway hit Dilwale
Dulhania Le Jayenge, and made her the heartthrob of the
nation, because he believes they arm-twisted distributors
and theatre owners into ignoring his film, Son Of Sardaar, in
favor of their own Jab Tak Hain Jaan (both released on the
same day in 2012), it was a battle that had to be fought in the
Taking on one of the giants in the industry — at a time
when its patriarch, Yash Chopra, had passed away, as a result
of which emotions were ranged against Devgn — did not faze
Nor does the fact that he sometimes juggles multiple roles
— that of producer, director and actor. “I am directing, acting and producing my next film Shivaay and I enjoy each
role. Sometimes, I feel I like directing more than acting. But
those phases come and go,” he smiles.
Yet, there are things that make him insecure even today.
“There are a lot of expectations (fromme). I need to perform
and I guess that is the biggest insecurity that I have. There
are times I become conscious about choosing the right films.”
And then, there was the pressure created by these expecta-
tions. “There was a time when I would react under pressure.
I would get angry about certain things that were not hap-
pening the way I wanted them to. But now I am very calm
under pressure. With time you learn how to deal with it.”
Devgn is now distracted. Kumar Mangat, clearly a more
important claimant on his time, has walked in a few minutes
ago. Devgn’s hands, which he has patiently and politely kept
to his side, now itch for his mobile phone. Outside the huge
glass windows of the suburban Mumbai hotel, the waves lap
the sand at regular intervals. The sky is a bright, bright blue.
But these are distractions for which Devgn does not have
Not yet. n
The new generation is evolving.
They are emotional, but at the
same time very practical. Even my
children talk about practicality
more than anything. I am not
saying that they are wrong. Like I
said, I did films for friendship but
now when I look back, I think I
should have said no to them
because it would have saved me
and the producer too. Sometimes,
itÊs practical to say no.
A STAR BALANCING ACT
THE MANY SHADES OF AJAY DEVGN: Clockwise from left, Zakhm, Golmaal, and Singham.
BOLLYWOOD M4 THE MAGAZINE
India Abroad August 7, 2015