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Abhay Deol says ‘unless you pay media to scream loudly, you won’t be heard’

Actor Abhay Deol, who will next be seen in the Netflix film Chopsticks, has said that he’d predicted the emergence of digital content years ago.

bollywood Updated: May 28, 2019 15:41 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Abhay Deol,Abhay Deol Chopsticks,Mithila Palkar
Abhay Deol will be seen with Mithila Palkar in Netflix film Chopsticks.

Actor Abhay Deol has said that he’s been talking about the emergence of the ‘digital space’ for years, but ‘unless you don’t pay media to scream loudly and put you out there, you’re not going to be heard’. The actor will next be seen in the comedy caper Chopsticks, due out on Netflix on Friday.

“My first production I put up on Facebook and pay-per-view,” Abhay told Hindustan Times on Tuesday. “I was the first person in the world to do that. This was in 2014.” But, he said, ‘in our current system of paid-for media, it’s very hard to make a noise unless you pay for that media’.

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Abhay, once the torchbearer of alternative Indian cinema for a generation that has grown up on the internet, has significantly decreased output in recent years. Besides a supporting role in the recent critical and commercial disappointment Zero, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Abhay appeared in just one other film in 2018, the largely ignored Nanu Ki Jaanu.

He alluded to ‘big formula films’ in Bollywood failing to deliver recently because the audience has been exposed to more realistic stories through online streaming platforms. 2018 saw each of the three Khans of Bollywood - Aamir and Salman besides Shah Rukh - star in some of the biggest flops of their recent careers. Meanwhile, mid-budget films such as Badhaai Ho, Raazi and AndhaDhun, among others, performed exceedingly well.

“The movies they’re trying to make today, we were doing them 10-12 years ago,” Abhay said, implying that they were instrumental in encouraging the industry to experiment. “I think those films were well-timed in the sense that, maybe if they had not come out, this change (that we see today) would not have been so quick, perhaps.”

Abhay Deol in Dev D.

The actor has appeared in critically acclaimed movies such as Navdeep Singh’s neo-noir thriller Manorama: Six Feet Under, Dibakar Banerjee’s Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Shanghai, and Anurag Kashyap’s Dev. D. “When I was making these kinds of films,” he said, “they released only because the multiplexes were coming up, there was a small window where I could put this stuff out there, because the multiplexes were wanting more, but then the multiplexes also stopped being built - they’re a finite entity, they’re physical - so that small window also shut, and then again we’ve kind of backtracked a bit again, in terms of making progress of thought, which is what I was trying.”

It is a testament to the lasting power of his films, he said, that ‘people still refer to (them) today, they still watch them today, they still play on the television today’. “So how do you know that that did not set a pattern in motion?” he wondered.

He drew comparison to the careers of the legendary actors Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi, who spearheaded the parallel cinema movement in the ‘late-70s and early-80s’, and said that he hopes for the industry to regain its adventurous spirit once again. “But now, with the digital platforms, that might carry on, and perhaps we might have real evolution of art and creativity in our film industry.”

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First Published: May 28, 2019 14:45 IST