indian cinema heritage foundation

Ajay Devgn

  • Real Name: Vishal Devgan
  • Born: 2 April 1969
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Parents: Veena and Veeru Devgan
  • Spouse: Kajol
  • Grand Children: Nysa, Yug

Transitioning from a “lanky star son” to a “back-to-back hits churner,” multiple National award-winning actor-filmmaker Ajay Devgn (Devgan) is further credited with popularising the “intense, brooding hero” look onscreen. A versatile actor and leading star of the Hindi film industry, he is known for films such as Company (2002), Drishyam (2022), Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai (2010), Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (2020) and Shivaay (2016), among others. Succeeding in a range of genres, from crime dramas to comedies, he has several hits as well as multiple National awards to his credit. His remarkable resilience has seen him continue to enjoy the trust of filmmakers, and the loyalty of his fans over several decades in the industry. As of 2024, he has starred in approximately 145 films. He also owns a production company Ajay Devgn FFilms, established in 2000, and has starred in and directed the films U Me Aur Hum (2008), Shivaay (2016), Runway 34 (2022) and Bholaa (2023). A self-confessed private person, the Padmashree awardee is one of the highest paid celebrities in India. In 2022, he maintained that he does not get affected by portraying intense roles on screen as he is not a method actor but a spontaneous one. He explained, “I start thinking how a character would think in that situation and perform and if I think too much about the character or about how I am going to do it, I will lose the spontaneity and stop feeling. I don’t like rehearsing. I just want to think about the character feel it and go out and do it. So as soon as it is over I also switch off.”

He was born Vishal Devgan on 2 April 1969 to mother Veena and stunt choreographer and action film father Veeru Devgan, into a family originally hailing from Amritsar, Punjab. Schooled at Silver Beach High School in Juhu, he then studied at Mithibai College. Changing his name to Ajay for the screen, he debuted in 1991 opposite Madhoo in Kuku Kohli’s Phool Aur Kaante, an action drama about a young man who despises his father's criminal profession and wants to live a peaceful life away from him; however, fate has other plans. A superhit at the box office, it won Devgan the Filmfare award for best male debut. Noted for its soundtrack and action sequences, his entry in the film wherein he is picturised standing, balancing on two moving motorcycles, became a high point. It inspired similar stunts in several films thereafter, some of which were performed by Devgan himself. 

His next release, Jigar (1992), a martial arts film co-starring Karisma Kapoor, also performed well at the box office. Making his mark as an action hero, he would star in a slew of films such as Sangram (1993), Ek Hi Raasta (1993), Dilwale (1994), Vijaypath (1994), Suhaag (1994), Mahesh Bhatt's Naajayaz (1995) which earned him his first nomination for the Filmfare for best actor and Haqeeqat (1995).

Simultaneously, he experimented with other genres, playing a man with intellectual impairment in Harry Baweja's Dilwale (1994), Indra Kumar’s hit romantic comedy Ishq (1997) with Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla and Kajol, and Anees Bazmee’s successful romantic comedy Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha (1998). The same year, he also made a mark playing an army officer in the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Major Saab (1998). Mahesh Bhatt's drama Zakhm (1998) brought him considerable attention for his performance against a backdrop of communal tension in Mumbai during the riots. Playing a character fed up with religious conflict, he won the National Film award for best actor as well as the Screen award for best actor. 

His 1999 release, the Sanjay Bhansali-directed Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam would mark a significant turning point in his career. Starring alongside Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai, he played a newlywed man who discovers that his wife is in love with another man and decides to unite them. The film was a critically acclaimed as well as a thumping commercial success. Milan Luthria’s Kachche Dhaage (1999) was another impactful hit in his filmography, followed by films such as the romantic comedy Hogi Pyaar Ki Jeet (1999), and Thakshak (1999) which was touted as Govind Nihalani’s attempt at popular cinema. 

