Andhra’s Son, Ajay Devgn


Andhra’s Son, Ajay Devgn

Illustration: Namaah/ Arré

A couple of days ago, I read in the papers that action star Ajay Devgn has been appointed brand ambassador for Andhra Pradesh Tourism. And not just that, his wife Kajol has been roped in to help Devgn in his forthcoming ambassadorial duties. I re-read the news just to make sure I’d got it right. I do that these days on account of my new medication. No, I wasn’t hallucinating. It was true.

 Don’t get me wrong here. I am all for a Tagorean, cross-pollinating world that hasn’t been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls. Well, maybe not to the extent of Ms Madhuri Dixit, who famously said a few years ago that she craved for the old days when Nepal was part of India and then had to make a quick getaway to Denver, Colorado, under the pretext of marrying Shriram Nene, just so she could escape the flying kukris.

But, seriously, Ajay Devgn?

It gets better. Apparently, Chandrababu Naidu’s first choice for brand ambassador of Andhra was that other quintessential Telugu-vaadu, Amitabh Bachchan. When Naidu took over as chief minister in 2014, reports say, he sent word to Bachchan through a minister making the offer. Bachchan was supposed to have politely declined, citing health reasons.

Health or no health, I could see why. Bachchan was already brand ambassador for Gujarat. How was he, even if he was India’s premier shape-shifting shatavadhani, supposed to take on the brand ambassadorial duties for two different states?

What would his baritone — if bipolar — pitch be then: “Come to Gujarat, see the Gir lions, eat some dal dhokli and, oh, if you have some money left over, go to Andhra and see some… er… goltis worshipping Pawan Kalyan”?

So their next choice was obvious. Ajay Devgn, of course.

I don’t think you need to be a genius to figure out how the campaign is going to unfold. Because, if you have Ajay Devgn, can Rohit Shetty be far behind?

According to the same news report, a top functionary of the AP Tourism Development Corporation was supposed to have met Devgn in Mumbai and convinced him to be AP’s brand ambassador.

I can see how that conversation went:

Functionary: Ajay sar, Babu garu wants you only, and Kajol madam also, for AP Tourism ambassador, sar. You are mana-vaadu.

 Devgn (blowing smoke rings): Yeah, sounds good. I had a couple of classmates who used to speak Andhra.

 Kajol: Ajay! C’mon, Andhra isn’t a language. They speak Malayali.

 Devgn: Hmmm. (To the functionary) why me, specifically?

 Functionary: Babu garu just loves that scene, Ajay sar. Where you stand on two bikes, no? Sooper hero entry, sar, in Phoolu aur Kaantelu.

 Devgn: Cool.

 Functionary: Also that Action Jackson, so funny. In that, Sonakshi madam sees you (he giggles helplessly) without anything. Same thing happened to me also, sar. Muthyalu, my maid, saw me ditto. Immediate luck change, sar. I bought her a two BHK in Jubilee Hills….

 Devgn: I just got a Padma Shri, you know.

 Functionary: Yes. But Kajol madam also I just love, sar. Full glamour in rain song in that DDLJ. She and SRK best pair, sar. Better than NTR-Sridevi.

You get the picture.

Things seemed to have moved pretty quickly from then on because Devgn called on chief minister Naidu, and not only agreed to be the brand ambassador along with his wife Kajol as co-promoter, but promised to invest in development projects in the under construction capital, Amaravati. Plus, he’s expressed interest in setting up theme parks, resorts, and water-based parks.

I don’t think you need to be a genius to figure out how the campaign is going to unfold. Because, if you have Ajay Devgn, can Rohit Shetty be far behind? I see it all now, clear as crystal: Devgn walks towards the camera in slo-mo. He is dressed in the tradional pancha kattu and khaddar lalchi, twirling his silk kanduva with one hand. You can hear faint strains of Sankarambadi Sundarachari’s “Ma Telugu talliki mallepu danda” in the background.

Without notice, Devgn starts ripping off his lalchi to reveal a sculpted torso, burnished to a deep bronze with Andhra’s finest sesame oil from Samalkota. The tune changes to a manic “Singham, Singham”. On cue, five SUVs rocket into the air, one after the other, fuelled by perfectly co-ordinated blasts and turn into fireballs in the sky.

And Devgn says (with a nod to Akki) “Don’t angry me. Come to Andhra”.

No fears. I’m sure Kajol and KJo will be able to cook up something equally outré. It will, no doubt, involve “full glamour in rain”.

What’s next? Danny Denzongpa to promote Lakshadweep?