A householder and a cop
The pair gets candid about their experiences casting alongside each otherIt is a rainy day and I’m scheduled to meet Ajay Devgn and Tabu for an interview discussing their film ‘Drishyam’. I remember meeting Tabu the day she signed ‘Drishyam’ and she told me that it is a super story made in Malayalam with Mohanlal. Then came the news of Kamal Haasan doing the same story in Tamil. ‘Papanasam’ released a month ago and now Ajay Devgn is the hero of ‘Drishyam’, to be directed by Nishikant Kamath, director of the hugely popular Marathi film ‘Lai Bhari’. Ajay Devgn and Tabu arrive before time and we begin our conversation without further delay. Both of you go a longway as a pair. “Yes, Ajay (Vishal for friends) is my cousin Samir Arya’s good friend and we have all spent a lot of time together before we began working in films,” says Tabu. “Tabu and Farha were Samir’s cousins who came to Mumbai for holidays from Hyderabad and went away. When they came again they looked taller and more beautiful,” laughs Ajay. This was the early 90s when Ajay had become a hero after ‘Phool aur Pathar’ and Tabu was launched as a child star by Dev Anand in ‘Hum Naujawan’. “Then I was signed by Boney Kapoor for Prem, which took so long to take off that I thought it will never happen. In the meantime, Ajay persuaded me to do ‘Vijapath’ in 1994 and I came to be recognised as the “Ruk ruk girl,” says Tabu.
In the same decade, Ajay and Tabu did two more films as a romantic pair ‘Haqeeqat’ in 1995 and ‘Thakshak’ in 1999, and both were appreciated. While ‘Haqeeqat’ was full of action, ‘Thakshak’ directed by Govind Nihalani was intense with a social message. Now after almost 16 years, the pair is coming together in ‘Drishyam’ and what is interesting is that they are not a romantic pair but in fact are pitched against each other. Had they ever envisioned that they could play opponents? Both shake their head vigorously. “One can never anticipate a character or a role, and that is the beauty about being an actor,” explains Ajay. “Critics are asking me how I agreed to play a father to grownup children in this film. That is the difference. They are looking at my image in isolation while I’m only reacting to the film, the story, my character,” Ajay adds. Tabu agrees wholeheartedly saying, “Journalists ask me isn’t it strange that you are playing a cop and Ajay is playing the householder? I ask them, how can you prejudge the film without first watching the film? Besides, that is the story and that is why the casting is such.” How difficult is it for friends to play foes on screen? “Very easy,” smiles Ajay, “Because when I express hostility and resentment, when I raise my voice or want to remain in the mood after my shot, I don’t fear being misunderstood. If I were to be playing the same role with a heroine who I’m not friends with, I am forced to smile and strike a conversation.” Tabu explains that they are so comfortable with each other that they would more often than not improvise the scene and were never insecure about each other. “That is the fun of working with professionals. With actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn, the more you trust, the better your performance,” she adds. How important is the trust of the filmmaker? “Very important; for me, most of the films I have been raved about have been roles where I shared a special chemistry with the director,” blushes Tabu. “I used to be mortally scared of Priyen sir (Priyadarshan) and would shake like a leaf till he looked from the camera and said OK and this continued from ‘Kalapani’ to ‘Virasat’. Gulzar saab spoiled me with chocolates for every good shot I gave, be it ‘Maachis’ or ‘Hututu’. I also enjoyed working with Balki in ‘Cheeni Kum’. This is my first film with Nishikant Kamath, but one always knows when one is in good hands,” she remarks. “There are some directors who want you to underline emotions. They are usually the inexperienced ones who cannot imagine the proportion on the big screen. It is not always easy for every director to judge projection during shooting. Some are experts and are clued in, and some need to watch the rushes to grasp the sur. As actors we have to submit to all kinds of directors just as they submit to different temperament of actors. The first schedule is a make or break situation for both the actor and the filmmaker. If they can sail through the first schedule without disagreements, then it is going to be asmooth drive for all,” says Tabu. ‘Drishyam’ has already been released in two languages (Malyalam and Tamil)do you think the film will still have an audience in Hindi? “Absolutely,” chorus Ajay and Tabu. “That is the reason the film is made in multiple languages and that is also why we are so confident,” says Ajay. He adds that when he met the director for the Hindi narration he asked him if he was planning to induce creative changes and Nishikant denied it, said the original was so powerful that messing with it would dilute the effect. “I knew at that time that the film was in the right hands. There are some directors who feel obliged to incur changes while remaking a film. This often spoils the flavour. That Nishikant didn’t, spoke of his confidence as a filmmaker,” Ajay states. In the end, I could not help asking if both had to adapt any special attitude to play diverse roles. Ajay thinks for a while and says, “No, this is not the first time I’m playing a family man. I have played husband and I have played father and I am both in real life too. I have never prepared as an actor, not because I’m over confident but because I don’t know how to. I believe that the character finds the actor. The don in ‘Company’ found me and so did the police offcer in ‘Singham’. What is important is to stay blank and feel the moment, or at least that is what I do.” Tabu confesses that playing a cop called for some preparation. “I knew I had to get into the uniform and was conscious about my diet and weight. It is easy to play beautiful and vulnerable. Playing tough is a tough act. Fortunately we finished the film in a startto- finish schedule and now I can eat and wear sarees, in short look both vulnerableand beautiful,” she says.
Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanasomaaya