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Getting on to a fast track?

With some of Ajit Kumar's films not doing too well at the box office, there is speculation whether "Villain" might be the actor's last movie and whether he will shift gear to pursue his passion for motor racing.

AJIT KUMAR is always in the news. Whether it is the off-beat double role he is essaying in "Villain", taking part in the Formula Asia Car Race in Zuhai, China, or participating in the Neyveli Rally where nobody expected him after his stand-off with the `Nadigar Sangam'. Clearly, films are no longer the focal point in the actor's life. And the original `Thief of Hearts' of the teenyboppers is rumoured to be moving away from the camera to the racing tracks. The grapevine is abuzz with rumours that "Villain" will be his last film, as he has not agreed to take on new assignments. It has been a miserable year for Ajit as "Red" and "Raja" were disasters at the box-office. But this has not affected his star status, as he is still one of the five saleable stars in Tamil cinema. After all, none of the superstars have been able to give a hit in recent times. So, why blame him alone? The time is ripe for Ajit to move into a new phase, as the actor needs an image overhaul. Right now Ajit is recharging his batteries despite set backs, he remains upbeat and undefeated. Relaxing in his Raja Annamalaipuram office sipping lemon tea the actor with the charming smile opens up...

There are rumours that "Villain" is your last film. Are you quitting films?

No. Not at all. On the other hand, I have reduced the number of films to one or two a year to see that I survive for the next 10 years.

The rumours have started, as you seem to be concentrating on racing by taking part in the recent Formula Asia car race in China?

Your question itself carries the answer. Racing is a passion for me. I would like to remind everybody that before I started my career in films I was into motor racing.

What is your priority — acting or racing?

It is only because of my film career that I have the energy and luxury to indulge in my favourite sport. I have been shooting back-to-back for several months, as I have given 200 per cent to my work and will continue to do so. I want to consolidate my position as an actor as I have a commitment to my audience to entertain them. The world can believe what they want to, but you never know that I may reach somewhere in motor racing.

Don't you feel that you are chucking up a lucrative and high profile career for motor racing?

My decision to reduce the number of films came first and then I started taking part in more racing tournaments. Motor racing is equally high profile and I represent my country at an international level. Anyway let us see what the future holds for me.

At your age, aren't you a little too old to burn the tracks?

If you are talking about Formula-1, then definitely you are right. But I am not talking about Formula-1 here. I do wish to take to motor racing at a serious level, which means there are a lot of other series and championships to be won in the world. I will be participating in the Formula Asia Championship early next year. And coming to the age factor, we do have the IRL and Carting Championships in the U.S., where the drivers are well into their late forties. I am only 31, God willing I should be here to burn the tracks for a long time to come.

It must be expensive to take up motor racing? Are you looking for sponsors and endorsements?

Motor racing is the most expensive sport in the world. I am aware of the fact that sport and endorsements go hand in hand. And luckily for me, my brand equity as a movie star and my celebrity status has attracted a few corporates who are willing to sponsor me. My racing manager, Akbar Ebrahim, and his ASB management are taking care of the negotiations.

Your critics in the industry say that since your film career is sagging, you are slowly switching over to motor racing.

Show business types are mercenary. They just don't care about you as a person. The irony of being born a human is that you are always criticised till the very end. And when you die the same people sing hosannas about you.

The industry feels that you have an attitude problem, as you don't mix well with others.

Ajit Kumar does not have an "attitude" problem. I carry an attitude! Most of the people you meet in the tinsel world are fakes. Sometimes, I wonder what I am doing out here.

Why is there not much hype about "Villain"?

A typical case of `once bitten twice shy'. Last time around, I did all the talking, this time I want the "Villain" to do all the talking!

Is your wife Shalini backing you in your endeavours?

I consider myself lucky to have a wife like Shalu who shares my interest in motor sporting. At times she is weary of the dangers involved in the sport. But at the same time both of us are aware that if anything has to happen it can take place at any time anywhere.


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