Sustaining a position at the top for 30 years is no small feat. Ajay Devgn has managed to do just that, with his swag intact. A lot has changed between his debut Phool Aur Kaante (1991) and his last release Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (2020), his 100th film. Yet, not only is he set for a number of films going forward as an actor, but also taking over the reigns as a maker once again with MayDay.
Excerpts from an interview with the 51-year-old:
You started off in films at a time when a film’s success also meant how many weeks and months it ran in theatres. Today, until theatres shut down due to Covid 19, it became all about initial weekend and first week collections. Do you feel it was becoming too much about the number game?
On my office shelves at my production house, you will see several trophies marking the golden and silver jubilees of yesteryear films. Most of them were given to my father, Veeru Devgan who as you all know was an A-grade action-director. They are a reminder of the golden period in cinema when films ran uninterrupted for 50 and 25 weeks.
In recent years, theatrical revenues have worked on a hit and run basis. It has nothing to do with the pandemic or Covid-19. It is because we have so many other avenues to watch our entertainment on. Be it satellite, OTT or home-to-home streaming, films can come into your drawing rooms in so many ways. Naturally, you will only visit a theatre if a film is worth your while. That is one of the reasons for making Tanhaji-The Unsung Warrior on the scale that we did.
How important are box office numbers to you, considering how today OTT platforms don’t measure a film’s popularity on that benchmark?
Why me? If any actor/filmmaker anywhere in the Universe tells you that box office doesn’t matter, he/she is lying. All of us want/wish/pray for our collections to go through the roof. OTT doesn’t give us that joy but the good thing is it takes our films to a worldwide audience. In situations like a Pandemic, it is Godsent.
You are working on your next directorial, MayDay. What made you decide to take over the reigns as a maker again?
I’m born to films and I love films. Even when I’m idle, I only thinking of films. My mind is constantly ticking and I can tell you the only time I feel an adrenaline rush (other than in the gym) is when I’m thinking about cinema. MayDay is a script that excites me. I want to tell a story that has heart and thrills. I’m also fortunate to have Amitabh Bachchan in it. Directing a legend like him was on my bucket list.
You are constantly pitted against other superstars we have. How do you look at this supposed rat race to be number one?
If you are a commodity, you will always be compared. Initially comparisons matter. They even make you bitter. But after 100 films comparisons only help in making you better. You recognize your USP and then you work at enhancing it. If you bring something unique to the table, you will (with the grace of God) always find takers. Indian cinema had No.1 stars in the days of Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. They ruled for decades. After that every Friday brought a new superstar.
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