This may not be their first film together. This may not be the first time Rohit Shetty is attempting an action-packed commercial film. This is not the first time Ajay Devgn plays a cop. This will not be the first time we will see Ajay Devgn in uniform… not the first time Ajay Devgn will flaunt his mardaani moochhein. Yet, this is different from everything we’ve seen earlier Shetty or Devgn ever attempted.
That’s the sense you get when you walk onto the sets of Rohit Shetty’s Singham, which toplines Ajay Devgn and introduces Kajal Aggarwal. Yes, Shetty has once again decided to shoot almost the entire film in his favourite city, Goa. The set is packed with people who are positive about the film. Everyone is speaking highly of the way Shetty and Devgn are proceeding with the shoot.
Everyone associated with the film is giving it more than 100 per cent. We’re on the sets and it is almost 2.50 pm but no one is worried about lunch. Eventually Shetty realises the time and call for a lunch break. No one seems interested in food, but they obey their captain. That’s the spirit on the sets of Singham.
Cut to Ajay Devgn. He seems very relaxed in his vanity van. Instead of talking about his film, he’s keen to hear about what’s happening in Mumbai. “I’ve been away from Mumbai for so long, tell me what’s happening in the film industry?” he asks. Tell him that movies are doing well, though there have been fewer releases because of the Cricket World Cup, and he sighs. “Every film should do well. Each one should be successful so that we go a long way,” he says.
So what’s it like for him to be back in uniform after a hiatus? “The script demanded it,” says Devgn. “As you know, this is a remake of a Tamil film of the same name, and the protagonist is a cop. So I too am playing a cop and will be seen in vardi in most part of the film.”
You look at him and, before you begin your second question, he stops you and adds, “We’re not doing frame-to-frame copy of the original. Yes, the basic premise is the same, but the treatment is totally Hindi film style. In fact, Rohit with his writer changed the entire final 45 minutes of the film.”
Elaborating, Devgn adds: “It’s a film about men. Singham will mark the return of hardcore raw action to the cinemas, with a lot of dialogue-baazi and machismo. While the elite audience will love the stylised treatment, it will also connect with the man on the street because of its simple narrative and terrific action scenes.”
The story: Ajay Devgn plays Bajirao Singham, a simple police officer who is happy to toe the line till he is provoked by baddie Prakash Raj to show his ferocious side. And when Bajirao Singham does that, all hell breaks loose. The story may sound like every other good-versus-evil film, but Shetty insists it’s not.
So why did Shetty decide to go for an actioner when he was delivering hits in comedies one after the other in the Golmaal series and All The Best? He laughs. “Aur koi offer nahin aaya, what to do?” Request him to be serious and he adds, “That was the decision taken by Ajay and me. We wanted to attempt an action film before we moved to our next comedy film, Bol Bachan, which also toplines Abhishek Bachchan.”
But why Singham? “’Cause it has everything one would like to watch… wholesome entertainment.”
And, surprise surprise, this time Shetty has not used a single foreign fighter or imported any foreign equipment because he feels indigenous action has greater impact than all the foreign stunts people are obsessing over these days. “As Indians, we identify with our own style of raw action, which we have sidelined lately because we have suddenly developed an affinity for the West,” he says.
Meanwhile, Kajal Aggarwal, who is making her debut in Singham, is ecstatic. In the Mumbai film industry, Aggarwal is still known as the leading lady of Magadheera, one of the highest grossers in the Telugu film industry. But she’s certain that after the release of Singham, she will be known as the Singham girl. “What more could I ask for than being paired opposite Ajay and being directed by Rohit Shetty,” she exclaims.
Speaking of the director with the Midas touch, in his place, any director would have pushed his failure on to someone else. But this man is different. Remind him about Sunday and he accepts that the failure of the film was solely his mistake. It made money for its investors, he says, but still emerged as a disappointment because it did not live up to expectations.
“Going by the success of my previous film, Sunday didn’t do so well, but it recovered its money,” Shetty confesses. “I strongly feel, had I worked a little harder on the pre-climax and climax of the film, it would have had lived up to its expectations.”
• On May 10, shooting of Singham will be complete. The film will hit screens on July 22.
• Rohit Shetty and his writers have changed almost 70 per cent of the script. What Shetty liked about the original, a Tamil film of the same name, was the hero’s character and the story, which is earthy and simple.
• Since too many films have been set in UP and Bihar, Shetty and Devgn decided to give this film a Maharashtrian flavor. The protagonist is named Bajirao Singham.
• Some talented artistes from the Marathi film industry have been part of this magnum opus; Ajay Devgn will also be seen speaking in Marathi.
• For the leading lady’s role, Shetty was keen on roping in a girl-next-door type, but not a debutante, since he didn’t want to waste time teaching her to act. When he saw Magadheera, he knew Kajal Aggarwal was just perfect for the part.
• Anushka Sharma was also considered, but her dates were not available.
• This year, Ajay and Rohit will not have a Diwali release as their next, Bol Bachan, will not be ready for release. Rohit will start work on Bol Bachan in August. The film toplines Ajay Devgn and Abhishek Bachchan in the lead.