With two high-profile releases, Kaal and Main Aisa Hi Hoon, in two weeks, Ajay has no choice but to come out of his shell. 'Kaal is a very interesting concept. And Soham has done a very good job. Itís hard to believe this is his first film. We shot in the jungles. Kaal is a murder mystery and please, nothing like my Bhoot. It isnít a ghost film. I play a guy who comes in to help these guys who are stuck in the jungle.'
Ajay had to work with a whole cluster of costars in Kaal. 'Iím never threatened by other actors. I do my own thing. Shooting with Vivek and John was a picnic. Vivek I had worked together in Yuva. But John was new experience for me. And certainly a pleasant experience.'
Recent career setbacks like Blackmail and Zameer donít deter him. 'It isnít really a setback,' he says with his trademark drawl. 'Itís a phase. It has passed. Those were old commitments. I couldnít do anything about their release. I knew they wouldnít work. Chalta hai, itís all part of the game. I was prepared for the flops. Even during their shooting I used to say, ĎThis isnít going to workí. Iím relieved theyíre done with. The sad part is when a good film like Yuva doesnít do well.
Quite a lot of variety here! 'I donít believe in categorising cinema. Throughout my career Iíve done the films Iíve believed in, regardless of their box-office potential. If I did a Company, I also did a Bhagat Singh side by side. Now if Iíve a Kaal I also have a Main Aisa Hi Hoon on two consecutive Fridays. The two films are completely different in content and my performance.'
Ajay admits the phase during 2002-03 when he did films like The Legend Of Bhagat Singh and GangaaJal was exceptionally fruitful. 'But now that favourable phase is back. Both Kaal and Main Aisa Hi Hoon are very special releases. Iíve never done such roles before. And theyíre bound to get me noticed. Very often films donít turn out the way you think they would. But these two films have turned out exactly the way they were meant to.'
Ajay says he was challenged by the idea of a playing a mentally challenged person. 'I play a grown-up man with the brain if a seven-year-old in Main Aisa Hi Hoon.' He admits itís inspired by the Hollywood film, I Am Sam. 'I think the idea is picked from there. But if you saw the two films youíll see how different they are.' He admits he watched Sean Pennís award-winning performance as the mentally challenged man fighting for his childís custody rights in I Am Sam. 'I really didnít want to see him. Then just one day before we started shooting I did. Sean Penn is brilliant. Iíve analysed his performance but not copied him. It was impossible to follow him. Because the screenplay in Main Aisa Hi Hoon is so much more layered. In about 90 minutes of playing time I Am Sam allowed Sean Penn just 4-5 expressions. Here weíve songs, comedy, the works'Indian cinema requires so much more'. Even the language makes all the difference. In Hindi the dialogues sound much more childlike. Iíve tried not to be excessively childish. But I couldnít help it.'
Ajay loves the challenge of doing varied roles. 'I think audiences are ready for a change. I donít mind being a different kind of a hero. Iíve always attempted unconventional heroism. But let me add, playing the conventional hero is fine by me, provided the script is extraordinary.'
Now Ajay has several projects to look forward to. 'Iím finishing Prakash Jhaís Apharan which has turned out to be even more hard-hitting than his GangaaJal. Iím very-very happy with Apharan. Prakashji is in his element. Then Iíve Rajkumar Santoshiís Samna with Aishwarya and Akshay. Itís a very gripping script. Both these films are socially relevant subjects, very real and gripping. I seem to get along well with both Prakash Jha and Rajkumar Santoshi. I am also doing John Matthewís film with Shahid Kapur which is half-complete'. And, yes, Rajkumar Santoshi and I are working on another project which will hopefully be as interesting as Lajja, Bhagat Singh and Khakee.'
Any film with wife Kajol' 'Nothing with her at all. But weíre planning to revive our home productions very soon. Thereíre so many things I want to do, like become more media-savvy. Iím too lazy. But Iím making an effort.'