Abhay Deol doesn’t like talking about a movie while shooting for it. He believes in letting viewers watch it and discover what the mystery is all about. It takes some coaxing to get him to open up about his Hollywood film, Singularity, having just returned from the first schedule in Queensland, Australia.
Deol insists that he accepted Singularity to get an opportunity to work with director Rolland Joffe, whose films, The Killing Fields (1984) and The Mission (’86), are among his favourites. "I saw The Mission 15 years ago and I remember it to this day. It wasn’t just visually beautiful but philosophical and thought-provoking too. It’s the stuff I dream to make but it takes a bit of fighting to make films like these. I hope I get to work with Rolland again," he says.
The epic romance, based on a story by Ajey Jhankar, is set against the backdrop of the first Anglo-Maratha war. It spans two eras and two continents, and co-stars Josh Hartnett, Neve Campbell, Olga Kurylenko, Chris Egan and Bipasha Basu. Hartnett plays the dual roles of James Stewart, a British officer who reluctantly takes on the Marathas in the 1780s, and Jay Fennel, a modern-day marine archeologist. He’s an actor whom Deol admires because he has resolutely stayed away from convention and made independent, original films. "After Pearl Harbour (2001), Josh could have gone mainstream, but he stuck to the kind of cinema he believes in," he points out.
As far as Hindi films go, he’s been busy with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. A situational comedy on love and friendship, he describes it as a ‘dramedy’, an adventure comedy with twists and a bit of drama. "The real twist was Zoya (director Zoya Akhtar). I knew she was talented but after working with her, I’ve realised that she’s a genius. She’s among my top three directors today. She understands subtext and nuances better than most," he says. "I’ve never had so much fun making a film."
Another favourite is Vishal Bhardwaj, Deol admits, who he has met several times. “Dreams was one among the many films offered to me. But Saif (Ali Khan) was already on board, so we talked about other ideas,” he shrugs. He hasn’t discussed doing a film with Anurag Kashyap after Dev D (2009) though. “I’m not one to push someone to work with me. He will, if he wants to, and I will, if I like it,” Deol says. There are no projects with Imtiaz Ali either, after their debut film Socha Na Tha (2005).
“Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is my 10th film and Zoya, my 10th director. Six of these made their debuts with me. And UTV is the only production house I’ve done two films with,” he says. Dibakar Banerjee was one of the few directors who started discussing another film with him, even before they’d completed Oye Lucky Lucky Oye (2008). “I liked his confidence in me, in himself and his style of filmmaking. So I said yes without even reading the scripts. I will always stand by Dibakar, we will team up again,” he promises.
Meanwhile, Yamla Pagla Deewana is gearing up for a New Year release. “I love the promos,” he enthuses. “The film is not just songs and laughs. It has a clear-cut plot with my taya (uncle Dharmendra) and brothers (Sunny and Bobby) playing zany characters. I hope the film will be even better.”