When Ajay Devgan first heard he had to whip himself in London Dreams, he couldn’t believe his ears. Once he accepted this startling form of self-protest considering it was essential to the plot, Ajay went all out and flogged himself black and blue for continuous 8 hours.
Says Vipul, “We had a detailed discussion. Audience could easily end up laughing at what is meant to be a moment of extreme self-loathing. Ajay was very concerned about the way he would look whipping himself on screen. I assured him that we’d shoot the sequence in a way that would look nothing less than stunning.”
It’s a sequence where an impulsive emotional character punishes himself. Says Vipul, “It is sequence of repentance. But it is not religious. I saw self-flagellation as a perfectly-defining moment for the character. It’s not done with a whip. It’s done with a belt, that Ajay hit himself powerfully with. Once or twice I called out ‘cut’, but Ajay didn’t want to go for a cut. He didn’t want to go through the experience in pieces. It was that harrowing for him.”
Vipul continues, “And that too for a shot which would last no more than 25 seconds on screen. I’d tell him that we should stop. But Ajay insisted on doing it non-stop. We didn’t want the aesthetics to be lost. I’ve never taken longer on any sequence.”
Explaining the act Vipul says, “It’s not a very macho thing to do. And it certainly goes against the image of an action hero as well as a comic hero. Quite naturally, Ajay was zapped when he heard that he was to do a sequence which requires him to whip his own self as an act of punishment.”
Self-flagellation is a very Islamic concept. But Ajay doesn’t play a Muslim character in London Dreams. “I’d be very alarmed if people see it in a religious light. It’d just show we’re cynical about religion. I just wanted to show a completely incredible expression of the character’s intensity. Ajay plays a very intense and emotional character that shocks people with his extreme behaviour. I want to shock the audience. Ajay’s character is one on the edge. I had to show that edginess. And considering its Ajay Devgan, audience will be doubly shocked. Ajay is such a chilled out, in control person. People don’t expect him punish himself on screen. But I’d rather let the character define its actions than the actor ands his image.”
Ajay in fact expressed the same reservations. No protagonist has been shown violating himself so brutally.
Does Vipul expect censor trouble? “I expect trouble from the censors any time.”
Right before we see Ajay Devgan whipping himself on October 30, we get Devgan whipping up some laughs in All The Best.
Says Vipul, “In a span of two weeks, audiences will see Ajay in two drastically different roles. If London Dreams was funny, I’d be nervous. Mine is a completely different film from All The Best. London Dreams is my most intense film till date. And if Ajay is the only leading man to whip himself, I’d say he has guts.”