Somewhere along the way, in the 20-plus years that he’s been a leading man, Ajay Devgn started being known as a ‘reluctant dancer’. But being directed by Prabhu Deva meant that the 45-year-old had no choice but to put on his dancing shoes. “Thankfully Prabhu didn’t expect me to dance like him,” he says with a laugh. “He choreographs according to an actor’s ability and body language, so I got fairly easy steps to do.” But that doesn’t mean Ajay didn’t have to rehearse the dance steps. “Oh, thanks to Prabhu, I rehearsed for the first time in my life. It was fun.”
What got Ajay interested in Action Jackson, he says, was Prabhu’s style of filmmaking. “The audience has only seen the Prabhu Deva rural-style of films. This is his urban film. He really knows how to present his actors… especially his heroes. The way he’s made me perform is completely different. He is a very good actor himself, so there are nuances that he’s brought to my performance that haven’t been seen before. Like even though this is a funny film, there is no buffoonery; it’s all about comic timing.”
Every time Ajay has one of these masala releases, there are always questions about his reasons for doing formula films. “I haven’t only been doing formula films. Singham is not a formula film. A formula film would have five great songs, lots of comedy… Singham didn’t have all that. It was an intense film. It had one action sequence and two-three chases. So… Now if you are talking about films like Omkara or Zakhm, I want to do films like those, but where are the scripts? If something exciting comes my way, I am not going to refuse it.”
For now, Ajay is looking forward to getting back in the director’s chair with Shivaay. “It’s a big-budget film. It’s an emotional drama with action as a backdrop. I have been planning to director for a long time, but I couldn’t crave out the time. It’s taken me almost three years to plan Shivaay. I will start shooting in January next year.”
In Shivaay, Ajay will introduce Dilip Kumar’s grandniece Sayesha. “She is fabulous. When you see her on screen, you’ll understand why I cast her. I have screen-tested her, and from her look to her diction, she is perfect. After a long time, I have seen a newcomer who is so ready.”
The next year is going to be a busy one at Ajay Devgn Productions. After Ajay is done with Shivaay, he will be producing his wife Kajol’s comeback film. While there has been much speculation about the project, Ajay says, “The script is being written. We’ll start the film next year. As for the various projects, most of the stories weren’t true. There was only one project that we had considered, but I eventually thought she didn’t fit the character.”
Having been a producer, director and actor, Ajay understands all aspects of filmmaking. And, he has an interesting perspective on the business versus creativity debate. “Making films has become very expensive and no one wants to lose money. Everyone wants to do great cinema. But again… who says what is or isn’t great cinema? Having said that, I would hold the audience responsible for the kind of films that are doing well. If you make a different kind of film that people watch, you will make more of them. We are only giving what the audience wants. You can’t blame us (Bollywood) for that. I promise to make a different intense film if the audience promises to watch it,” he says.
In the last month, Ajay has joined the ever-growing rank of Bollywood actors with interests in sporting ventures. Ajay owns a stake in the Delhi Dreams, a team in Vijay Amritraj’s Champion Tennis League (CTL) that included players like Juan Carlos Ferrero and Jelena Jankovic. The Delhi Dreams were the runners-up in the first edition of the CTL. How does he explain this sudden fascination Bollywood has developed for sports? “I don’t know… Someone must have had the great idea of connecting glamour and sports,” he says, adding, “It started with IPL and it worked. The kabaddi league was a great thing. We should promote wrestling. The soccer league is doing well. I don’t care about winning or losing or making money. It’s all about promoting the sports.”