Fire And Ice
A Chat With Action Hero Ajay Devgan And The Bubbly Sonakshi Sinha
Abraxas Lifestyle catches up with Ajay Devgan and Sonakshi Sinha during the promotion of their film Action Jackson.
You are working with Sonakshi Sinha again and with Yami Gautam for the first time. How would you describe your experience?
Sonakshi is very comfortable to work with. We share a great rapport as we did Son of Sardar together. She is a thorough professional and has got no inhibitions. You know when you ask her to dance, she will just freak out. She is very comfortable. Yami is a very good actress. I worked for the first time with her and it was very comfortable.
Sir, you’ve gone on Twitter and spoken about your journey. Your first film, Phool Aur Kaante was released in 1991. So it’s been so many years as a journey involving so many emotions…
Actually, I didn’t even realise ki itne saal nikal gaye. Aisa lagta hai kal ki baat hai. Because I’ve been working all the time and I’ve not had time to think. Touchwood, I’ve been very lucky that I’ve not seen a phase where there was a low. I was giving an interview and somebody analysed it and he said, “Do you realise that there has only been one year where you’ve not had a hit, otherwise every year you’ve given a hit?” I said I didn’t realise that. I’ve been very lucky that way.
How do you decide which movies you want to be a part of? What kind of movies would you like to do, which you haven’t done so far?
It depends. When I read the script, do I get excited about it? Then, do I think that the role is challenging enough to do something which will need me and which I can work hard on? Apart from all that, the most important thing is, who is the director? Will he be able to conceive and shoot the way it’s been thought? Also, the producer and the whole team is important because will they be able to execute the way we are talking about and will they be able to release it properly the way the films are released today? All this is very important.
Firstly, when you started out in movies, they were mainly of the action genre. In Phool Aur Kaante, for instance, you played a very good action role. What is the difference between the action movies of that time and the action movies of today?
I think, poori technology change ho gayi hai; sab kuch change ho gaya hai. Aaj kal action pehle se zyaada fake ho gaya.
Do you think that there are certain aspects of Bollywood that need improvement?
Dekhiye basic improvement budgets ki hai. Agar budgets improve ho jayenge then I think we can match the calibre of Hollywood. Unke global budgets hain aur hamara restrained hai jo badh raha hai obviously. So, gradually we are reaching there and have become much better than what we were.
You have worked with many directors. Any favourites?
Nahi, sabhi ke saath maza aata hai. Aur jinke saath kaam kiya hai, ya toh ek film ya teen-chaar film uske saath ki hain.
Recently you gave a statement saying, “I don’t want to promote eight-pack abs”…
Kyunki agar aap apne doctor se bhi poonchenge toh 6 aur 8 packs aapki immunity ko bahut low karenge and it makes you very weak. Toh mujhe lagta hai ki you should be fit . Aaj ke youth ko yeh nahi sochna hai ki humein six pack chahiye; aap fit aur muscled rahiye. Muscles bhi, jisko zaroorat hai woh karein but to survive they should have a fitness regime.
What is your fitness funda?
Mera fitness funda hai ki I do a lot of strength training because I believe that strength is very important. Iske saath toh body shape apne aap hi aa jati hai. So, I don’t concentrate on body shape.
Are you satisfied with your work?
My work? More than satisfied.
You have done a chunk of your roles as an action hero, but you have also done releases like Golmaal. How do you approach scripts?
I do scripts according to my personal liking; I don’t think about genres. So I think I’ve been very lucky that people have appreciated enough performances of mine as a gangster and also and as a cop, both of which are totally different. Be it Company, Singham, Once Upon A Time... or Gangaajal. So that way I’ve been very lucky that the audiences have accepted what I do.
You keep a low profile. But I’m sure that there must have been some kind of phase where you were a little rebellious, maybe in your 20s?
Yeah very rebellious, but not in a way that I needed to prove a point. I was rebellious in the way that I am like this and I’m going to be like this. In that way I’m rebellious today also. Because I do not follow the norms of the industry. I do things my way. People turn around and tell me, “You should promote yourself”. And I feel that I’m not like this, I’m not that kind of a person. So I don’t do it.
And are these Bollywood rivalries blown out of proportion?
It’s not there. When we meet, we meet. In fact, Salman asked me yesterday where I was staying and said, “I’ll see you in the evening”. Then Aamir was next to me. So we’re all like this; we’re very cool. At least our generation. So there is no such rivalry; we all help and support each other.
Amongst the new generation of actors, who do you think is the best?
All are very good; all are trying and have come much more prepared than what we had come with. We learned over the years, but today’s generation is very smart. Professionally also we made a lot of mistakes on emotional basis. Ki chalo iski picture kar lete hai. Aur woh picturein ultimately work nahi karti hain. Aaj ki generation nahi karti aise. They’re very professional and that’s a very good thing. So I wouldn’t say who’s my favourite; I think that everybody’s doing very well.
Do you think the Censor Board should revise their policies?
