Some of his better performances have flown under the radar, because either the movies have not worked or because he didn’t, undeservingly, was not singled out for praises by the critics.
Ajay Devgn is one of the rare few Bollywood mainstream actors who has not one but two National awards in his kitty, both being for the Best Actor. None of the top three Khans have that credit with them, not even Mr Perfectionist Aamir Khan, who has a thing for socially relevant films. Ajay Devgn won his first National Award for Zakhm, and the second for The Legend of Bhagat Singh. As an actor who was often accused of being very wooden at the start of his career, especially in the ’90s, these two National awards were a slap to his detractors’ faces. It’s true that Ajay Devgn was not considered an actor per se, but that’s more to do with the masala movie he used to do in the nineties than on the merit of his performance. Many say it was Zakhm that made people sit up and notice his terrific histrionics, but for me, it was always that longing glare he gives during the climax of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam that nailed the fact that here is a wonderful actor, whom directors are yet to utilise. Thankfully, the film-makers did oblige, and Ajay Devgn did get to try out different genres and roles like comedy (Golmaal), horror (Bhoot), psychological thrillers (Deewangee), historical flicks (The Legend of Bhagat Singh) and even being a villain (Khakee, Shikhar).
Not only, that he proved himself to be an indulgent producer with Raju Chacha, and also a competent director with his first film, U, Me Aur Hum. He is gearing up for his second directorial, Shivaay, which, going by the trailer, is a visual masterclass. Ajay has spared no cost for the film’s technical finesse, while also breaking his long-held no kissing policy for the film, as he engages in a long lip-lock with Polish actress, Erika Kaar. The movie is scheduled to release on October 28, and we do hope it lives up to the huge promise its trailers gave us.
When we talk about Ajay Devgn’s best films, the movies that come to our minds are the ones I have mentioned above. However some of his better performances have flown under the radar, because either the movies have not worked or because he didn’t, undeservingly, was not singled out for praises by the critics. Here are five such underrated performances by Ajay Devgn.
This unusual film, despite having Indian soldiers as the protagonists, is not about the war, but how their life is still at peril even if there is no battle to speak of . This Mani Shankar film came right after his much lambasted sci fi hogwash Rudraksh, so didn’t find much takers at the box office. It’s a pity, since the film is a really good take on the lives of our soldiers, their family lives, and how not all enemies belong to Pakistan – some are within ourselves. Plus, it also boasts of terrific performances by Ajay Devgn and Bobby Deol.
Despite having a fantastic score by AR Rahman, this gangster drama didn’t find much takers at the box office. Perhaps the audience then couldn’t accept the slow-burning nature of the narrative. However, if you are patient viewer, you would really appreciate that darker themes of Govind Nihalani’s first commercial venture, that takes inspiration from Mario Puzo’s The Last Don. Ajay Devgn gives his much more understated performance in the film, ably supported by Tabu, Amrish Puri and a chilling Rahul Bose. The film will still remembered fro those wonderful songs like Rang De, Khamosh Raat, Jhumbali Ka and others.
JP Dutta’s next war film after the blockbuster Border, based on the Kargil war, had a huge opening thanks to the large cast involving the likes of Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Suneil Shetty, Manoj Bajpayee, Akshaye Khanna, Nagarjuna, Kareena Kapoor Khan and others. However, unlike Border, which had a conventional format, LOC Kargil was more of a series of events and delved straight into the war which didn’t suit the conventional tastes of the normal viewer. And it also didn’t help matters that the film was an hour too long as compared to other releases. However, what LOC Kargil need to be appreciated is that it showed a war scenario at its most realistic take, with actors playing real heroes and martyrs. Among the performances, it’s Ajay Devgn who stands tall followed by Abhishek Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Manoj Bajpayee.
The late Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh made his first Bollywood film with Raincoat, that starred Ajay Devgn and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the lead. Based on a short story by O Henry, the film narrates a simple tale of two ex-lovers who meet one rainy evening, and reminiscences about their past. But when it comes to their present situation, they lie to each other hiding their miserable existence. Ajay Devgn was very subdued in the film, which suited his character, while Aishwarya Rai won the Zee Cine Awards for Critics’ Choice Best Actress. The film itself won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi award.
Rajkumar Santoshi’s multi-starrer episodic film, that had Manisha Koirala, Jackie Shroff, Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor and Ajay Devgn in the lead, didn’t manage to entice the audience despite the star cast and the strong message of women empowerment, The film did have a very weak beginning, but gains momentum with the Madhuri track that takes on Ramayana. The next episode featuring Ajay Devgn, playing a Naxal like bandit and Rekha, who gets gangraped and killed by the rich men of the village, because her son eloped with one of their daughters, is the most powerful of the stories in the film, aided by a strong performances by both the actor. Lajja may not be the best of Rajkumar Santoshi but it works in most parts, if you give it another chance.