One does remakes because they are fab stories
After making crores at the box-office with comedies and action thrillers, superstar Ajay Devgn returns on the silver-screen in an intense and underplayed role of a common man. The actor-filmmaker tells us why his latest film, Drishyam, is a must-watch.
Can you tell us what kind of a film is Drishyam and your character in it?
It’s a difficult film to explain. Everybody loves their family but they may not deal with it as intelligently as my character. How and to what length anyone can go to protect his family, without physically fighting anyone, is the basis of this story. The difference between the other versions of Drishyam and the Hindi script is that we have made it more urban. We have enhanced the drama and tightened the script but the basics remain the same. Our film is approximately half an hour shorter than the other two versions.
Most of your recent onscreen performances required you to train physically. However in this film you are playing a common man. So, was it easy or difficult to play a role that didn’t call for action?
The role was both difficult and easy. He is a common man who may not be physically strong but mentally he is stronger than any Singham. The way he beats the whole system and law to protect his own family is commendable. A lot of people tell me that they are waiting to see me in a film like Zakhm, Company, Legend of Bhagat Singh. In Gangaajal also I wasn’t doing action at all. It is difficult to find a script that’s superb and commercially viable at the same time. Such films may not open very strong but they are carried forward through word of mouth. Though I haven’t seen the original Drishyam, the screenplay was brilliant enough to prompt me to do the film.
Since two brilliant actors like Mohanlal and Kamal Hassan have essayed the role in the earlier versions of this scripts, did you feel any pressure to match your performance to those levels in the Hindi remake?
There is no pressure. I don’t take Mohanlal and Kamal Hassan as competition. They are senior artists with much more experience, awards and films under their belt. I didn’t want to get influenced so I didn’t watch the film. They are fabulous versatile actors who have been working for 35 years plus, so comparison with them isn’t fair.
What kind of preparations did you do for this role? Does playing an intense character trouble you post shooting?
I don’t prepare as an actor. I go and do exactly what I have to do on the set. Prior to the shoot I discuss with my director as to what he needs from me, but I can’t rehearse. If you ask me to rehearse it will never work. I never remember lines, etc. Whoever has worked with me knows it is best to let me act during the take.
I understand and read my lines and say it the way I feel it during the shoot. Also, I never get into the characters. I play them during the take and once the director calls ‘cut’, am out of it. I become the character only in the take so it doesn’t disturb me.
Why do a remake? Is it because it is a tried and tested effort that guarantees success?
We remake some films purely because they are fab stories and we want the non-South film watching audience to see it as well. It is a tribute to the director. I always praise the original director’s vision when I am doing a remake. In case of Drishyam the original director, Jeethu Joseph, was also the writer of the film.
You are also a director. Does that persona ever take over while working as an actor for other directors?
When I am an actor I am only that. Sometimes I do give my point, but I always try to understand the director’s point of view. If I feel they are wrong then I give my point of view.
How was the experience of working with Nishikant Kamat?
It was fantastic. He is very clear, sorted and knew exactly what he wanted. He kept the whole performance so real.
Who plays a better cop – you in Singham or Tabu in Drishyam?
They are two different characters. Tabu has shades of grey while Singham didn’t. Tabu is neither positive nor completely negative and that’s the same with my character in Drishyam.
In your earlier days you had romanced Tabu in Vijaypath, Thakshak and Haqeeqat, whereas in Drishyam she is pitted against you. How was the experience of being on different sides and how much has Tabu changed as an actor?
Tabu has become a very mature, intense and fabulous actor. The experience was fun since we were doing something different as opposed to romancing, like in the earlier films we did together.
How was the experience of working with child actors – Ishita Dutta and Mrunal Kulkarni like?
I felt that their roles were so difficult. But both did fabulous jobs with their parts. I had thought Mrunal would give many retakes but she was the one who got it right in the first take itself. Ishita too is a brilliant actor. On the last day of the shoot I told her that she shouldn’t work for the next four years – she is currently 16 – if she wants to be a lead actor.
Coming to your next directorial venture, Shivay. Why did you reveal the first look so much in advance of the film’s release?
People release the first look in advance in Hollywood too. We don’t do it here. Here people are only interested in finishing a film as soon as possible and then doing hectic promotions just before the release. We decided on this strategy for Shivay. My mind is completely occupied with Shivay right now and a lot of work is going on that.
How does it feel when you look back at your journey since Phool Aur Kaante?
It’s been 24 good years. The time has flown so fast that when someone tells me it’s been 24 years I don’t believe it. I think good times fly. I have been lucky. Every time I had a flop, there was a success to maintain the status quo. Except two years, there was no year in my career when I didn’t have a hit.