After Amir Khan, it is Ajay Devgun's turn to prove his directorial talent and versatility. By the time you read this, his directorial debut U ME AUR HUM will have hit the theatres. With U ME AUR HUM, Ajay Devgun joins the bandwagon of actor-directors. It's been a long journey from action hero in films like JIGAR (1992) to comedy in ISHQ (1997) to intense drama in a chain of films as an actor to reckon with. This led to his production house of television software and films. Direction was in the wings, waiting to be called centre stage. He is in his cool self on the eve of the release of his film at least to outward appearances and matches each question with equal wit, the signature silent and crooked smile of amused tolerance often cracking up that unconventional face. Let us see what he has to say.
Has direction always been a part of your dreams? As a matter of fact, it has been a long-time dream-come-true for me. To tell the truth, my training in direction began when I was eight or nine years old and was part of my father's technical and editorial team when he made films. Then, I happened to assist Shekhar Kapoor quite early in my career long before I made my debut in PHOOL AUR KAANTE as an action hero doing my stunts myself. I bided my time and also got familiar with the logistics of production by creating my production banner beginning with HINDUSTAN KI KASAM in 1999 and RAJU CHACHA the next year. The fact that they bombed at the box office did not discourage me but made me wiser in choosing my directorial script and film with care so that it does well.
What drove you to direction? I've been an actor for 16 years now and there have been the usual ups and downs with a few big hits, a few smaller ones and some super flops too. It is logical for an actor to extend himself to other areas like direction. To tell his audience a story he believes in. I had this story in my mind for a long time and then one fine morning, I just sat down and wrote it out. As I was developing the storyline into a full-fledged screenplay, I realised that the best way to tell the story was to tell it the way I wanted it to be told and who else could achieve this but me as director? Of course, I then got other writers to collaborate on the idea and give the screenplay the right shape. After that, it was smooth sailing.
As an actor, you have had your share of action films, dramatic films, contemporary films and historical films. What genre did you choose for your directorial debut? I am not about to give the story away about which genre the film belongs to. I would leave it to my audience to draw its own conclusions. Let me just tell you that it is a commercial film with all the ingredients like dance, music, drama, songs and cinematic strategies like the flashback structure that have gone into the making of U ME AUR HUM. I can definitely tell you what the film it is most certainly not – it is not an action film. I want to reach a wide audience and this is the only way I can attain my objective. I am honest in my intentions and I have made an honest film. That is all. I only hope that I have succeeded in telling my story the way I wished to tell it and that my audience understands it the way it has been told. U, ME AUR HUM is about love, life and relationships. The aim is that people must come out of the theatre with a smile and feel good.
You have directed your wife Kajol in this film and also acted opposite her. How was the experience? Working with her has been a wonderful experience. She is a wonderful actress in her own right. But that does not mean that I will cast her in every film I direct. It would depend on whether there is a character for her to portray. When a director makes a film, actors like her help convey the message rightly. I have other good actors too like Divya Dutt, Helen, Karan Khanna, Isha Sharvani and Aditya Singh Rajput in my film. They have all done me proud. It is the story of three couples and how the successful marriage of one couple helps mend another's relationship and how the third is urged to tie the knot. I will continue with direction as it is my favourite hobby or you can say a passion. I will not make a movie only for the sake of it, but will do it only when a right script will come my way.
Was it difficult wearing so many hats at one go – producer, director and hero? Wasn't it too big a responsibility to take? The bigger the responsibility, the greater is the challenge. If you take these things like a challenge, then there are no problems at all. An actor transcends the borders and extends himself when he gets into direction. This does not imply that he gives up acting for good. He continues to be an actor and also acts under the direction of other men and women. Once you are an actor and you spend years in the industry, you learn a lot by looking at some of the best people (directors) in the business who are there beside you, urging you to give of your best and backing you up all the way. Direction for me was a natural progression from one thing to another larger canvas within the same creative field – films. If you enjoy cinema, you can fit yourself into any of its fields, be it acting, producing or directing.