Two motorcycles are cruising parallelly, a man stands atop the bikes, one foot on either bike, he has side parted hair, adorns black sunglasses, a leather jacket and a solemn expression on his face. A sudden divider comes in between to introduce entropy in the balancing act which is otherwise running like clockwork. The two bikes split and so does the man on the bikes, he does a perfect split. Thus, arrived Ajay Devgn in Indian Cinema.
I was only five years old when I watched this film, but I still remember the claps and whistles that erupted after this scene. The movie was Phool aur Kaante, which was to become one of the biggest hits of that year.
As the son of the illustrious Stunt director Veeru Devgan, Vishal Devgan who goes by the screen name Ajay Devgn was expected to live up to his father’s reputation. However, he was equally adept at acting. He went on to win a Filmfare best actor-debut award for his first movie. This Friday, Ajay completed a century of his films, as his 100th film, ‘Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior’ has hit the silver screens and has opened to roaring reception all over the country.
India, and let’s face it, is obsessed with fair skin. The Mumbai film industry is no exception either. Bollywood loves pretty faces, probably that is the reason why exemplary actors like Manoj Bajpayee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui have been reduced to mere character actors. While people like Salman Khan have become superstars merely because of their gorgeousness.
At present, there are only five ‘superstars’ in Bollywood, who have continued to rule the hearts of the moviegoers for the past three decades. Among the five, there are the three Khans, i.e. Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman, while the other two are Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn. However, in comparison to the other four, Ajay is significantly different, since he isn’t what is considered conventionally beautiful.
In a career spanning almost three decades, Ajay has done it all – He began with action films like Jigar, Sangram, Vijaypath, Suhaag, Diljale etc., wherein he not only performed mindboggling, unbelievable action stunts, but also set the cash registers ringing in terms of box office revenues. With movies like Najayaz and Diljale, Ajay Devgn proved that he is an intense actor as well. The front seat audience determines the stardom of a star because that’s where all the claps and whistles come from. By 1995, Ajay Devgn had become the heartthrob for the front seat audience.
However, Ajay Devgn wasn’t a consistent star to be precise. While most of his films worked, films like Hulchul, Gundaraaj, Jang, Jaan, Itihas etc. bit the dust at the box office. This was the time when the three Khans had had started working according to a formula, on the basis of which they were to dominate the box office in the years to come.
While Salman Khan did family oriented films with Rajshri and comic films with other production houses, Shahrukh Khan had become the romance king after collaborating with Yash Raj Films. Aamir chose selective films, which centered around Aamir and Aamir only. For a while, it seemed as if Ajay Devgn was nowhere in the race for the ultimate stardom.
But in 1998, Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Zakhm’ revived the sagging fortunes of Ajay Devgn, apart from getting him his first ever National Award. The following year, his next venture ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ broke all box office records. Despite his limited role, and the presence of a ‘star’ like Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn left the viewers spellbound with his enthralling performance. It was impossible to match up to Salman’s on screen aura back then, but Ajay Devgn didn’t just match up to him. He bested him.
On 24 February 1999, Ajay Devgn tied the knot with his long-time girlfriend and accomplished actress Kajol, and the lady luck did wonder’s to Ajay’s career. Ajay’s small but powerful appearance in Lajja won praises from everyone. In 2002, Ajay’s film Company not only earned millions at the box office but also earned critical praise for Ajay. Ajay went on to bag a number of awards for the role. The very same year, there was a spate of movies on Shaheed Bhagat Singh, one of which was director Raj Kumar Santoshi’s. ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’, in which Ajay Devgan played the title role emerged as the best film on the subject. Despite doing moderate business at the box office, the film attained cult status amongst the masses with the passage of time. The film became a template for biographical feature films and Ajay Devgn’s portrayal of the valourous Bhagat Singh made entire cinema halls cry inconsolably. The film got Ajay Devgn his second National Award for Best Actor.
In Deewangee, Ajay Devgn mesmerized the audience with his portrayal of an obsessive lover. Once again, accolades came rolling along, and since then, he never looked back.
In the coming years, Ajay Devgn was to mesmerize the audience and critics alike with his films. Ajay Devgn starred in two brilliant films directed by Prakash Jha. Both films were made in the backdrop of Bihar. As an upright IPS officer in Gangaajal, Ajay won everyone’s hearts, while in Apaharan, Ajay played the role of an unemployed youth, who gets stuck in the kidnapping industry of Bihar prevalent in the 90s. Both the films were successful critically as well as commercially. In the film Raincoat, Ajay Devgn delivered a superlative performance as an unemployed man, while in Omkara, he once again impressed everyone in the role of Bahubali Omkara Shukla.
Ajay tickled the audience’s funny bones with Rohit Shetty’s film ‘Golmaal – Fun Unlimited’, which was to turn into an extremely successful film franchise. Since 2010, Ajay Devgn starred in many films that were brilliant both in terms of content as well as mass appeal. Be it Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, Rajneeti, Singham, Bol Bachchan, Son of Sardaar, Singham Returns, Drishyam and Shivaay. As mentioned above, Ajay’s 100th film Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior has released this Friday and is running to packed theaters as of now.
As an actor, the biggest USP of Ajay Devgn was that he never ever restricted himself to any formula. When he was considered an action specialist, he showed his prowess in the romantic genre, when he was considered a romantic, he did socially relevant films and so on and so forth. Ajay Devgn continues to be a favorite for both the whistling front seaters as well as the overcautious critics.