Out to narrate a compelling and inspiring story, Ajay Devgn & Kajol give Rajiv Vijayakar a peek into the ‘unsung’ tales from their latest outing

She’s done less than 40 films in 28 years, and he has touched 100 in just a year more. That’s Kajol and Ajay Devgn for you. The powerhouse couple are set to release their
ninth film together —Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, which also happens to be Ajay’s 100th film.

Kajol goes on, “I am the laziest actor. Except for once or twice, I have only done two films a year. That is why my score is so low with respect to not just Ajay but even my contemporary heroines.”

Their selection of films is also based on highly individualised criteria. Says Kajol, “I will never work in a film in which people will say, “Kajol was also there in the film. I do not mind a film in which I have just three scenes, but they should be fantastic scenes — and unforgettable ones for me as an actor and for you as audience.”

Fit like a glove

Ajay loved the script when writer-director Om Raut approached him for Tanhaji three years ago, after spending a year on meticulous research. “He felt that I was right for the role, and I felt that this was a story that had all the ingredients inbuilt for a Hindi film —drama, emotions, action and heroism. It was a very inspiring story.”

He also decided to co-produce the film. We ask Ajay how the characters of Kajol and Saif Ali Khan evolved, and he says, “I think that we always salute the martyrs, but it is actually their families that deserve more attention and respect. Here’s a woman who is Tanhaji’s wife. Her husband leaves for battle on the day of his son’s marriage. She cannot express her feelings nor her apprehensions of whether he will come back or not. Everyone can’t pull off this demanding character, and I needed a great performer. That is why I asked Kajol to do the short role.”

As for Saif Ali Khan, with whom he has done Kachche Dhaage and LOC Kargil, he notes, “Saif is now a very involved and evolved actor. He was the only one on the sets who would ask for an extra take when the director was okay with it, thinking he could do it better. His looks and his edgy, quirky personality fitted the antagonist, Udaybhan, perfectly. He had to look evil, yet nice. Plus, he was a strong personality and that is essential to emphasise Tanhaji’s strength. A weak villain can pull down the impact of the hero’s bravery.”

Kajol regrets that she has no scene at all with her Yeh Dillagi and Hameshaa
co-star Saif. “Udaybhan and I do not meet,” she smiles. But she has no regrets about not working anymore with any of her co-stars. “I keep meeting them socially anyway, so it doesn’t really matter,’ she says. “I don’t miss those days, if that’s what your question is about.”

Times are changing

She, however, points out that there has been a huge change in the industry and cinema since she came in. “The world is changing, one has to change with it, and one cannot change half-heartedly. Change maybe the only constant, but it is very rapid right now. The industry has really grown, and it’s turning into a full-fledged business. But the big films are still made by really mad, passionate people. And yes, if you went to a party before, everyone knew everyone. Now you know only 10 per cent of the people. And at work, everything is specialised, unlike the days when one person did 10 things.”

Which makes us ask her as to how was her first experience of working on a 3-D film? “It was not really different for me as an actor,” she says. “It was the technical crew that had to manage the challenges.” But we ask the producer-husband why he felt that 3-D was needed for the film, and Ajay replies: “You will understand that when you watch it. It has the 3-D look, and that makes the impact. 3-D has been used in various ways in our films, but here is where it was needed. Some people shoot a film normally and then convert it to 3-D. Others shoot directly in 3-D. We have used a different technology to enhance the narrative, and you will probably not see many Hollywood films that have such visuals. It’s something never tried before.”

Passionately, Ajay goes on, “You must understand that there are no live locations here. We had to create everything. As a person, I have always thought we can do as good or better work than Hollywood in a budget of 100 crore when they have scales like 1,000 or 2,000 crore.” He explains, “From the beginning, I have loved technology. I was the first or among the first in the country to use CGI (computer graphics), I used the first helicam, the first Panavision camera and so on. In Tanhaji…, except for some action directors, the technology is all done here by my CGI setup, NYVFXWaala, which is a leading company today.”

In the spotlight

Ajay is happy that this is the first film that has been featured in a special edition of Amar Chitra Katha on Children’s Day last November. “Tanhaji is a famous name in Maharashtra. But he did something for the entire nation — he prevented Aurangzeb from conquering the Kondana Fort that would made him also rule South India. But he is not known around the country. So I am very glad that they have featured me as him in it.” This time, a Marathi version of the film is also being released.

The superstar is upset that history books have never done justice to Tanhaji. “There is just one paragraph in most books,” he says regretfully. “Over the decades, unfortunately, our history books have not changed. They are full of British, Mughal and foreign history, but there is very little history that inspires us and shows how brave Indians were.”

Tanhaji is the first of the unsung warriors of India that Ajay will highlight in a series of films to come. “My aim is to spotlight heroes who fought for the country before the British came in, and they can hail from any state of India.”

Kajol giggles that history has been a favourite subject with her only in terms of the stories. “I have devoured every single comic on Amar Chitra Katha,” she
chuckles. “But if you ask important dates, I will fail, which is why I was never
fond of history as an academic subject.”

So is not this film the first in which she speaks Marathi, her mother tongue, on screen? “Yes, it is,” she says, and later breaks into a Marathi sentence during an answer. Her mother, Tanuja, has been a legend in Hindi cinema and has done Marathi as well as Bengali films. Can we see them together in a Marathi or Hindi movie? 

“Please tell someone to write a good script for us, because mom’s even more ‘picky’ than me,” she chortles. Her mother was terrific at comedy, and so is Kajol, so it would be great to see them in such a movie, we say. “I will tell her that,” she promises.

But she concedes that her children Nysa and Yug do not watch her films, as she is seen crying in many of them and that disturbs them. “I asked my daughter to watch We Are Family, and she was very angry later and said, ‘Mom, how could you do this to me?’”

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