He has veered away from the conventional to explore forbidden territory.. and has snapped up a high drool quotient. Abhay Deol in a Q and A with Hiren Kotwani.
Buzz is that you are trying to make inroads into Hollywood.
Ha ha.. if that was the case, I’d be in LA. Sure, if it’s a meaty role but no bit parts. Bombay is home. In the five-six months that you’ll been away, you could have easily wrapped up a movie. I’ve a couple of projects lined up, Dibakar Bannerjee’s next and an Anil Kapoor film with an awesome script and the lovely Sonam. There’s also my own Junction, that will take off by October-November.
Was it wise to be away when Dev D released?
(Laughs) It was lucky I was away because it obviously worked for the film. Seriously, if a movie is good, it will find its audience.
But Dev D wasn’t meant for family viewing.
It’s a family film but not meant to be seen with the family. There’s a lot of sex and drugs in it, not visually, but it hits you. Still, most ‘U’ certified Hindi films have more skin show, with girls in skimpy outfits in item songs. I’m more comfortable watching Dev D with my mom than a film that makes a woman an object whose only purpose is to dance provocatively.
My aunt prayed all night that the censors wouldn’t pass the film, she was scandalised. (Laughs) Bobby loved it and said he was proud of me. My mother and sister did too, but not my dad. But on the whole they appreciated my performance and are happy the film did well.
So now you’ve chalked out your own path, a path less trodden?
I want to go beyond escapist cinema. A song takes the graph away from the characters and screenplay. I enjoy films like American Beauty and want to do similar films that reflect our culture. It’s not been an easy journey. Everyone just assumed that because of my background, I would be of a certain type. I’ve had to fight for what I believe in. I’m still a newcomer and learning everyday. Fortunately, I got critic and audience acceptance much earlier than industry acceptance. Newer directors have approached me because I wasn’t with the majority, yet wasn’t far removed.
Considering that you already have your own family banner, Vijayta Films, why start your own production, Forbidden Films?
Part of it was for the experience of doing a low budget, high concept movie. I’d like to work with guys like Navdeep (Singh), Anurag (Kashyap) and Dibakar Bannerjee. It’s a great time in the industry, change is here.
Why not raise the bar and push the envelope?
(Smiles) Everything I was doing was forbidden, so Forbidden Films.
So you’re not acting in the next lot of Vijayta Films’ projects?
I will, whenever there’s a suitable script and role. It’s scary to work with family, alongside my brothers and uncle. I can’t imagine myself screaming at them even in front of the camera.
You’re playing the young Dharmendra in a movie Sangeeth Sivan is directing for Vijayta.
It’s like flashback. But I’m also looking for scripts where I have a bigger role, with Bobby, (Sunny) bhaiyya or papa.. I call my taya, papa.
Apparently, you weren’t pleased that Sunny had committed on your part to a project with the three Deol brothers.
I read this but it is not true.
Some filmmakers are wary of approaching you because you throw attitude.
Attitude? Well, it takes a little bit of convincing to get me on board. I get so involved that it’s important for me to be on the same wavelength with the people I work with. It’s important for an actor to make the right decision. He’s the face of the film, so he also gets the maximum flak if a film doesn’t do well.
Imtiaz Ali, who directed your debut film, Socha Na Tha, seems to have moved on.
We don’t call each other regularly but if we happen to bump into each other, we talk. I’ve never pursued anyone. If someone wants me for his film, he knows how to get in touch with me.
Sudhir Mishra is planning his adaptation of Devdas too, against a political backdrop. Your take?
Anyone can do an adaptation. You can indianise James Bond, even spoof him. Even Heer Ranjha. It’s good to take iconic characters and give them a new platform. But before you set out to do so, it’s important to be sure of yourself first.
Were you influenced by Dilip Kumar and Shah Rukh Khan?
I saw Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas when it released and Dilip Kumar’s when I was very young. Dilip saab had his interpretation, Shah Rukh had his, and I had mine. I had read the book and knew how Anurag was looking at it. I would have got nervous if I’d thought of Dilip saab and Shah Rukh.
Reportedly, Dilip Kumar and Shah Rukh Khan went though a low after playing the tragic character. What about you?
It was hard making the film and it would be hard to watch it again. But it was a kind of catharsis too.. I had to let it all out. I felt better after doing it because you couldn’t go any lower. But I also needed a change, a different environment. That’s why I went off to New York.
Weren’t you apprehensive that the negative vibes towards director Anurag Kashyap could affect the movie’s prospects?
Nothing can affect a good film except bad publicity and marketing...certainly not people talking bad about Anurag. We weren’t so insecure.
Why give anyone that much power?
I was in New York at the time of the release but I heard that there had been a problem with the multiplexes. That resolved only the night before. So there were no ads in the papers on Friday, as a result of which the morning shows were affected. But by evening, collections had picked up. I had thought that it would pick up by word-of-mouth publicity but I had also thought that the movie would get an initial from the way UTV was marketing it.
You’re said to be on a dating spree in New York. Miss having a steady woman in your life?
How do you know there’s no steady woman in my life?
Not since Neetu Chandra, about whom you confided in Raima Sen?
Really? Did Raima tell you that? I need to find out where you hear these things from.