It should be upgraded. Because I see what problems they create. It does not trouble me because I myself do not believe in vulgar films or nudity or even body action. If you see the action sequences in Singham or Action Jackson, agar kisi ko talwar bhi lag rahi hai toh you’ll not see blood. So that’s intentional taki baccho ko maza ayega dekhne mein. Censor zaroori hai lekin, jo aurato ke saath hotein hai ki jo hum TV pe roz dekhthein hai ki us ladki ke saath yeh kar diya woh kar diya, rape ke alawa bhi haat uta diya. Toh filmo mein hum dikhatein hai ki woh negative character kar raha hai, hero nahi kar raha hai. And we punish him as well. But they don’t want to show it. So if you don’t show bad how will you show good? I think there should be a balance. Agar news mein chalta hai, toh humare filmo mein kyun nahi dikha sakte?
Have you ever used action in real life?
Yeah in my 20s (laughs).
Have you knocked anyone down?
Lots of times (laughs).
Your fitness regime?
My fitness regime? Nothing. I workout, I train. I’ve not been training for the past one- one and a half months so I’m feeling very depressed. I’ll start soon.
Recently, Saif Ali Khan said that the Bollywood industry doesn’t have good writers. So what would you like to say about that?
That way no industry has good writers. We need to give a chance to young and new people. So there’s a dearth of good writers and actors.
Any unrealised dream(s)?
No, not at all. I’m happy and content.
You are working with Prabhu Deva which means he must have made you dance quite a lot. Was that fun or challenging?
No, it wasn’t challenging. I was comfortable because I know and he knows that I am a bad dancer so it’s his problem, not mine. And yes, he pushed me on it and made me very comfortable. As Prabhu says, he studies the body language of an actor and then makes him dance accordingly.
Many films do exceedingly well at the domestic Box Office but don’t have the same kind of impact overseas. Do you feel, just like in India, actors now need to promote their movies abroad in various cities as well?
I guess so and the mindset is also a little different for Indian audience and the audience overseas. The films are doing well there too and we are trying to push them and promote them overseas as much as we can.
What has your experience been like with comedy films?
Well, it’s been really good; I’ve quite enjoyed it. When Prabhu Deva came to me with the film, Ajay said that the girl’s got a very good comic timing and since I’ve worked with both of them before, they kind of gauged that from the work I’ve done and from the kind of person that I am. So they said that I was apt for that particular character.
I don’t know if you are aware but Gauahar Khan was slapped on the sets of a reality show. So basically you can see fans who are a) in awe of the stars and b) can do anything!
No, this was not a fan. It was somebody who needs professional psychiatric help for statements that he made and the way he behaved. There was a lapse in security and it’s something that is just not done. I hope that he’s punished and he gets what he deserves.
It comes down to the entire debate that women should not be dressed skimpily or they should not be wearing revealing outfits. What do we do about such things? Is it about conditioning boys to think differently?
Yes it is. It’s all about the mindset at the end of the day. It’s not about how a woman dresses; whether a woman is in a bikini or in a burkha, she deserves the same amount of respect. When a woman says no, it means no. Nobody can take the law into their own hands. It’s just a matter of conditioning the mind and not how a woman should behave.
From the trailers of the film, we have noticed a few dialogues that have double meaning. Were you comfortable with those dialogues?
I think I know the one that you’re referring to. I love how I get asked this question when I’m not the one who has written the dialogue. I’ve not even said the dialogue (laughs).
(Laughs)Yeah it’s Ajay.
And yet people ask me. So again this is a mindset which needs to change. I am, infact shocked at the whole thing in the film so I should really not be asked this question (laughs).
You were just saying that you became appealing-looking after a certain point of time. There is the whole thing of pestering actresses to look a certain way. Like losing weight, with you or Parineeti; both of you were constantly told the same thing. What is your take on this?
I don’t think there is any. People like us are sort of breaking that mould.
Do you think it’s changing?
Definitely it has changed. I wouldn’t have survived four years in this industry and be where I am today if it hadn’t changed. People find a certain sense of relatability if you carry yourself in a very real way. I’m somebody who has always projected a very healthy body, right from the very beginning. I’ve been on both sides of the fence; I’ve been on the obese side during my growing up years and I’m very fit now. So that’s what I advocate. I don’t want young girls to be following silly diet fads, starving themselves and getting unhealthy just for the sake of it. Everybody’s made a different way and everybody has a different body type.
Have you been able to deal with it like this ever since you came here or have you had phases?
Absolutely not. In fact, I honestly don’t know how because this is the one constant thing that I have been picked on from the beginning. I admit that I’ve been able to shut it out really well and not succumb to the pressure in any way. There are, however, people who do fall prey to this and get pressurised by this kind of talk and things that they read in magazines. I think even the media should back off a bit and realise that people are made in different shapes and sizes.
With this movie, you have undergone a whole wardrobe change and a new look. What would you like to say about that?
It was quite exciting for me because having worked with Prabhu sir in two films, the look was very Indian. He also wanted me to look different in this film. Plus it’s a young Mumbai-based urban world. So I didn’t have to be in salwar-kameez.
