With Happy Bhag Jayegi, Abhay Deol became ‘the first Indian hero’ to have played a Pakistani citizen in a Hindi movie. In a freewheeling conversation with Gogetter, the actor says that artistes from both the nations should collaborate more often to promote people-to-people connect.
With unusual movies like Socha Na Tha, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Dev D, Shanghai, Chakravyuh and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, this ‘thinking Deol’ has carved a solid niche for himself in Hindi cinema. Almost after a gap of two and a half years, he returned from an apparent ‘exile’ with Anand L Rai’s Happy Bhag Jayegi. We spoke to him on a lot of issues ranging from parallel cinema to smaller films making it big at the box office.
You returned to screen with Happy Bhag Jayegi almost after two and a half years. Why did you take this break?
I do have these cycles of working like a maniac and then taking time off. I am very fortunate that I can do this. Now I came to the end of one cycle and started a new one with Happy Bhag Jayegi. It’s just the pattern of behaviour that I have noticed in myself. I didn’t plan this. It has just evolved organically due to my own circumstances and mental make-up.
But where were you?
I spent most of my time in California as my sisters, friends and cousins live there. It’s almost like being home when you are surrounded by family. I did some acting workshops as they help improve my skills. As an actor, you can never stop learning. You have to keep on adding your experiences as acting is not like acquiring a degree.
What drew you towards Happy Bhag Jayegi?
The movie is a light comedy-romance affair but it has India and Pakistan in its backdrop. I’m also told by my director that I am the first Indian hero to play a Pakistani citizen in a Bollywood movie.
Was it challenging to play a Pakistani man?
See, India and Pakistan have been separated for 70 years now but I don’t think our shared culture, which lasted centuries, is going to change in just seven decades. There are similarities as well as differences. We learn Hindi while they grow up studying Urdu. To play a Pakistani guy wasn’t tough for me as I know Urdu. I’m not perfect in the language but there were no accent-related issues. I could speak it thoroughly keeping in mind the technicalities of the diction.
Women-centric cinema is finally minting money at the box office with female actors demanding meaty roles. Do you think this change is here to stay?
Of all the changes that people claim to discuss, this one is genuinely there andis visible. I don’t know if this change is permanent but it’s encouraging. It’s moving in the right direction. Even in Hollywood, things took time to change.
There are actors today like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Kalki Koechlin, Radhika Apte among others who are running a parallel stream of content-driven cinema. Do you think there’s more support to good cinema?
I still maintain that there is no support system but just a lot more individuals trying to put out work with their authentic vision, without any compromise. When I started, there was hardly anyone chasing that kind of cinema. Today, there are a few more individuals out there, but there is no support for them. It’s just individual passion or circumstance that gives life to a project. Good cinema was supported in the days of National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). But then nothing substantial occurred after that.
Should we expect you to do more films now?
I hope so. What hasn’t changed is the desire to do middle-of-the-road cinema. Somewhere it should have elements of mainstream but the content should also be strong and original. Such films are not written as often as you and I would like them to be. So I will still be selective as a result of that and not by choice.
You delved into production with your last venture One By Two. Is your production house still active?
It’s difficult to do acting and producing films together. Right now, I am reading a couple of more scripts to act. I will do some films before I get into production again. I am happy to work with new directors.
written by :Karan Bhardwaj