He’s been loved for his carefree nature in ‘Socha Na Tha’, respected for his grave avatar in ‘Shanghai’, and has been at the receiving end of some genuine appreciation for ‘Dev D’. The ‘unconventional’, utterly dashing Abhay Deol (heightened by his black shirt!) was at the Zee News office recently. Ananya Bhattacharya, in a free wheelie, speaks to the star about films, the industry, his upcoming ‘Chakravyuh’ and a lot more. Excerpts from the conversation:
You’ve been seen in several unconventional roles. With ‘Dev D’, you smashed it all. What do you have to say about your role in ‘Chakravyuh’?
I play a character who sort of goes undercover and then he starts to sympathise with the enemy. A role like that – for any actor – is interesting. It’s such a clear graph. It was something that I’d do at the drop of a hat.
Prakash Jha is one of those directors in the industry today, who know how to blend serious subjects with commercial cinema. How was the experience of working with the filmmaker?
Before we started to shoot, he sat down with me and we discussed the script and so on. On sets, he (Jha) doesn’t direct. You’ve already been given the graph and an understanding of the character – and I think he expects one to do his job as an actor. If I wanted to do something different in the moment, I’d ask him and consult him on it, he’d guide me and he completely supported me each time. He’s a very balanced director; he tells you what he wants, he expects you also to give your own personality to it. The rest of it – because he’s so meticulous – shooting was a breeze. I know that I’ve said that this has been one of the easiest films that I’ve shot; it sounds like I’m saying that it was a piece of cake. But no, by that what I meant to say was, that, he’s so well-prepared that things went smoothly. Every day went exactly as planned. Also, Prakash has a great sense of humour; even in his anger he’s sweet!
How different is this role from the kind you’ve played so far – given the fact that you’ve done so many ‘different’ ones?
For me this film is much bigger than the character. The atmosphere, the issue, the background – all of that just takes over. You’re just transported into this world and then you get to know these characters. A lot of the films that I’ve done are very character-driven. You need to go with the character and you discover the world. Here, it’s the other way round; in that sense it’s different. In ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, my character was a very urban one and quite happy-go-lucky; Krishnan in ‘Shanghai’ was a much older, more reserved and almost arrogant South India; and this is again an urban character. Ironically my character in ‘Chakravyuh’ is also named Kabir, but he’s not happy-go-lucky and privileged like Kabir in ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’. Here Kabir is a little more hard-working, comes from a middle-class background. Your characters get defined by their backgrounds.
How important is ‘Chakravyuh’ for you? Will this be able to mark a watershed in your acting career?
I don’t know... I’ve sort of stopped looking at all those things now. Ultimately, you do feel the pressure because there’s a lot more escapism and sex being sold in our industry than issues. You can’t make issue-based films and expect to have a commercial release. However, Prakash Jha is one of the only people who have managed to strike a perfect balance between a formula plot and content which is driven by an issue. So I’d hope that this film does well; I just feel that we’re competing against a movement which is more selling a film on looks, on songs. That is fine, but that’s ninety per cent of the work that one comes across in the industry. Within that, it gets very difficult to sustain something that’s not a part of the major chunk. You have insecurities of whether this film will be accepted or not because even the audience is not conditioned to accept such stuff – they want six-packs in their heroes, they want a close-up of the female anatomy and item numbers, sexual innuendoes; and it’s hard to sell anything that doesn’t have all of that.
How has your journey in the industry been so far?
It’s been great – there have been ups and downs, then a bit of a fight to find my own individuality and space – but it’s all paid off really well. I’m being accepted much more now than I was when I came into the industry. I’m thankful for my friends and those who supported me!