Interview Hindi

We are a corrupt society, so we show corruption in films: Ajay Devgn on Raid


In a media interaction, the Raid actor spoke about the rise of a new generation of stars, the challenge of a new perceptive audience, and the future of Hindi cinema. 

Ajay Devgn in Raid (2018)

Shriram Iyengar

With Raj Kumar Gupta's Raid (2018), Ajay Devgn returns to playing another straight arrow, the honest officer taking on a corrupt system. The actor set a record when he played a similar role in Singham (2011). This time, however, the actor seems to have cut down on the hyperbole to play a role that is steeped in realism. 

In a media interaction about the film, the actor sat down to speak about the changing ways of the industry in which he has worked for the last 27 years. Speaking about the changing ways of the audience, Devgn said, "Today, the new generation of fans are sensible and intelligent. They go by the content, film to film. It will keep changing. They decide if the film is good or not. Who is in the film matters little to them." 

This, however, should not bother the actor. He has been juggling multiple genres with comedy [Golmaal Again (2017)], action [Singham (2011)] and more content driven roles [Drishyam (2015), Raid (2018)] with ease. As he puts it very matter-of-factly, "I like rotating my genres. Otherwise, I would get bored." 

Raid, directed by Gupta, is scheduled to be released on 16 March.

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Following are excerpts from the group conversation. 

Have you encountered an actual raid?

Well, I have been raided once. Back in the 1990s, maybe. I didn't encounter it because I wasn't in town. I was shooting. It went on for a day or two. In the end, they got nothing. 

It is a true story, but how much of it has been fictionalised?

Every film needs to be fictionalised because otherwise, it gets very boring. It is just the screenplay is given highs and lows. It is fictionalised as much as news people do. Background music is not a part of reality, either. 

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Looking at the trailer, it offers a good blend of commercial and realistic cinema. Is this a trend that will carry on into the future for Indian cinema?

There is no such thing as future. Don't take things very seriously. The future has always been about good films and bad films. I have been hearing people analyse this for 25 years. 

During Golmaal Again (2017), when we did interviews, someone had asked me 'These days films like Raid work, will Golmaal work?' and then Golmaal Again worked. 

Whatever be the genre, if the film is good it will work. People need to be entertained. They do not spend time thinking if we want to see this genre of film or that genre. They want to be entertained. 

However, entertainment does not mean that they only want to laugh. It means that for 2 hours, they need to feel that it was worth it. 

In the past, Dilipsaab's (Dilip Kumar) films worked just as much as Kishore Kumar's films worked. It has little to do with genre. 

It does have a touch of Gangaajal (2003) about it...

It is in that zone, or genre to be specific. The story is actually very commercial. So that blend has come out well. 

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There has been a debate about too many films being made which reflect society. How do you look at it?

It is a fact. We make films about what is happening in society. Nothing is from outside. We are a corrupt society, so we show corruption in films. Pick up any decade, and see what kind of films were being made at that time. You will find that is exactly what the society was at that time. Whether it is the corruption of the 1970s or the gangster dramas in the 1990s, it is the same. 

The realism though has to be curbed in many ways these days, with censorship problems...

Our country has a little problem there. Not that we have faced any problem here, but generally, there is a problem. If you take a look abroad, they speak about the president. They speak whatever they want to. Here, you have restrictions. I think it will take some time to change that. 

What is director Raj Kumar Gupta's process like?

I think it is lovely. He is too dedicated. That is his only problem. He is simple and takes too much interest in his work. The shooting can get a little boring. But he is very good. 

But when the director is open and lets you, it becomes easier to add to the character. 

The trailer also talks about the role of the wife in the success of the officer. How important is family to you?

I think it is very important. Without family's support, I don't think one can be successful. That's the most important thing. 

You have been enjoying a great phase with films like Golmaal doing well commercially. Has there been a phase where you felt lost? 

No, I have been very lucky. Everybody goes through a phase where their films don't do well. Somebody analysed it for me and told me, through my career, except for 1-2 years, there's been no time when I have not had a hit. I have luckily never gone into a phase where I was struggling for anything. 

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Has your motivation to say yes to a project changed over the years?

It evolves. It doesn't change, it evolves. Eventually, you do what you feel like doing. But yeah, the audiences are changing, the thought processes are changing. That's how your decisions also evolve. 

You just finished a comedy (Golmaal) and are now working on a realistic film, which also has some action. What is the genre you are looking forward to working in?

As I have always been doing, I like rotating my genres. Otherwise, I would get bored. I did Golmaal. I am doing Raid. After this, there is a rom-com (with Luv Ranjan) which is coming up, then there is Total Dhamaal. I have been very lucky that I have tried most of the genres, and most of them have worked. Otherwise, an actor starts struggling and tries to break out of the genre, and it is very difficult. 

