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Wing Commander Vijay Karnik, who was the man behind the strange and valiant contribution of 300 women of a village of Bhuj in the War of 1971, is the subject of actor-producer Ajay Devgn’s new film. Bhuj: The Pride of India recreates Karnik and other important people involved who re-constructed an entire IAF airbase with the help of over 250 women from a local village with his smart techniques and planning which helped in defeating Pakistan.

In this interview with News18.com, the actor explains why there is an influx of patriotic films, the need to tell such stories and also discusses his future projects.

What is it about the story of Bhuj: The Pride of India that you as an actor felt was cinematic and thought that it had the potential to be a feature film?

So much has happened in our country. There are so many sacrifices that have happened in our country that you can’t even think of writing a screenplay like this. Bhuj: The Pride of India is not just a story about Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik. It is a story about multiple heroes and their sacrifices. Apart from that, it is a story about those women who were not a part of any defence force but they sacrificed and contributed during the 1971 war. So I think it was a great story to tell.

Were you aware of the story before you were approached for the film?

No, I wasn’t. The problem in our country is that there are such great sacrifices but not many know about it because it is not there in our history books. I feel the common man should be aware about why as a country we are what we are today.

How much of the film has kept true to the incidents?

The entire story is real and all the incidents shown in the film are also real. Every film needs to be dramatized. Even if you put the background music, that is also dramatisation. To let the audience experience the fact that they are a part of the film, you need to take certain cinematic liberties.

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Is there a reason as Hindi cinema, we are gravitating towards stories of patriotism?

Not just patriotism, but real characters. Because they are amazing character and great stories to tell. I don’t think ten writers put together can write a story like this.

But is there a reason for an influx of patriotic movies?

When you have a screenplay like this, it is something that needs to be told. we can’t make such great fiction also. So might as well tell a real story and inspire people and push our history forward. People didn’t know much about Tanhaji. There was half a page about him in my school book which I am assuming doesn’t exist in today’s school books. Why should the people not know about his sacrifice? We know the history of United States of America or United Kingdom but we don’t know our own history. In our country, if you don’t speak English, you are illiterate and that’s not fair. French people don’t think they are illiterate if they don’t speak English. They are proud of it.

Did your own bent increase towards such stories in the past few years?

Writers are researching and coming up with these stories. It is so inspiring that you just cannot not make them. Also, the technology and the budgets that we had earlier did not allow us to make a film like Bhuj: The Pride of India. The scale of our film can be compared to any Hollywood film.

How do you make sure that the story doesn’t become jingoistic?

You have to draw the line somewhere which the filmmaker and the actors need to know. If you keep the screenplay and the characters real so you can make sure it doesn’t go overboard. In our film, there is no jingoism at all. It was same with Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior. We have shown that people are fighting for the country but they weren’t crying about how much they love the country.

We have seen the film and the story is about an incident between Indian and Pakistan that happened in 1971. Your character is talking about Mughal Emperors and Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. These are two different topics as during the Mughal era, India and Pakistan were together. There was not a map…

There was a map back then also. This is where people don’t know the history. We always say that Mughals joined the whole country, but that wasn’t the case. It was a propaganda when they say that Akbar was Wazir-e-Azam of Hindustan. It was never the case. Marathas were still in control of their region and so were the Rajputs and many others. We are only taught that Akbar was ruling the country and he got the entire country together. As a country, we have been ruled by somebody else for hundreds of years, and then the British came. They did want you to know that how great you were and how every time India has been ruled, it has resisted. I am using India in present terms which was Bharat back then, But we don’t talk about that. So we don’t talk about our heroes. And we want to believe that we were always ruled. Many things were conveniently deleted from our history books.

Do you think it’s correct to compare Pakistan to Mughal emperors or to Mughal era, which was Hindustan at that time, there was no Pakistan also.

But that’s what they believe. They believe in Hindu and Muslim. I am not talking against the people of Pakistan. I’ve been to Pakistan and the people out there are sweet to everybody, especially Indians. It is the political side to it. Why were there so many wars if they believed in peace? They always thought that we were the ones who are ruling and that is why they have taken it to caste. We never did. So when someone says it in those words, you answer back in a similar way.

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Kajol and Nysa have watched the film. What have been their reactions?

They have loved the film. I never expected them to like it (Laughs). Nysa is most critical about my work. She doesn’t like most of my films. So when she liked this film, I was happy. She said that I loved the film. It is sensible, to the point and not a single boring scene. These kids watch a Hollywood film so they are aware of what is being made.

In the West, there is a movement where many filmmakers and actors are objecting to a film releasing straight on OTT because the business is getting affected. With your film also releasing on a streaming platform, has it affected your finances?

Not really. Given the scenario, I think it’s a great time. You want people to see what you have made. And OTT is a good platform. I’m not saying that all the films should be releasing on OTT. I think it will be a good balance in the future, because theaters are going to come back in a big way. And then there will be a balance because we are 150 to 200 films every year. People are only fighting because there are two to three films releasing on any given week and we have limited screens. As long as people are watching it is great.

OTT is a great platform but as an actor and filmmaker does it concern you that there are talks of regulating it?

Yes, it is an area of concern to a point. To a point it needs to be regulated but we should not start going backwards. Regulations should be right. The fear isn’t that it’s getting regulated. The fear is what the regulations are. If we don’t regulate something, people take advantage. Four people taking advantage will spoil the name of the whole industry. If you don’t regulate, people will start putting porn on it also. So regulations are important but there has to be a line drawn.

Many new actors are emerging from OTT. In a recent interview, Akshay Kumar mentioned that chances have opened up for so many actors who are becoming stars. He said that if a good scripts comes your way, just take it and don’t leave it for anyone as the star system doesn’t exist anymore.

He must have said it in jest. The new actors who have come in will also become stars. If it is a good script but doesn’t have a star, the producers have to achieve a certain target. But once a star gets involved, the stakes become higher. We have seen many films of big stars failing on OTT. I believe we are having good talent which is coming in. Like I said, there is going to be a good balance between OTT and cinemas.

But with the emerging talents, do you feel the need to up your game?

It’s not because of the new talent. The pressure has always been there and it has because of the audience. You have to keep on reinventing on make sure your not left behind.

In an interview, you have mentioned that you’d be slowly gravitating towards the production side from being an actor. You said that it is better to go out of the game before it’s too late.

What I said is that I am going to strike a good balance. And gradually things are going to change. I don’t know when but it will happen. I can’t keep playing the main lead for another 25 years.

How was the experience of reuniting with Sanjay Leela Bhansali?

I have always had a great rapport with him. And it felt like we picked it up from where we had left. So it was as comfortable as it was from day one.

Many believe that he is a taskmaster.

People ask me about his terror on sets and I have never seen it. During Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam it wasn’t there at all. These days people talk about it but I haven’t seen it at all. In fact he is so sweet to his entire cast and crew.

How is it to direct Amitabh Bachchan for Mayday?

He is a delight. I have never seen a more dedicated actor. We are nothing in front of him. Once he is on the sets, he is ready on his mark. If you tell him to rest in his van when we are lighting up, he will say no, I am sitting here and I’ll keep rehearsing. We have nearly completed the film and only five days of shoot is left.

What is that conversation like when you are directing him? Can you tell him about not going overboard?

I have known him since I was a kid so I share a different rapport. I could tell him whatever I want since my childhood. So I can tell him sir, thoda kum karo or yaha pe thoda improve karna padega.

Have you started shooting for Rudra: The Edge of Darkness (based on British series Luther) which marks your OTT debut?

Yes, I have shot for a couple of days. I had seen the original series before I was approached for Rudra.

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