He’s excelled in playing guys on the edge.. with quirks and what movie argots call ‘grey shades.’ And he has a niche of his own in the Bollywood market. Recently, his Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! was enthusiastically thumbed up by the critics.. but at the cash counters it was another story. Does that dampen the spirit of an actor who dares to be different and quality conscious? Abhay Deol in a kab-kyon-kahan session with Vajir Singh...
It seems, once you were toying with four different professions — acting, painting, philosophy and journalism. If you were a journalist, what would you have asked Abhay Deol at this very minute?
Ha! If I were a reporter, I would ask Abhay Deol how long he will survive in this industry.
So, how long will Abhay Deol survive in this industry?
As long as I stay here and I’m accepted.
Do you paint?
Long ago I was asked — besides acting, which profession would I have selected? So I had said, “Painting, philosophy or journalism.” That’s why all those exalted professions have been thrust upon me. I wish I was that multi-talented really.
Would you agree that the release of Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! should have been pushed ahead by a week?
It was too late to postpone the release. After the terror attacks, only one day was left for us to decide. I’m aware of the fact that my film did bad business in its first weekend. But then that was expected. I was deeply affected by what was happening around us.. so how could I expect anyone else to go and see my film? Thankfully though, the film got great reviews. The hard work that has gone into Oye Lucky! has been appreciated. I would want the collections to grow but if they don’t, that’s okay. One can’t even think of one’s personal situation at a time of what Bombay.. and the country are going through. Although the film may not be declared a hit, I’m sure in the long run it will make a place for itself in the successful bracket. I’m sure everyone will watch it on DVD and TV.
What attracted you to Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!?
The story. And I liked (director) Dibakar Banerjee’s passion for cinema. He just gave me a brief about the film and I was on. I hadn’t seen Khosla ka Ghosla when I said yes-yes-yes for Oye Lucky!
Some feel that your choice of film projects is often weird..unconventional.
Many say that. I read scripts very objectively and if something connects, I go ahead with it. An interesting story becomes more interesting if the character I’m playing is interesting too. The next step is to see who’s directing and then who’s backing the film. I don’t go by the industry norms of commercial cinema or of meaningful cinema. Here most filmmakers don’t even know what they want to do or what to make. So, it’s wiser to work with those filmmakers who know exactly what they want to do.
You have worked mainly with new directors. Is this because you want established directors to come to you with what are called bound scripts?
To be absolutely honest, it’s the other way around. I’ve never been offered an enormous, big-budget project. But yes, for me, the story comes first. I don’t feel dissatisfied at the end of the day. Like every actor, of course, I would like to get offers from big banners. Whoever wants to work with me will come my way. Isn’t it?
Has waiting for filmmakers to knock on your door worked in your favour?
Absolutely. I’m really happy with the way my career has shaped up. I’m humbled by the audience reaction. Initially, there were some fears but not any more. If I were to rewrite my career, I wouldn’t change a word.
After Socha Na Tha for Vijayeta Films, you have worked only for outside banners.. was this a move to branch out from the family?
Yes, I wanted to go out and work on my own. At the same time, I’m looking for a script in which I can work with my tayaji (Dharmendra) and brothers (Sunny and Bobby Deol). I don’t know if I’d be able to act when I’m in the same frame with my family.
Going by the films you’ve done, it would seem that you’re against hardcore commercial cinema.
I’m not against anything. My fundas are very clear — live and let live. But I do feel that roles of the larger-than-life hero are beyond me.After seeing Oye Lucky!, Imtiaz Ali called me up and said, “I always wondered if you would be able to survive in this industry because you don’t want to sing and dance. But you have and you always will.” I’m doing what I’m capable of. And please tell me, why can’t we have films without songs and dances?
Your first director Imtiaz Ali has moved on and is working with big actors and big budget films.
That’s good. We all want to grow.. become successful.. and earn money.
Any chances of working with him again?
Sure! At the right time when the right script arrives. You do have a strong female fan following.. and they want to see you singing and dancing. Whoever is my fan has become one after watching my movies. So, I will try my best to make more films with more progressive ideas.
News is that whenever you have time you go to New York to learn dancing.
Ha ha. I travel a lot. Recently, I went to Spain and picked up Spanish in a month. New York is great, you can take part in concerts.. attend art classes and dance too. When I have a break and I’m not shooting, I go abroad to try and update myself. Here in India, I don’t know where to go for classes. The Mumbai traffic is so impossible that quite often I don’t leave the house unless I have to go to work.
How come you recently turned producer with Junction?
I had signed this film as an actor but the original producer backed out. I love the process of making movies. I was fascinated by the story of Junction and I have full faith in the director Atul Sabarwal. But then I was already committed for Dev D and Oye Lucky! Junction will start next year.
Are you disheartened when your movies don’t click?
Yes, a couple of times but I knew they wouldn’t do well. I even told one of my producers that he’d made a good film but he wasn’t strong enough to market it the way he should have. Apart from marketing, if you don’t get a proper chain of theatres and the correct show timings, who’ll come to see your film?
We don’t see you doing many endorsements.
It’s just that I don’t want to do too many things. Recently, I did an ad for Airtel because I thought it’s a nice brand to be a part of. I want to focus more on films. Even in ad films, I should be satisfied with what my role is. I don’t want to become so famous that people watch me as Abhay Deol and not as an actor.
You’re not in the news for any link-ups either..
That’s good. I’ve always been media shy. Today, I don’t have a life beyond work.
So you aren’t lucky in love?
I haven’t had the time. At the moment, I’m not into any relationship. A relationship needs time.. and if you don’t have the time or space for each other what’s the point of getting into one?