Is that because you don't want to get stereotyped?

It is nothing to do with stereotypes. It is about myself. It is about me enjoying my work, and not getting repetitive and bored in it. 

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With Women's day around the corner, talk to us about the women in your life?

Well, there are many women in my life. Not that way (laughs). 

My mother, my two sisters, my wife, and daughter, they are very important influences in my life. Women are very strong. When we celebrate Women's Day, we do that not for the women, but for the men. To make them realise, that now they are as strong if not stronger. Women do not need to change, men need to change. 

After Raid, you are venturing into Taanaji. It is a historical film. After the fiasco with Padmaavat (2018), what precautions are you taking for the film?

My film is very clean. It is following history, and if somebody has an issue, I know how to sort it out. I know how to sit across the table and talk it out with them. There is nothing controversial in my film. 

Do you think after this problem, producers will be hesitant taking up any historical subject for a film?

It's sad. We have a censor board, and you have the law. The law should be the final decision. Nobody should interfere. There is this issue of freedom. 

The industry is currently going through a change. New stories, content, and styles are coming through. What do you, as an actor, find interesting or challenging?

It has always been challenging. Every day is a new challenge. Even today, if I am going to a shoot, I worry if I will be able to do it. Even if it is the simplest one. The good thing is that as long as I have that fear, I will do well. 

Is another Golmaal happening?

It will happen, eventually, once we find a script. 

With a whole new generation of stars entering the industry, it still has yourself, Akshay Kumar, and the three Khans at the top billings. Do you think the star system will slowly come to an end? With few of the new generation enjoying the same status as those of your generation did?

To an extent, yes. I think we have been very lucky because when we started working, the kind of fan following we got was very loyal. They maintain it till date. If they follow someone whose film is about to release, they will watch it. 

Today, the new generation of fans are sensible and intelligent. They go by the content, film to film. It will keep changing. They decide if the film is good or not. Who is in the film matters little to them. 

Do you think the 'hero' will be overpowered by content?

I can't predict that. Like I said, if people are going by content, I also feel the same. 

Talking about content, there is also a growing competition of the web-series. How do you feel about that?

It is very interesting. I follow quite a few web-series myself. So, it is a competition. That's why I think we will have to make films that make people think we have to watch this in a theatre. There are a lot of small films today that are beautiful, nice. But you feel you can watch it at home as well. But if it is a film that deserves a big screen, you want to watch it in a theatre. Balancing this would be the major challenge. 

Would you like to do another web-series in the future?

I don't know. If I get something good, I might. I am open to everything. 

Will we see another Singham film in the future?

Yes, you will. We are working on the script. 

You are also going to be working with Madhuri Dixit in Total Dhamaal, any comments on that?

I have already started shooting. We are shooting separately. It will be fun. 

Varun Dhawan has already announced the dates for Rannbhoomi in 2019. It seems like a new generation of actors are blocking the dates for films. What do you feel about it?

It doesn't help. Blocking dates doesn't help. I have stopped blocking dates because I think once you block dates, you are in a hurry to finish the film. If there is a problem in the film, you are unable to fix it. I want to finish a film, and then I want to decide when I have to release it. 

Today, I announce a date. 100% someone else will come (release another film) on the same date. So, it is not blocking. They (Rannbhoomi) have announced their film. It does not matter to them who else announces on the same date. It is nobody's fault. 

Are you okay with clashes?

Clashes are not good. But you don't have a choice. Nobody's fault, anyway. There are only 52 Fridays. Out of which there are so many Fridays which are not a great time to release films. 

In the 1990s, multiple films would be released simultaneously. They still did not have a problem. What do you think is the issue now?

In the 1990s, I don't remember any clash. Nobody was in a hurry back then. People would make films in 2-3 years. They worked according to their mood. Right now, you start a film, you want to release in the next six months. 

Your film Phool Aur Kaante was released alongside Lamhe in 1991...

I had nothing to lose, they were actually scared. Actually, it was very sweet of Anil ji (Anil Kapoor) to come and tell me not to release it. He was very close to my father. But I was a newcomer, how could I have told them not to release at this date?

When the film was released, he came to see my trial. He met me one week after release and told me "I thought the other way. You guys turned out better." (Tum logon ne hamaari band bajaa di). We had that kind of a rapport back then, which was so sweet. 

Which right now you don't see in the industry?

You don't. 

What is the reason behind this?

I think it has become too professional. Everybody is too busy. It is not a race with each other, but everybody wants to run. Like I said, the new generation has come very very prepared. They are sorted and know what to do, and what not to do.