With the forthcoming Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, Ajay Devgn hits a hundred films— as actor. Since the film will release early next year, he will have completed over 28 years, that too as one of the evergreen five superstars ( we all know the other four) who have reigned in Hindi cinema for over 25 years.
Ajay was as unlikely a star material as Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha were in their times. The classic looks of a hero were missing, but in the process of finding his feet, Ajay explored both the actor and star within him. Like so many others, in his earliest films, he was branded as an action hero, the new angry but young Bachchan on the block, but he quickly decided to expand his horizons while keeping his box-office image intact.
Ishq, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, Zakham, The Legend Of Bhagat Singh, Deewangee, Bhoot, Masti, Raincoat, the Golmaal franchise (the first comic series to touch four films), Toonpur Ka Superrhero, Bol Bachchan, Drishyam and De De Pyaar De remain among his diverse unusual choices, and star-actor Devgn mostly dazzled in all of them.
Ajay has just confirmed the role of the legendary Tansen in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Baiju Bawra, is doing the patriotic war drama Bhuj: The Pride Of India, acting in the period thriller RRR (the first superstar from Mumbai to star in a S.S. Rajamouli film) and sports biopic Maidaan besides the modern interpretation of the ancient titanic strategist Chanakya in Neeraj Pandey’s film of that name. Of course, he also reprises his own iconic role of Bajirao Singham in a cameo in Sooryavanshi. And there is Anees Bazmee, contemplating Deewangee 2, in which ‘villain’ Ajay Devgn will be infinitely more menacing.
After winning multiple glories, starting with the two National awards for Zakham (1998) and The Legend Of Bhagat Singh (2002) and other trophies for categories as varied as Best Male Debut, Best Actor, Best Actor in a Negative Role, Best Actor in Comedy/Romance and even nominations for Best Supporting Actor, Ajay has little to prove— on screen!
But the 100 film-old actor also keeps playing diverse roles behind the screen. So let us look at the 10 areas in which he may not have scored a hundred, but show his total involvement in cinema, to a higher and more assorted degree than his contemporaries and seniors.
1 Singer: Ajay Devgn first went behind the mike in Diljale (1996) for Anu Malik in the song ‘Shaam Hai Dhuan Dhuan’. Then came Mehbooba (2008)’s ‘Babuji Bahut Dukhta Hai’. However, both were essentially voice-overs, but the first time he went full-fledged into singing was in the title-song for Himesh Reshammiya in his co-production Bol Bachchan (2012), in which he sang the title-track with Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan!
We heard his voice again in Toonpur Ka Superrhero and Son Of Sardaar.
2 Producer: Though he had unofficially been part-producer of Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, and his family had officially made Hindustan Ki Kasam and Dil Kya Kare, Ajay turned producer officially with Raju Chacha in 2000. The experimental film collapsed, and it took him a while to go into that domain again, which he did in 2008 with U Me Aur Hum, another flop.
His first success as a producer was the comic riot All The Best (2009), after which he also co-produced (as most big stars do today) his films Bol Bachchan, Son Of Sardaar, Singham Returns, Shivaay, Helicopter Eela and Total Dhamaal. Ajay also bankrolled the offbeat festival film Parched in 2015.
3 Producer – Television: Along with Misha Gautam, he produced the television series Devi featuring Madhoo (his first heroine) and Sakshi Tanwar. The series ran from 2002 to 2004.
4 Camera Operator: Though not billed within the film, buzz is that Ajay was the assistant camera operator for some of the action sequences in the 2003 Zameen. This is indeed an interesting tangent on his background—as the son of stunt coordinator Veeru Devgan! Later, he was said to have conceived the action sequences of Shivaay as well!
5 Narrator: Like the Bachchans, Ajay’s deep voice was his special asset, and he first became the narrator for Awakening (2006), a three-minute film on environmental consciousness, in which he also acted. After this, he was also the narrator in Yamla Pagla Deewana and Poster Boyz.
6 Editor: Though the three minute short does not credit him, it is said that he even tried his hand at editing Awakening!
7 Director: In 2008, Ajay ventured into direction with the medical drama U Me Aur Hum on Alzheimer’s disease. His next film as director was Shivaay, which did over a 100 crore business in India.
8 Story Writer: Th story of U Me Aur Hum was written by Ajay himself.
9 Producer—Marathi films: This is his special achievement in going beyond the realm of Hindi cinema. He first produced the successful Marathi film Vitti Dandu featuring Dilip Prabhavalkar in 2014, on what happened to a family days before Indian Independence. Last year, Ajay also produced the Nana Patekar film Aapla Manus, a thriller of sorts, which won acclaim both from the critics and the audience.
10 Visual Effects: In October 2015, Ajay began a visual effects company, NY Vfxwaala, named after his kids Nysa and Yug. his children. Among the prestige films it handled are Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Bajirao Mastani, the South’s Mersal, Dilwale, Simmba and Total Dhamaal besides Ajay’s own Shivaay for which it won the National award.
As he puts it, “My name is in the Limca Book of Records for doing the first Computer Graphics in my country—for the title-track of Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha. I shot a part of the song with 123 layers. The machine was new, and there were no operators, so I used it myself! I did a lot of similar work later and I launched my company when I got boys who are fabulous at it.”