Celebrity Interview: Ajay Devgan...

Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

imageMumbai, Dec 16 (IANS) It is confirmed that Ajay Devgan is stepping into the role of Veeru in Ram Gopal Varma's "Sholay" - a remake of the 1970s blockbuster by the same name.

Played by Dharmendra in the original, the part was offered to Abhishek Bachchan and then Saif Ali Khan. Both declined the offer for various reasons.

Ajay, an old Varma favourite, who worked with him in "Company" and "Bhoot", is now doing the coveted role.

How would the known introvert play the extroverted Veeru? Says Ajay to IANS: "I think Ramu has changed the milieu and my character to suit today's times. It works for me. My Veeru wouldn't be quite the same as it was earlier."

Before "Sholay", the actor plays Vishal Bhardwaj's Othello.

"Yes, the film starts in January. We're shooting it at a stretch. I simply love the way Vishal has Indianised Shakespeare. He has placed it in a small town of Uttar Pradesh. I think it's exceptional. I've already started thinking about how to play the character."

It will also be Ajay's first film with Kareena Kapoor. "We were supposed to do Rituparno Ghosh's 'Raincoat' together."

His performance in Prakash Jha's "Apaharan" has been appreciated by critics. Both he and Jha have come a long way.

He says: "Prakash and I have worked in several films together. But it doesn't mean I've to be in all the films he makes. I wasn't there in his last picture on Jayaprakash Narayan. It all depends on suitability. We get along. We understand each other. There's no doubt about Prakash's abilities as a director."

After "GangaaJal", he delved into Bihar's politics with Jha's "Apaharan". He says he was shocked when he read about the rampant kidnappings in Bihar.

"I only knew what I had read in the papers and seen in the news. I had done 'GangaaJal' with the director, so I was familiar with his home turf. When Prakash Jha narrated the script to me I was shocked. The kidnappers treat their work just like you and I treat ours. Everything is done so professionally. They almost have an official language and protocol for kidnappings...poora chai-pani tak ka hisaab banaate hain..."

Whether it's "GangaaJal", "Kaal" or "Main Aisa Hi Hoon", Ajay has been pushing the actor's envelope regularly.

"I learn so much from a director like Prakash. Such filmmakers help me grow and understand myself and the purpose of cinema. 'Apaharan' isn't a 'naach-gana' (song and dance) film. But it's a hardcore entertainer.

"The kidnappings are just a backdrop. Basically it's an emotional father-son story. My character goes from ideological inheritance to thorough corruption and final redemption...

"I agree I've been getting some terrific roles. I guess I'm lucky. I just hear scripts, and go ahead and do what I believe in. I don't regret making mistakes. I learn from my mistakes. I never see any role as a risk. 'Apaharan' is like any commercial film minus the songs...Even the item song starts as a song and merges into a scene."

Right now he is looking forward to the release of John Mathew Matthan's "Shikhar". The film will find audiences with another Devgan.

"Looks-wise and concept-wise 'Shikhar' takes me into another territory. It's about two characters who believe in differing ideologies. Again it's a real subject but a hardcore entertainer. My character doesn't believe in conventional definitions of right and wrong.

"I worked with John Mathew Matthan for the first time. He knew exactly what he wanted, and how to get it. See, you go into every film with the same conviction. How it finally turns out is not up to the actor."

"Shikhar" and Raj Kumar Santoshi's "Saamna" will follow "Apaharan".

Santoshi's film will carry forward Ajay's reputation for doing hard-hitting socially conscious films.

"These are what you call socially conscious films. All three are very different from one another. Then I've hardcore entertainers like Ramu's 'Sholay'. I don't look at a film as purposeful or purposeless. I've just completed an out-and-out comedy called 'Gol Maal' with Rohit Shetty. I also have another comedy, which I'll be doing with Abbas-Mustan with Sanjay Dutt and Bipasha Basu.

"I'm very comfortable with comedy...I've done comedy with my wife (Kajol) in the cell phone ad as well. It's worked well. This is my second ad with my wife. But it doesn't mean we'll be working in all our ads together. I've just done a solo ad for a soda."

Ajay's versatility of roles is unique.

"Everyone is talented. But they all want to play safe. My colleagues are doing what they like doing. I'm doing what I like. 'Main Aisa Hi Hoon' failed. But I stand by it."