The Tribune - Spectrum

, June 23, 2002

Subtlety is his style
Sitesh Debnath

Ajay Devgan is now looking forward to the  release of Line of Control
Ajay Devgan is now looking forward to the release of Line of Control

FROM the time when he was dismissed as a gawky stunt boy who got lucky, Ajay Devgan has come a long way. In an industry that places a premium on good looks and pedigree, he has worked his way up on the strength of sheer hard work, dedication and of course, talent.

Today, 10 years after he made his debut astride two motorbikes in the opening scene of Phool Aur Kaante, Devgan realises he is at the most interesting stage of his career. He has had three successive releases, Company, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin and The Legend of Bhagat Singh, which have made him the talk of movie town.

"But I have also slipped up," he says, typically underplaying himself. "Like all other actors, I have made mistakes. Probably the only thing I can take pride in is that I did not have the support of any mentor or godfather to take me to where I am today."

Indeed, unlike Salman or Shah Rukh Khan, Devganís success has come without the backing of Bollywood biggies like the Barjatyas, Chopras or Johars. "Heís an interesting fellow as he works on his sensibilities and doesnít let you in on how smart he is," says Ramgopal Varma, who directed him recently in Company.


After successfully establishing himself as an A-list action hero in Vijaypath, Jigar and Suhaag, Devgan made as smooth transition to romantic roles in films like Pyar To Hona Hi Tha and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and even tried his hand at comedy (Ishq) before stabilising in full-scale drama (Zakhm and Lajja).

Underplaying intense moments with a cold stare and a perfectly paced line of dialogue, Devgan is, in fact, the exact opposite of your typical Bollywood hero who screams and shouts and lets his fists do the talking. Even as a notorious underworld don in Company, he uses subtlety and silence over melodrama to convey his anger.

"But thatís what he is really like," says filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who directed Devgan in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. "When you are explaining a scene to him or telling him something, you donít know if heís soaking it in because heís so quiet. Then you see him perform exactly the way you wanted him to, and you know he was hanging on to your every word."

Off-screen too, Devgan is mostly a recluse. He has few friends, most of whom heís grown up with and who have nothing to do with films or acting. "I take my job very seriously, but acting definitely does not constitute my life."

In fact, he is believed to be so unsociable that he wonít even hang out with his wifeís closest friends. While Shah Rukh, Karan Johar and fashion designer Manish Malhotra would gush endlessly about Kajol, they shrug their shoulders and admit that they just donít know her husband at all.

It is not that nobody has tried. "They are her friends," Devgan says of them, and adds that, "I just havenít got to know them well enough."

And should you raise the subject of the rumoured cracks in his marriage, he will not dignify it with an answer.

"I think I have reached a stage in life when I do not need not be over-concerned about what people think or have to say about me," he confesses. "For that matter, I do not even have to cringe when I see some of my old films on cable or video."

After The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Devgan is looking forward to the release of J.P. Duttaís Line of Control. He has some interesting stories to tell about the shooting in Leh with his buddies, Sanjay Dutt and Sunil Shetty. But about that, later. MF

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