Tanhaji marks a milestone for Ajay Devgn

Photo Credit: Jitu Savlani

‘Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior’ (2020) is Ajay Devgn’s 100th film as an actor and it has been classified as a blockbuster. This film has been an apt choice for a milestone achievement like this. What’s more, it has received good appreciation from critics and audience all over. He has captured the historical character of ‘Tanaji “Tanya” Malusare’ with an exceptional performance.

At 22 years old, as a lad, he debuted with the college campus love story ‘Phool Aur Kaante’ (1991) which was a superhit at the box office. With brilliant music by Nadeem-Shravan, he was seen in some interesting action stunts and this marked his entry in the Hindi film industry. He was rigourously trained by his father, the late Veeru Devgan, who was a well-known action director. He was awarded the Best Debut at the 37th Filmfare Awards in 1992.

The next 9 years which followed, he consolidated his position with hit action movies like ‘Jigar’ (1992), ‘Platform’ (1992), ‘Suhaag’ (1994), ‘Vijaypath’ (1994), ‘Dilwale’ (1994), ‘Naajayaz’ (1994) ‘Diljale’ (1996), ‘Jung’ (1996) and ‘Major Saab’ (1997). With Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty, Ajay Devgn formed a young action trinity of that decade. His fans liked his stunts but somewhere he wanted to expand his horizon as an actor.

Mahesh Bhatt, after a series of flops in the late ‘90s, directed him in ‘Zakhm’ (1998), opposite Pooja Bhatt and it was his biggest turning point of his career. His sensitive portrayal of his character Ajay Desai in the film got him lot of appreciation as an actor, for which, he won the 1998 National Film Award for Best Actor.

Rajkumar Santoshi’s ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ (2002) was another big medallion in his career and he aced the role of the freedom fighter ‘Bhagat Singh’. In my opinion, it is his best acting performance of his career. Whenever I read about Bhagat Singh, Ajay Devgn’s portrayal of the legend comes to my mind. The film won him his second National Award for Best Actor in 2003.

Drifting from the action genre, he is one of the rare actors, alongside Akshay Kumar, who has also shown his forte in another difficult genre – comedy. Moviegoers saw glimpses of his comic timing in ‘Ishq’ (1997) and ‘Hogi Pyar Ki Jeet’ (1999). ‘Bol Bachchan’ (2011) was another wonderful comic avatar for him with his English lines. Now, he is part of the famous comedy franchise ‘Golmaal’ and the fifth part of the film, directed by Rohit Shetty, is releasing next year.

Taking substantial risks as an actor in the Hindi film industry is not everyone’s cup of tea. Despite some flops which affected his status in the Hindi film industry, he tried to move away from safe projects and proved his acting prowess by being versatile as an actor. Romantic roles in ‘Dilwale’ (1994), ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ (1998), ‘Pyar To Hona Hi Tha’ (1998), ‘Kachche Dhaage’ (1999) and ‘Dil Kya Kare’ (1999) were special.

Not content and fearing to be typecast, the audience got to see his dark side in ‘Deewangee’ (2002) as a psychopathic lover where he was greatly appreciated, ‘Khakee’ (2003) and ‘London Dreams’ (2009).

In the horror genre, he was among the first actors in the 2000s to go off the beaten track and was part of one of the best horror films, ‘Bhoot’ (2003) directed by Ram Gopal Varma.

As a whole, his other memorable roles till date include movies such as ‘Company’ (2002), ‘Gangajaal’ (2003), ‘Zameen’ (2003), ‘Once Upon A time In Mumbai’ (2010), ‘Raajneeti’ (2010), ‘Singham’ (2011), ‘Son of Sardar’ (2012), ‘Drishyam’ (2015), and ‘De De Pyar De’ (2019).

The audience has always seen Ajay Devgn as a serious persona but what you hear about him from his co-stars is that he is a big prankster on film sets!

In a career spanning of almost three decades, he has earned lot of respect as an actor because he can walk the talk, compared to other actors who only give interviews and say that they want to try something different. Ajay Devgn did it many times.

Unfortunately, the media did not give him sufficient coverage and decided to side with the ruling Khans (Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan) and also to the reliable Akshay Kumar, who became more media-friendly, diplomatic and a crowd-pleaser.

As a producer, the 50-year old also showed his guts and locked horns with big production houses like Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions so that his films to receive equal screens. ‘Shivaay’ was a case in point in 2016. After establishing his own production house, now Ajay Devgn has more control over how he wants to be perceived and is making better choices. While the ruling Khans of the ‘90s are slowing down at the box office despite a huge fan base in India and overseas, Ajay Devgn embarks on a new journey after ‘Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior’.

The sports drama ‘Maidaan’ is his next big release. There are rumours of teaming up with Rohit Shetty for ‘Singham 3’. The hit director Shetty’s ‘Sooryavanshi’ releases in March and Ajay Devgn is doing a cameo appearance as DCP Bajirao Singham.

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