It's the end of an era for the Indian film industry as one of its most loved veteran passed away. Ajay Devgn's father, Veeru Devgan, breathed his last in Mumbai on Monday. While Ajay Devgn is a superstar, little is known about his father who was one of the most influential technicians in the film industry for decades. We chanced upon this 1999 interview of the action director to rediff.com where he talks about his rather adventurous beginnings in Bollywood. It's from the time when he had first worn the director's hat for the film Hindustan Ki Kasam. The interview sheds light on his struggle in the industry as well as his first ever experience with the cops when he came to the city of dreams.
Having roots in Amritsar, Veeru Devgan traveled to Mumbai at the age of 14 along with three other friends. With dreams in his eyes to make it big in Bollywood, he fled from his home in 1957 on a Mumbai bound train... without a ticket. Little did he know that traveling without a ticket could land him in jail. But being in Mumbai was something big. An excerpt from the interview reads, "We never knew we had almost reached Bombay. And since Virar was under the Thane police's jurisdiction, the railway police took us to the Thane jail via Dadar by train. When we alighted at Dadar station, we realized we were in Bombay." They were then taken to Thane Magistrate court wherein they were asked to pay fine or go to jail for a week. Devgan and friends had no option but to go and see the inside of prison since they had no money to pay the fine.
Post a week in jail, Veeru Devgan recalled in this interview that a policeman asked them to go to Koliwada as Punjabis would help them with food. “We left for Koliwada in a hope that some Punjabi would help us. But we didn't get help from anyone,” he said.
From cleaning taxis to being a carpenter, Veeru Devgan started doing menial jobs to feed himself. Meanwhile, he started visiting the film studios in search of work. Veeru was dreaming big but he wasn't removed from his reality. He soon realised that he wasn’t meant to be a hero. “After seeing my face in the mirror, I felt I was much inferior to the other strugglers. So I gave up. But I took a vow that my first born son would become one,” he said. The friends that had accompanied him to Mumbai had all returned to Amritsar. Veeru, however, had no intentions of going back. His grandfather though would not listen to a young Veeru and took him back home once he saw the harsh conditions that Devgan was living in.
But there's a reason why Mumbai is called the city of dreams. Veeru was adamant that he was going to return to the city and he did so after a year. Once back, Devgan returned to being a carpenter but enrolled himself into freestyle wrestling as well. "I gained expertise in it. And one day I got my first break as a stunt man in a film called Anita," he said. The film never released but it did a world of good for Devgan who had now been spotted by well-known fight director Ravi Khanna. Devgan got his first break as an action director in Manoj Kumar's Roti Kapda Aur Makaan in 1974 and then he never looked back.
While Veeru Devgan could never be an actor he made sure that his first born, Ajay Devgan, became one. “People used to laugh at me and say, 'Itna ordinary face ka aadmi hero ban hi nahin sakta [A man with such an ordinary face cannot become a hero]'. But Ajay has proved his critics wrong and established himself as an actor since 1991," he said. "In fact, Ajay is the only star in the industry who can speak with his silence and his eyes." Read More