2020 was his year, going by the professional high he achieved. Ajay Devgn’s Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior remains the only highlight for Bollywood in a year which saw it being affected massively by the Covid-19 pandemic.
After opening to a glowing word-of-mouth and box-office collections amounting to Rs 280 crores in India, making it the sole blockbuster of 2020, no other film managed to match up to it theatrically, until theatres were forced to shut down in March. The 51-year-old was also among the first few A-listers to get back to work with his next directorial MayDay.
Excerpts from an interview:
Not only was Tanhaji a career high for you, but it also changed the way we look at historical epics. Were you anticipating this kind of response?
I’m ecstatic with the box office of our film. No, I wasn’t expecting it to break records. It is my 100th film. In a career spanning 29 years, I have seen so many highs and lows, accolades and brickbats, that I never go into a film thinking it will break records or that it will become a blockbuster. I’m a seasoned player. I do a film because I believe in it. The box office or the bounty that comes is a blessing from my fans, the audience, my parents and the Almighty.
Coming to the bit on Tanhaji changing the way we as an industry look at historical, I’m proud to have been a part of this magnum opus. When we embarked on it, I knew we had a strong story to tell, good dialogue and a bunch of effective actors. I then combined it with spectacular VFX, done by my company. The idea was to make a film that is visually advanced and tells a story that can tug at your heartstrings. The only thing about a historical is that you need a huge budget because VFX costs a lot of money. It takes away more than a price of two to three solid A-grade actors! Once that bit is sorted, you can set out to make your 3-D epic.
What do you think was it about Tanhaji that really clicked?
It combined a good story of bravery and valour with spectacular VFX. That made it work.
2020 was quite an eventful year. How would you sum it up?
I don’t know what to call 2020. You can it eventful or you can call it uneventful. By the time we adjusted to the lens through which to look at the pandemic, our viewpoints changed. Through the year, I had many reasons to be happy. For example, January gave me Tanhaji, December gave me MayDay (my next directorial). In between, like the global fraternity, I had moments of anxiety and frustration. Work came to a stand through the months of April to October. My family life was disrupted. My daughter, Nysa studies in Singapore so she is away from me. Kajol is with her. My son Yug and I are together with my mother. It was a complete mix of emotions.
It was a big change, from Hindi film industry’s business point of view as well. Do you agree?
As far as our Hindi cinema industry goes, we took a big hit because theatres closed. So, business came to a halt. My own chain of theatres up North is bleeding.
I say a prayer each day for the industry and for our business. It is not for me alone but for the thousands whose direct means of livelihood come from cinema. It’s a worldwide thing. I don’t know how soon we will recover. I hope we are able to bring back the blockbuster days to the box office because it will take many blockbusters to infuse life into our failed economy.
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