Dubai: Ajay Devgn talks 'Bholaa,' describes what audiences want in Bollywood films

The superstar was in the city to shoot a mini song sequence for his upcoming action thriller, out in UAE cinemas on March 30


Husain Rizvi

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Published: Tue 28 Mar 2023, 3:38 PM

Last updated: Tue 28 Mar 2023, 3:43 PM

There's something about actors who rose to fame in the 90s; the charisma and wit they possess is as much as the swagger they emanate. So when we spoke to Ajay Devgn on his super short work trip to Dubai recently, we were nothing short of impressed by the enigmatic actor.

Devgn loves Dubai, he says, and used to keep coming here but the actor admits he hardly gets any time now due to his hectic schedule. The Bollywood star, who began his acting career in 1991 with Phool Aur Kaante and won the Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut, has also taken his craft behind the cameras. He has starred in over 100 films, and has also produced and directed many of those.

Devgn returns to the director's chair with Hindi action thriller Bholaa, starring him alongside Tabu. Devgn's fourth directorial after U Me Aur Hum (2008), Shivaay (2016) and Runway 34 (2022) is a remake of 2019 Tamil film Kaithi.

In Bholaa, Devgn's titular character is a former prisoner sought by the police to take on a drug cartel in exchange for a meeting with his daughter. Devgn’s Bholaa is embroiled in an epic journey as he helps inspector Diana Joseph, played by the evergreen Tabu, take down the bad guys in a bid to meet his little one.

"There is a lot of action in the film," Devgn tells City Times during a short and quick encounter at a Dubai studio where he was directing a mini song video sequence for Bholaa. "But the premise of the film is very emotional. It is about a relationship and a man's struggle when he is stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. He doesn't want to be there but he has to reach somewhere. So the base of the film is very emotional."

While the basic storyline is indeed similar to the original, the audience can expect several dramatic and emotional changes to the plot and characters. And Devgn's character in par. "He has a terrible past, but by heart he's a very good person."

Devgn's previous outing Drishyam 2 also saw him star next to Tabu. The two have shared screen space on many occasions, and right from the 90s up until now, their chemistry has topped the charts. "She's a fabulous actress," he says of Tabu, whom he's known since childhood. "We share a great rapport and that has always been the case. Apart from that, the kind of performance Tabu gives and with such intensity; she can put herself into anything. And that, as a director, also helps me."

Bholaa has also roped in South actor Amala Paul for a special performance. Devgn says she suits the role perfectly, "She's a very professional and good actress."

Devgn adds that he wanted a fresh face who is also a good performer. "She's a big star in the South, but for the Hindi audience, she will be a fresh face. So that was the whole intention," he said. Devgn and Paul can be seen in action in Bholaa's Nazar Lag Jayegi song video which is already out on YouTube and has garnered over 41 million views.

Ever since Covid-19 struck, Bollywood has been in a real pickle, especially in 2022 when most films failed to strike a chord with the audience. Barring films like Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, which also starred Tabu, Drishyam 2, and Brahmastra among a select others, Bollywood suffered a dry spell at the box office. The cinema releases are also in direct competition with OTT which has great content and a better frequency.

But 2023 looks promising; the year started with a bang with Shah Rukh Khan's Pathaan making history at the box-office. Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor's Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar is also getting some love from the audience. And with all that we've seen of Bholaa ahead of its release, the action-clad film doesn't look short of a big-ticket entertainer.

That's what the audiences want, Devgn feels. "They want a big-ticket entertainer," says the actor who has been in the industry for over three decades now. “Because we are also competing with the OTT platforms that have some nice content. So, to get the audiences to theatres, it (films) should be a big cinema screen experience. Obviously, there has to be a great story and great content to hook them."

Bringing the audience to the cinemas has become tough, Devgn admits, but if films similar to Pathaan and Drishyam 2 are made more consistently, Bollywood can get back on track in no time.

Devgn was also a part of SS Rajamouli's RRR which has now taken over the world. The action-adventure's epic reception was not limited to the Indian audience, but it turned out to be a much-loved success internationally. The film starring Ram Charan and NTR Jr in lead roles with Bollywood stars Alia Bhatt and Devgn making special appearances, raked in several national and international awards. Its song Naatu Naatu by M.M. Keeravaani and Chandrabose won an Oscar for Best Original Song at the 95th Academy Awards as well as a Golden Globe Award. Rajamouli's directorial also won Best Action Film at Hollywood Critics Association Awards.

"Rajamouli is a fabulous director," Devgn says. "The way he thinks, the way he creates drama, and the way he dedicates his life, four to five, or sometimes six years, to a film, I don't think anybody else does it. And that's what pays."

Coming back to Bholaa's release in the UAE, Devgn says he is grateful to his fans here.

"We always keep them in our minds when we are making films because it is not just for India, but for UAE and also for the rest of the world," he said.

"They are a very big audience for us and we are very happy with it. We hope they enjoy our films and that we can keep entertaining them for a long time."

Bholaa will release in UAE cinemas on March 30 in 3D and IMAX.

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