Ajay Devgn is all set to see the release of Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior on January 10.
Actor-producer Ajay Devgn is on cloud nine as the 100th film of his career, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, is all set to hit the theatres this Friday. He sheds light on walking a tight rope and striking a balance between fact and fiction in this magnum opus. “The budget of this film is nowhere more than any big film,” the producer in him says without divulging too much detail. He also talks about watching his wife, Kajol, grow over the years as an actor.
Ahead of the release, what’s your headspace like?
The promotions are hectic. But what’s keeping me busy is the final touches of the film.
An actor wants to push the envelope but a producer knows that there are budgetary constraints…
It’s vice-versa. As a producer, I push more boundaries. Not everything is about money. To make a big film like Tanhaji, you need intelligence and you need to be technically savvy. The budget of this film is nowhere more than any big film. But if you see the visuals and the special effects, it’ll look like a huge film. And that’s only because we’ve been working on it for four years.
I own a VFX company too. The way in which we would shoot the film and design it was envisioned four years ago. We had created all the assets back then. We’ve worked hard at it. Anybody can make a film if they’ve money. If you have Rs 2,000 crore, you can make a film that’s on par with any Hollywood film. I take great pride in saying that we’ve pulled similar effects in this film. The 3D, the VFX and the technology used in it are a first and made in India.
Watch: Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior – Saif Ali Khan & Rohit Shetty are all praise for Ajay Devgn
Do the actor and producer in you ever have conflicting views?
Not at all! That’s because even as an actor, I think like a producer. There’s no wastage of resources and there’s no compromise either. I don’t do that for only my productions but also for films produced by others.
The VFX used in Indian films tend to get a little gimmicky and in-your-face. What was your brief to the special effects team for Tanhaji?
The VFX in Tanhaji isn’t like that. Look at Shivaay (2016) for that matter. Was it in-your-face? The CGI and the VFX weren’t gimmicky either. We kept it very real. I don’t just brief them, but I also work with them. We work together keeping both the realism and larger-than-life elements in mind. We aim to strike a good balance.
How do you make a film like Tanhaji that doesn’t have the adequate data required?
Most of the history lacks adequate information in the chapters of the history books. Different books are written from different point of views. So it’s very difficult to tread that thin of realism, justify the characters and still be imaginative enough to dramatise the characters so that the audience enjoys it. You’ve to be careful and try to achieve all three.
Ajay Devgn and Kajol in a still from Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior.
Tahanji is your 100th film. Do you still feel scared before the release of your film?
(Smiles) It doesn’t scare me. But I’m anxious to know about what will happen to it because we all work so hard and the whole team puts in so much of effort. I expect people to watch and like the film. What if you went wrong and people don’t like the film? It’s like you’re awaiting your results after an examination. You don’t know how the audience is going to react and that makes me anxious.
You and Kajol have worked together in so many films. How have you seen her grow as an actor?
She has always been a fabulous actor. We feel amazed that she suddenly becomes someone else in front of the camera. She can effortlessly switch on and off. With experience, comes maturity, and she has matured as a person. Her understanding of things has become better. She has gone beyond what she was as an actor.
Are you also anxious about becoming a new character before you start shooting for a new film?
I do think for some time till I give my first shot before the camera. That anxiousness lies between reaching the set and facing the camera. I keep wondering if I’ll be able to pull it off.
You began editing and directing films since you were a teenager. Do you remember those days?
Of course, I do. I can’t forget those days. I used to make ads using my camera. My dad used to shoot. He used to teach me the technicalities associated with filming and the basics of editing. He was technically very savvy and was way ahead of his time. He used to create the same effect without the use of CGI. I’ve learnt all of that from him. He used to show me his process of taking a shot. I used to learn it from him, do it at home and then show it to him. Thereafter, I started shooting my own films. I used to make sets, trolleys and cranes and so every other thing on a set. I really enjoyed it. And that’s how I started working as an assistant to Shekhar Kapur (filmmaker) and then Deepak Shivdasani (filmmaker). That’s how it all started. But I’ve lost all the shots and sequences that I took and edited.
When did you become serious about acting then?
I became serious when I started shooting for Phool Aur Kaante (1991). I believe that if you want to do something, you should do it right or you might as well not do it. I got serious the day I reached the set. Once the film released and it worked, came the responsibility. Since people liked me, I had to make sure that I keep up the good work.
Ajay Devgn in a still from Bhuj: The Pride of India.
Post Tanhaji, you’ve Bhuj: The Pride Of India and Maidaan. Is it a coincidence that all these films are based on real life events?
I’ve started thinking about this and I think it’s a coincidence. I want to break the chain and so, I’m doing Golmaal 5 after that. Having said that, I think real life characters really fascinate me. As actors and producers, we look for scripts that excite the audience and that has a storyline peppered with ample drama and emotions. When you see a character onscreen that’s based on a real life person, you start wondering as to what their mindset would be like, how they made the sacrifices that they did, what was going in their minds when they fought and how strong they were. These are the things that excite a viewer. As a result, I like telling such stories.
You’re a private person. But your children, Nysa and Yug, are constantly snapped by the shutterbugs every time they step out. How comfortable are you with that?
I’m not comfortable with that. But I can’t do anything about it. And so my children, Kajol and I choose to ignore it because you can’t fight these things.
How do you think has the concept of stardom changed over the years?
I think the stardom that we all knew of back in the day has faded away. With the influx of social media, one knows everything about a star. Every tiny detail about them is out there for the people to read and know. Earlier, you didn’t know much about a star. You only knew them from afar. So there was a sense of intrigue surrounding stars. You wanted to know more about them and their lives. But that’s over now. People keep asking me about who I think is the next superstar. I tell them that the term ‘superstar’ doesn’t hold any relevance today. There’ll be stars but no superstars anymore. But these stars will change every Friday. I really believe that the era of the superstars is over now.
A while back, you had said that you would want to get into full-time production and cut down on your acting projects.
I’m trying to strike a balance. But eventually, I’m going to become a full-fledged producer. I know that there’s a limit as an actor. After a couple of years, I might not be a mainstream actor anymore and get into character roles. So my focus will slowly but obviously divert to production.
But isn’t the limelight very addictive?
It is, but I can’t keep holding onto it. Before I’m kicked out, I want to walk out myself (smiles).
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