Recently, people have commented on how you keep to similar kinds of roles. Like workiaraang in movies which are primarily based on heroes. You’ve of course made it very clear that you do the movies that you like watching yourself. But do you think that somewhere you might need to get out of that for people to take you seriously?
I love how nobody asks Salman and Shahrukh the same question. They actually don’t. I’ve never read anybody in an interview asking them “Why do you do the same kind of action or potboiler masala films?”. So…
Is it because of the gender bias that you can easily gauge?
I don’t know why I get asked this because I’ve explained time and again that I like being part of films that I like watching.
What I meant was not in terms of the viewer, I’m saying in terms of you. Don’t you feel like you want to do something outside the usual?
I will. That’s why I did Son of Sardar, Rowdy Rathore and Lootera. These really struck a chord with me and I didn’t do them because people were telling me to. That shouldn’t be a reason for anybody to do anything. My next film is something which you would call different. It’s by A. R. Murugadoss and it’s a first for the both of us. It’s the first time he’s making a woman-centric film and it’ll be the first time I’ll be working in one. So it’s not like I’m not open to doing it, it’s just that there are certain kinds of films that I enjoy watching, so it’s the logical thing to be a part of those.
There’s also been a lot of buzz about Lingaa; the anticipation is huge. What would you like to say about the entire experience?
It was amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better debut in Tamil films and the entire team has been so supportive. Earlier I was very lost because it’s a language that I don’t understand. Not to mention an alien industry because I’ve never worked there before. But it was the best experience ever. I felt like a queen on the set and everyone was so helpful and supportive. Based on my comfort level they would let me read the lines off a placard or get prompted and repeat the lines. My director was very happy with the way I spoke Tamil. And working with Rajni sir was awesome, we all know what kind of a star he is.
Do you think movies can make a change in society, both in a positive and negative way?
Depends on what society wants to take away from a movie. It does influence people. But it also depends on the people and what they want to see in a film. I believe that there’s a negative and positive side to everything in life.
Is there any upcoming fascinating role for you?
Yes I’m doing Murugadoss’s film next, like I said. It’ll be quite fascinating because I’ll be doing action in that.
Do you have any advice for young girls about maintaining physical strength?
Girls should definitely take up some form of self-defence. It should be incorporated from the very beginning in school. We should have a self-defence class in school itself and I think that it’s really the need of the hour today. I really think women should now start taking things into their own hands like the Haryana bus incident; I was really amazed at the guts of those girls. Everybody should just take a leaf out of their book and be prepared.
You know DDLJ celebrated a thousand weeks last month. That’s one film that we’ve all grown up with. Now if the idea of a remake ever comes up, would you want to romance Shah Rukh Khan? (laughs)
I would not want to see anybody else other than Kajol and Shahrukh. There are some films that should just not be touched; they should be remembered for what they were. This film has such a special place in so many people’s hearts.
On the topic of gender bias, is it still very difficult for actresses to get a role on par with actors, in Bollywood?
That is slowly changing with the kind of films that are being made where females are now the protagonists. And there are certain films where the actor and actresses are at par as well. For example, Lootera or Ramleela. Things are definitely changing in that way. The audience has also become more accepting, which is why this change has happened.
Your take on size zero..
To each his own. For me, it’s just not what I perceive Indian women as! Besides, one needs to be comfortable in their skin and not push their bodies to suit the trend. Trends keep coming and going, as long as you’re fit and healthy, nothing else matters!
The real you…
…is very laid back, chilled out and carefree.
Down the memory lane, do you miss anything?
Now that I think about it, I miss hanging out with my friends at our usual spots. Oh and I definitely miss queuing up for tickets every Friday when a movie releases!
Your comment on who’s your favourite and whom do you consider a competitor?
There are some great actresses in this era. But I believe that I’m competing only with myself. The kind of person I am, I don’t look too much into what someone else is doing or not doing. With every effort, I have to improve. What is important is choosing good scripts and doing good work. It all pays off in the end. I focus on what I do.
- Colour – Black and white
- Shopping destination – London
- Perfume – Jean Paul Galtier
- Favourite era of the Hindi movie industry – The 2000’s
- Holiday destination – Dubai
- Your day look – Very minimalistic, just some rouge and lipstick.
- Your night look – Again not too over the top, I like the done up eyes and nude lips look a lot!.
- Best asset – My eyes.
- Three characters in history that you would like to meet…Madhubala, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana. Since all of them were inspirational women.
- True beauty according to you… Lies in the eyes of the beholder.
- A morning person or a night person? Night person.
- Beauty regime.. Applying ice every morning on my face.
- Fashion/Style statement. Very casual, jeans and tee are my favourite.
- The most stylish woman for you – My mother and Rekha ji.
- Does your mind rule over your heart or vice versa? I’m all heart.
- If not an actress then…A fashion designer!.
- Your Sundays – are with friends and family.
- Hobbies include – Sketching, painting, tennis; actually, sports in general; watching films and chilling with
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