A different Deol

Unusual path

A different Deol

Known for his offbeat choice of films, Abhay Deol stands apart from the rest of the Deol herd. Rajiv Vijayakar speaks to the actor, who is debuting as a producer with ‘One by Two’, about his take on movies

He’s the different Deol. Abhay Deol is the son of Ajit Singh Deol, brother of the legendary Dharmendra. Ajit has himself acted in several Punjabi and Hindi films (as Kanwar Ajit) and also produced a few films like Pratiggya.

The youngster started out with Sunny Deol’s production Socha Na Tha (2005) and soon decided to forge a different track to form his own fan following. While all the Deols, including Bobby, act in completely mainstream films, Abhay etched out his own niche with different and realistic cinema like Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, Manorama — Six Feet Under, Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd., Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Dev.D, Road Movie and Shanghai. The nearest he came to mainstream cinema was also in the quasi-realistic Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. 

Making a movie

Having also sung playback in the last mentioned film and been the brain behind the story concept of Dev.D, Abhay now turns producer with One By Two, another realistic saga co-starring steady girlfriend Preeti Desai. Viacom 18 releases the film.

Says Abhay: “My film is a story of two strangers who impact each others’ lives without even meeting at first. It is a challenging script. The title comes from the way we order soups — one portion is divided into two!”

The film was born because Abhay wanted to produce a film from his own story idea. He approached Devika Bhagat, who also narrated a storyline she had. “Her idea was better than mine, so I told her to develop it,” says the actor, who is prone to guffaws at anything funny, such as the topic of how film box-office facts and figures are fudged and reviews manipulated.

So when will he make a film from his story? “I have forgotten the main gist of it,” he says, and guffaws. “Some elements from it have been incorporated by Devika in this film, with which she makes her directorial debut.”

He has a ready answer to his girlfriend Preeti being cast opposite him in this film. “Devika and Preeti go back a long way, and it was she who suggested Preeti for the role. Of course, she knew about us. In fact, I was the one not going to be in the film. But then as the script took shape, I began to like the role and my presence in the film also made better sense at a financial level.”

Standing apart

It is here that we ask him about his affection for a certain non-mainstream kind of cinema and about a quote years ago that he chose to opt for different movies because he would never be good at the song-and-dance-and-masala routine like his uncle and cousins. “Yes, I am called the different Deol,” he guffaws. “But we are all part of the same family, and we are no different as a family from anyone else in the industry. So I am not really different.”

He adds sagely, “Everyone here falls into an image, which pakaos me. I am working at an image of someone who has no image, but I have yet got this different image now!” A loud laugh follows.

About his kind of cinema, he stresses that he is okay with terms like offbeat or parallel. “But I decry the art cinema and commercial cinema divide. Every film is a work of art, good or bad, and all are commercial enterprises. Here we have this set notion that a mainstream film becomes parallel cinema merely by removing the songs.”

He gives another example of how set notions thrive here. “I was trying to sell the concept of Dev.D as a synopsis. Several producers stated that it was an idea that would never ever work in Hindi cinema. It was then that I told them that three Devdas-es had been already made here.” A guffaw follows again.

What about the recent buzz that his extended family — the Deols — had discouraged him from turning producer so early? He laughs and says, “That’s how what you say gets misinterpreted. I told a journalist that Dharam uncle and Sunny bhaiya had asked me to be careful as production was not going to be easy. They felt it needed great business savvy in the cutthroat industry as they were protective about me. The next thing I read as a headline is that I have been discouraged by my family.”

The other aspect widely publicised is that he does not yet intend to marry Preeti and considers marriage just a social compulsion. “Well, I think that marriage is more of a cultural phenomenon than a natural one,” he admits. “It is more important to be happy rather than rigid. What changes as soon as you sign a paper? Essentially nothing does. There are people who are faithful even without marriage and go astray even after it.”

Abhay has strong views also on patriotism. “I am proud of our culture. But I am more of a human being rather than an Indian. I think that in an ideal world, we should not let borders come in the way of doing the right things for the world. Calamities, for example, do not look at borders. So more than an Indian, I am an earthling and I feel that we must care for the planet even more than for the country.” Didn’t we say that Abhay was different?

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