When Ajay Devgan first heard he had to whip himself in London Dreams he couldn"t believe his ears. Once he accepted this startling form of self-protest as essential to the plot Ajay went all out and flogged himself black and blue for a continuous 8 hours.
Says Vipul Shah, “We had a detailed discussion. Audiences could easily end up laughing at what is meant to be a moment of extreme self-loathing. Ajay was very concerned about how he would look whipping himself on screen. I assured him that we"d shoot the sequence in a way that would look nothing less than stunning."
It is a sequence, where the impulsive emotional character punishes himself.
Says Vipul, “It is sequence of repentance. But it is not religious. I saw the self-flagellation as a perfectly defining moment for the character. It"s not done with a whip. It"s done with a belt. And Ajay hit himself powerfully. Once or twice I called 'cut" in more ways than one. But Ajay didn"t want a cut. He didn"t want to go through the experience in pieces. It was that harrowing for him."
Says Vipul, “And that too for a shot which would last no more than 25 seconds on screen. I"d tell him that we should stop. But Ajay insisted we do it non-stop. We didn"t want the aesthetics to be lost. I"ve never taken longer on any sequence."
Says Vipul, “It"s not a very macho thing to do. And it certainly goes against the image of the action hero and the comic hero. Quite naturally Ajay was zapped when he heard that he was to do sequence which required him to punish himself by whipping himself."
Self-flagellation is a very Islamic concept. But Ajay doesn"t play a Muslim character in London Dreams. “I"d be very alarmed if people see it in a religious light. It"d just show we"re cynical about religion. I just wanted to show a completely incredible expression of the character"s intensity. Ajay plays a very intense and emotional character that does shock people with his extreme behaviour. I wanted to shock audiences. Ajay"s character is on the edge. I had to show that edginess. And considering it"s Ajay Devgan, audiences will be doubly shocked. Ajay is such a chilled-out in-control person. He would never be expected to punish himself. But I"d rather let the character define its actions rather than the image of actor."
Ajay in fact expressed the same reservations. No protagonist has been shown violating himself so brutally.
Does Vipul expect censor trouble? “I expect trouble from the censors any time."
Right before we see Ajay Devgan whipping himself on October 30, we get Devgan whipping up the laughs on All The Best.
Says Vipul, “In a span of two weeks audiences will see Ajay in two drastically different roles. If London Dreams was funny I"d be nervous. Mine is a completely different film from All The Best. London Dreams is my most intense film to date. And if Ajay is the only leading man to whip himself, I"d say he has guts."