Jyoti Venkatesh, our bollywood maven, buttonholed Ajay Devgn, the intense actor of Hindi cinema to elicit pithy responses from him about how he makes it a point not to become the character he plays in a film, before or after the take. NRI Achievers brings you excerpts of that conversation Jyoti Venkatesh had with the actor recently …
How would you describe your role in DRISHYAM ?
In DRISHYAM, I play a simple run-of-the-mill common man. The film is all about what extent a normal human being will go to defend his beloved family, when he is pushed into a corner by circumstances that are just beyond his control.
Is it true that in this movie yours is not an action-packed role as is the norm ?
The guy I play in DRISHYAM is mentally strong and beats the system with his brand of intelligence. A lot of people who have seen the rushes of the film tell me that earlier as well I have acted in many films where I have not had an action packed role, like in Prakash Jha’s GANGA JAL 2, Ramgopal Varma’s COMPANY.
How confident are you about the prospects of the film at the box office ?
The film boasts of a fabulous and amazing script by Joseph, who had directed the original Malayalam version starring Mohanlal in the lead role played by me. Such films may not open with great collections, but thanks to word of mouth they often do well at the box office.
Did you make it a point to see the original version to see how Mohanlal or Kamal Haasan had acted in them ?
I didn’t see either the Malayalam original DRISHYAM or the Tamil version PAPANASAM because one feels pressurized only if one feels that one is competing with either Mohanlal or Kamal Haasan. Maybe if a lesser and weaker actor had acted in the original version, I may have liked to see the film just to know what not to do. Mohanlal and Kamal Haasan are seasoned thespians who have been around for four decades or more.
You mean to say that you were not scared of being compared with them.
There is absolutely no question of being compared with either Mohanlal or for that matter Kamal Haasan because they are very versatile actors.
Why did you not ask Jeetu Joseph, who had directed the original Malayalam as well as the Tamil versions to direct this Hindi version ?
It was entirely a call taken by Viacom to ask Nishikant Kamat to direct the Hindi version. Though it was for the first time that I was acting with Nishikant, I was happy that I was in safe hands as Nishi has the kind of sensibility one needs to helm a project like DRISHYAM. In fact, the Hindi remake is a tribute to the original director Jeetu Joseph.
Did you cancel dates you had committed for your own directorial venture SHIVAAY in order to act in DRISHYAM ?
I didn’t cancel the shooting of my own film SHIVAAY in order to act in DRISHYAM. It so happened that there were some technical glitches that compelled us to postpone the launch of SHIVAAY and when Viacom approached me to be part of DRISHYAM, I immediately agreed to do the film.
What is the status of SHIVAAY ?
SHIVAAY is slated for a 2016 release. We unveiled the SHIVAAY poster to our audiences just to create an awareness of the project. And as far as SHIVAAY is concerned, we are working like in Hollywood, where people are not at all in a hurry to release their films.
The Hindi remake is more urban unlike the original southern versions. We have in fact trimmed the Hindi version by editing out all the superficial scenes from the originals to make it slicker and offer an enhanced drama to audiences. The Malayalam and Tamil versions were three hours long, the Hindi remake is just two and a half hours long.
For the first time Tabu and you are in the other side of the fence. How was the experience ?
Tabu is a childhood friend of mine and there is a certain comfort zone between us. The role of the cop I played in SINGHAM or SINGHAM RETURNS is completely different from the role of the cop Tabu playing in DRISHYAM. Tabu today is also a more mature and intense actor than she used to be. In DRISHYAM, Tabu is excellent as she plays a role which has many gray shades.
How was your experience of working with a direction like Nishikant for the first time ?
Nishikant is a director who is so sorted out and clear and not at all over the top. Nishi knew exactly what he wanted from his actors. I do what I want to do on the sets after I discuss the scene with my director and put forth my own point of view, because film-making is team work. I do not like to do rehearsals. I read my lines twice, try to understand the meaning and only then make it a point to face the camera. If you are okay with the knowledge and know the meaning, it isn’t all that tough to do a film, though unfortunately the younger generation of actors today does not even know Hindi – they are mostly conversant in English.
How did the character that you played in DRISHYAM drain you off as a person ?
I do not at all become the character that I play in a film before the take or for that matter after I give the take in front of the camera.
After DRISHYAM what next ?
On the anvil is SHIVAAY, the script for which is being finalized, followed by BADSHAAHO.