India’s Ajay Devgn Talks Disney Plus Hotstar ‘Luther’ Adaptation ‘Rudra,’ Teases International Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

Rudra The Edge of Darkness
Disney Plus Hotstar/Applause Entertainment

Top Bollywood star Ajay Devgn, who has enjoyed a tremendously successful film career combining box office success with critical acclaim, is making his series acting debut with Disney Plus Hotstar series “Rudra: The Edge of Darkness,” the Indian adaptation of the BBC’s “Luther.”

Devgn debuted with action drama “Phool Aur Kaante” (1991) and highlights of his acting career include the “Singham” cop universe films, “Othello” adaptation “Omkara” (2006), the comedy “Golmaal” franchise and historical film “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior,” the biggest Indian box office hit of 2020. In addition, he has directed “U Me Aur Hum” (2008) and “Shivaay” (2016) with “Runway 34” coming up, and he’s a prolific producer as well with more than 20 titles to his credit.

Variety caught up with Devgn for a wide-ranging conversation ahead of the “Rudra” launch.

What attracted you to “Rudra”? Had you watched “Luther” before?
I liked the concept of Rudra because he’s a cop who is more mind than body. His strong point is that he is able to chase his criminals down by thinking like them. He’s not the gun-toting typical cop, he’s a policeman with a razor-sharp mind. Yes, I watched “Luther” almost a couple of years before I actually started shooting for the reimagined Indian version. And, once I decided I was going to play the lead in the Indian adaptation, I stopped watching “Luther” because I needed to be doing things in my own signature style.

Over time, especially the past two years during the pandemic, streamers have become important in peoples’ lives. Are you looking at acting in more streaming films and series?
OTT [streaming] is like a parallel entertainment universe that will now co-exist with cinema that plays in theaters. Of course, it became much larger in context during the pandemic because theaters were closed. I’m not considering acting in another OTT series immediately after “Rudra” because of my film commitments. However, I truly believe actors don’t plan. If something challenging comes my way, I may consider doing it. I’m here to entertain. While big-ticket ventures that play in cinema halls are my first love, I’m addicted to watching world-class entertainment that is streaming across various platforms.

You have a very successful production house – are you looking at producing streaming series alongside films?
I recently produced “The Great Indian Murder” which is a Disney Plus Hotstar original. I have already produced “Tribhanga” that went directly to Netflix. And, I have others in the pipeline. Yes, ADFFilms my banner is busy with films and with OTT productions.

Because of the pandemic several films including “The Big Bull,” produced by you and “Bhuj: The Pride of India,” produced by and starring you, went direct to streaming. Going forward, how do you see the business being distributed amongst theatrical and streaming?
OTT streaming is now a reality. Makers across the world will decide which of their works will go directly to the streaming giants and which of their works will be exhibited in cinemas.

What films do you have coming up as an actor, and when are they due?
2022 is a busy year and I thank the Almighty and my fans for it. I start the year on Feb. 25 with [Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Berlin title] “Gangubai Kathiawadi,” followed by “Rudra: The Edge of Darkness” which streams on Disney Plus Hotstar on March 4. I also have a minuscule but important role in [S.S. Rajamouli’s] “RRR” (March 25). On Apr. 29, I have my directorial venture “Runway 34,” which has Amitabh Bachchan, Rakul Preet Singh, Boman Irani and me along with a bunch of very talented actors.

What films do you have coming up as a producer and when are they due?
As a producer, I have “Runway 34” that releases on Apr. 29 and I am currently shooting “Bholaa,” an action-thriller that should release early next year.

When “Rudra” eventually makes it to Hulu, it’ll be watched worldwide. Are Indian productions now approaching streaming series keeping international standards in mind?
I believe standards should be always maintained irrespective of which platform or theatres they are ultimately going to land on. Cinema/web series should always strive for quality.

Are there any plans to act in international series produced in the U.S. or U.K.?
Talks are on. However, it is too premature to mention anything. Like I said, who knows who you will end up saying hello to on the other side of the world. Actors/filmmakers in today’s day have endless opportunities and great interactions with East and West, North and South merging effortlessly.

“Rudra: The Edge of Darkness” is produced by Applause Entertainment for Disney Plus Hotstar.