The new millennium brought critical acclaim and awards for the actor. His performance in Rajkumar Santoshi’s Lajja (2001) on the plight of women in society and feminism met with a positive response. The following year, he displayed admirable range acting in three films of contrasting genres. While Ram Gopal Varma's Company (2002) saw him deliver a controlled menacing performance as the gangster Malik in the fictional examination of the Mumbai underworld, he also featured in David Dhawan's comedy Hum Kisise Kum Nahin (2002), and played the lead role of Bhagat Singh in the biopic of the famous freedom fighter in The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002). His performance as Bhagat Singh earned him his second National Film award for best actor. 

Prakash Jha's Gangaajal (2003) saw him play a superintendent of police who takes charge of the fictitious district of Tejpur, Bihar, known for its high crime rate and organised crime. Revolving around the real life incident of the blinding of the criminals in Bhagalpur, Bihar, Devgan was praised for bringing style and grace to a largely stereotypical protagonist, and was seen to ‘pull up an ace with a part tailormade to reinforce his seething-under-the-surface angry hero image’.

One of the highest grossers of the year, Khakee (2004) presented him in the powerful role of a police officer turned murderer, and he was hailed by critics for adding “yet another feather in his cap with a performance that could've been played only by a master performer.” 

Venturing into the offbeat space, he collaborated with Rituparno Ghosh in the National award-winning relationship drama Raincoat (2004), with Aishwarya Rai, delivering a nuanced performance tinged by “hesitation, desperation, humiliation.” 

In 2006, he delivered a stirring and powerful interpretation of a man haunted by uncertainty about his lover’s faithfulness in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara, a Hindi adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello. A tragedy of sexual jealousy set against the backdrop of the political system in Uttar Pradesh, his performance was deemed “unflinchingly solid” in the film which premiered at Cannes and was also screened at the Cairo International Film Festival. The decade also saw him star in Rohit Shetty's hit comedy Golmaal (2006), which had two sequels Golmaal Returns (2008) and Golmaal 3 (2010), 

The following decade saw more success in the form of films such as Milan Luthria’s Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010) in which he added depth to his underworld character of Sultan; the comedy Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge (2010) with Konkona Sen Sharma and Paresh Rawal; Rohit Shetty’s Singham (2011) in which he essayed the central character of a righteous, hard-hearted cop with flourish; the critically and commercially successful political thriller Raajneeti (2010); Nishikant Kamat’s Drishyam “a suspense drama with a nail-biting finish” in which he shone in his role as the protective father; and Raj Kumar Gupta's Raid (2018) where he played the role of an honest Indian revenue service officer.

He portrayed the role of 17th-century military leader Tanaji Malusare in the eponymously titled Tanhaji (2020) directed by Om Raut, for which he won yet another National Film award. The highest-grossing Hindi film of 2020, it also marked Devgn's 100th film as an actor.

The year 2022 saw him make his OTT debut with the web series, Rudra: The Edge of Darkness, on Disney+ Hotstar. Films in which he made an impact include Runway 34 (2022), as well as Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022) and S S Rajamouli's RRR (2022) in which he appeared in extended cameos that won appreciation. The sequel Drishyam 2 (2022), directed by Abhishek Pathak, saw his reprise his role as Vijay Salgaonkar in the crime thriller which became a major critical and commercial success, as well as the second highest-grossing film of his career so far, after Tanhaji.

In 2000, he established the Indian film production and distribution company Ajay Devgn FFilms (ADF), releasing its first film, Raju Chacha that year, a high grosser. In 2008, he co-produced the drama U Me Aur Hum, which also marked his directorial debut. Releasing to positive reviews, it was dubbed an “absorbing love story that's high on emotional quotient”. His other home productions include the Rohit Shetty directed hit All the Best: Fun Begins (2009), Singham Returns (2014), the big budget Shivaay (2016), the Fox Star Studios collaboration Total Dhamaal (2017), and the Marathi dramatic thriller film Aapla Manus (2018). 

In 2015, he established a visual effects company, NY VFXWAALA, which has worked on many key films, such as Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015), Bajirao Mastani (2015), Dilwale (2015), Force 2 (2016), and Simmba (2018). The company won the National Film award for best special effects for the action drama Shivaay (2016). 

Married to actress Kajol since 1999; the two are parents to daughter Nysa and son Yug.