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Ajay Devgan
Dashing, charming and unconventional looking, elusive actor Ajay Devgan fits the bill of a Mills & Boon hero. An actor who can pull off the role of a macho man as well as that of a subtle, subdued character with equal ease and dignified poise. Last year saw him lying a bit low on the popularity charts as his films Khakee, Zameer, Yuva, Raincoat and Insan (barring Masti of course where he had just a miniscule guest appearance) didn't set the box office on fire. But the new year seems to be promising with movies like Main Aisa Hi Hoon, Apharan, Kaal, Prithviraj Samyukta, and Parwana lined up for an early release.

The Record caught up with the reclusive Ajay Devgan on the outdoor sets of Prakash Jha's Apharan, in Satara, Maharashtra. This rare interview offers insight into the mysterious actor's real life character.

The Record(TR): Main Aisa Hi Hoon is your next release. You seem to follow the same 'shrug-it-off ' attitude. Why?
Ajay: Yes, I am a very reserved, moody and private person. Most of the time, I am inaccessible too. Sometimes, even to my own family. So, I always get branded as snooty, snobbish or ‘BhaavKhau' and 'Akdoo'. Yet, I sincerely say that I am not like that always and certainly not with people who I am close to or with colleagues who really know me. Phir bhi kya karoon? Kyoonki main aisa hi hoon! Take it or leave it.

TR: Talking about Main Aisa Hi Hoon, what made you take up such a complex role?
Ajay: The role of a mentally challenged man in Main Aisa Hi Hoon is a dream role. I fell in love with it from the first narration. This is the most challenging role that I have ever done. I am enacting the role of an autistic child trapped in a grownup's body. In fact, my director Harry Baweja, with his script writer, has developed the character on the lines of Sean Penn's character in I Am Sam. The role in itself is very experimental.
The character despite all his drawbacks, falls in love with Esha Deol, marries her eventually and has a child. And then she walks out on him, with their child. So finally, he now fights for the custody of his own child. I thoroughly enjoyed doing this role. In fact, it has really shaped up to be a very special role.

TR: Do you think that psychologically-challenging roles normally affect the psyche of an actor even after he has delivered the goods?
Ajay: Yes, it's true as far as my own experience and knowledge goes. And that's why I preferred to shoot the entire movie at a stretch for 45 days. The peculiar body language that I had adopted for this particular character stayed with me long after I had completed my work. At times, I used to wake up in the early hours of the morning and find myself subconsciously walking and talking exactly like that character. Yet, with time I practiced hard to snap out of it forever. And now I think that it's really over and done with.

TR: Prakash Jha's Apharan also has you in a daringly different role of a Bihari kidnapper. What's your take on it?
Ajay: It is the story of a simple and down-to-earth medical representative, Ajay Shastri, who falls in love with Bipasha Basu. As usual, fate intervenes and their lives take a dramatic turn. She marries someone else and, heartbroken, he takes to the world of crime. With time, he becomes a pucca kidnapper. Unfortunately, his first kidnap victim turns out to be his ex-love's husband. And then…
My colleagues joke that Apharan will boost the image of the kidnapper in society by putting him on a pedestal. My answer has always been ‘No’. Of course, it is partly based on the real life stories and kidnappings that have been rocking the state of Bihar. But in no way are we trying to glorify or boost their image and certainly not putting them on a pedestal. In fact, Apharan will do nothing but present the hardcore realities of life. Maybe you will find a solution for this ever-increasing menace in the state of Bihar!

TR: Your last release, Tango Charlie, has not really carried good box office reports...
Ajay: I wonder why. Of course, it isn't a runaway success like the other films of this genre. Yet, it is not as bad as it sounds. I doubt it is the total washout that it has been made out to be, by certain people with vested interests. Maybe people misunderstood its entire concept. Do I have to repeat that it was not a war film? At least, not a typical one. In fact, it was about the real life Indian warriors who are not fighting their enemies across the borders. Its main protagonists, headed by Mohammed Ali, my character, had to fight and safe guard their country from the enemies within - like the Chinese Bodo leaders, the Nepali Maoists, the Eastern Naxalites and so on. I personally think that it was a very sensitive subject. So what more can I say? In such cases, I always move on to my next film.

You can read the rest of our feature on Ajay Devgan in the April 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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