Stream Ajay Devgn’s five best performances on his birthday: Zakhm, Company, Raincoat and others
Action star, comedy hero, character actor; Ajay Devgn has donned several hats in his over three-decade career. But perhaps the films where he has actually struck a deep connect with his audience is through his more serious portrayals. His intense, burning eyes often speak more for him than his most filmy dialogues, and a few intelligent filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj and Mahesh Bhatt drew out some of his best performances from him via clever direction and well-written scripts.
On his birthday today, we take a quick look at some of his finest performances over the years.
It seems somewhat hard to imagine Ajay Devgn with his present day persona of the leading man to play such an understated, nuanced and mostly silent character of Ajay Desai in Mahesh Bhatt’s Zakhm. The 1998 movie was not a perfect film, but it boasted of credible performances, led by Devgn. The movie begins against the backdrop of Mumbai riots, and throughout the duration of the feature, threw light on religion and the role it plays in uniting and dividing our society. The one sequence where Devgn stole the show was when he is faced with the condition of his mother in the hospital for the first time. Paralysed with fear and sorrow, Devgn’s character is unable to utter even a word, and seems to choke on them when he is asked about his relationship with the patient.
Zakhm won Devgn his first National Award. Apart from him, the movie featured Pooja Bhatt, Kunal Kemmu and Nagarjuna in pivotal parts.
You can watch the film on YouTube.
Cut to a few years later, Devgn is seen as Mallik, the don in Ram Gopal Varma’s 2002 release Company. This was a time when Varma still made compelling features. But we are digressing a bit; Devgn as the cool and calm mafia boss Mallik was oddly riveting to watch. Mallik was not your average crime lord, unleashing violence at every turn, walking to cool music with bloodied face and hands. RGV had created a don who was to be feared for the strength and control he exuded even under the nastiest and goriest of circumstances, and the actor brought out that side of the character succinctly.
Company is streaming on ZEE5.
The Legend of Bhagat Singh
We have made multiple movies in Indian cinema that has been inspired by the life of the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. But the one film that almost accurately captures the spirit of what he stood for was the 2002 Rajkumar Santoshi movie The Legend of Bhagat Singh.
Within the same year, audiences saw Devgn play a don and a revolutionary, and excelling in both. According to reports, Devgn was roped in to play the late leader because, according to the filmmaker, he had the ‘eyes of a revolutionary.’ Perfect casting. The movie won the actor another National Award, while the film itself was honoured as the Best Feature Film in Hindi at the National Awards ceremony.
The movie is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Voot.
Rituparno Ghosh’s 2004 Raincoat saw Devgn play a character which he has not done since or previous to the movie. Here too Devgn’s Manoj was the silent, brooding man. But he never gave off the intense, charismatic energy of say, a Company or an Omkara. This was a more mellow and subdued avatar of Devgn which director Ghosh brought out with gentle, gloved hands. His interactions with Aishwarya Rai’s Neerja, how he silently pines for her and is willing to do anything for her despite knowing she’s not his was the highlight of the film. The movie won National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi.
Raincoat is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
In this 2006 release, Ajay Devgn played the titular role in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Hindi adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play Othello. Another role that went to Ajay because of his evocative pair of eyes. In an interview now uploaded by Wild Films India’s YouTube channel, filmmaker Bhardwaj is heard saying that when he saw Othello as a Hindi movie, he could only think of Ajay Devgn playing the lead part. His second unconventional choice to play the part? Ashish Vidyarthi! “Ajay mein wo baat hai (he has something about him). He is dark, handsome, lean, mean, and speaks so much from his eyes,” the director had said at the time.
Although the limelight of this film was ultimately stolen by Saif Ali Khan’s magnetic turn as the diabolical Langada Tyagi, it now seems inconceivable to envision anyone else play Omkara.
Omkara is streaming on YouTube and ZEE5.