Abhay Deol is cut from a different cloth. He may be a Deol, but this apple certainly fell a little far from the tree. Throughout his career, he’s taken the off beat roles and movies more seriously and that’s made him the poster boy of indie cinema. Whether it was Dev.D, Manorama Six Feet Under, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! or his debut Socha Na Tha. Abhay was not treading the obvious path. Even his tryst with commercial cinema happened through movies like ‘Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd’ and ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, which were indelible experiences to say the least. It’s a trend that’s continued in Abhay’s career as he’s juggled between mainstream and absolute niche with consummate ease. In this week’s Big Interview, he looks back at his choices, his angst, his rebellious nature and even puts a silver lining to the age-old debate of star kids and their infamous advantage. Read on…
You have always picked up unconventional roles and films right through your career. Has your choice of scripts evolved over the years?
One would hope so. (laughs) Evolution is an ongoing process and hopefully it never ends. You may be ignorant of it and it may end for you on the surface but it still happens within. Because one may be fighting that and one may not want to embrace the changes that are coming about. Maybe you like the status quo, maybe you don’t like the way things are, but I am on the opposite end. I can’t wait for change, I can’t wait to see where I am going to be next and how I am going to be in the future. I just could be another person tomorrow. When it comes to choosing scripts, where you are at mentally and emotionally has an influence on how you perceive what you’re reading.
Are you a method actor or do you take to your characters impulsively?
If there is a method that I have, it’s not a traditional one, what you call method acting. To be honest, I don’t even know what that really means, but if I have to put on an accent or an impediment on the body, then that takes practice and rehearsal. My method, if any, is to read the script to know where the story and character are going. But I don’t “prepare” so much. But if I have to put on an accent or adopt a way of speaking, then my method is to make myself completely vulnerable, unprepared and see what comes to me. Because the chaos and not knowing what’s going to happen brings a certain vulnerability. Actually, it’s not even the unknown, I know that I am going to be vulnerable. It’s almost abstract and then what comes out of that is more truthful because then you’re fighting for survival. To not get it right would be to fall at what you’re doing. I suppose that is my method but that’s not something that I’ve learnt from a book.
Is that unique way of approaching every character something that you picked up along the way?
I wouldn’t say that it has evolved over time, it’s something that I have realised that I have been doing right from the beginning of my career. It’s not a practice that I’ve done over time.
But has your approach to scripts and projects changed over the years?
I have always approached things with an open mind. That hasn’t changed. In fact, even that’s evolved as I am now more open to doing formulaic and conventional films. Why fight it? I have changed in that way, because I’ve done what I had to, proven my point, not that I feel there was a point to prove. So now, let’s have fun. I don’t mind doing a film that I would not have done 10 years ago. I feel, therein lies the evolution. I was telling someone the other day that I suppose I was very rigid in my beliefs during the earlier days, perhaps because the industry was very rigid, too. They used to say, ‘That won’t work. Do this and it will work’. My reply used to be, ‘No! I am sorry, but I will make it work’. And today, the industry is also more open. People say, they’re open to more experimentation and such, so great, I am also more open to something that’s formulaic. I am just reflecting back what’s coming at me.
Observing your career, it seems that you have always kept content as your priority over other aspects of films and stardom. Was it always a conscious decision to stay away from commercial films?
I want my films to be commercial because it means those films have made money. People tend to call my films “non-commercial”, but I’ve always said I don’t make “non-commercial” films. I am not being conventional, there’s a difference. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be commercial. The commerce of my film will perhaps not be as big as a conventional movie, I know that, but it will have its audience. It will be of a certain size, it might not be as big as you may like it to be, but it will be something. I am not here to be greedy and have the dollars of the world. I just need enough to get by and support the lifestyle that I have and be able to make the things that I want to make. I was never enamoured by fame, because money doesn’t bring you happiness. Satisfaction comes from being who you are and having the freedom to do what you want to. That could be making small films, because they speak to you and they represent you with authenticity. That’s worth more than any money in the world, any amount of fame.
It’s not everyday that you meet an actor who stays away from fame….
I don’t really care about being a star, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. It just means that I care about something different. If stardom is a result of that, then all is great. But stardom is also something that you have to invest in. It’s not just about your work, it’s also about PR, it’s about being out there, it involves having a whole crew of people. That effort is what makes something commercial. It’s a lot of hard work either way.
In previous interviews, you’ve candidly admitted that the kind of films you do aren’t easy to make and get funding for. It takes time and effort to have those kinds of films made…
I think the quote was it’s really hard to get the films I make funded and made to begin with. Half the time is spent in trying to convince people that this will work. It happened with Dev.D too when I was going around town trying to narrate it to people and say, ‘Make this! It will make a good film’. I knew I had to go to Anurag (Kashyap) to make it because he was the perfect director. That’s something I have gotten used to. Does that mean I am afraid of becoming irrelevant, since my films take too much time? (Thinks hard) It’s tough to answer that because I don’t work for relevance. I would like to be relevant of course. I want the films that I make to have an impact and therein comes the relevance. I have to let the product speak for me. Which is why, earlier in my career I wouldn’t even market myself. I always believed that the product should be put forward and not myself. I have never tried to place myself front and centre. Let the other filmmakers take credit for it, be great and speak about themselves. I don’t want to go out there and speak about myself. But, I am not exactly like that anymore. Because the world has changed and so have I. I have realised it’s not so bad to take credit. It doesn’t mean you are being self absorbed in any way.
You have also been outspoken about the fact that actors in the film industry aren’t allowed to be individuals. You have expressed your desire to see that change. Do you feel that has happened?
That was more specific to my own situation, because I came from a film background. I had a lot of that thrown at me, and a lot of star kids get this, when people say, ‘Oh your uncle is from the film industry, your dad is like this, your mom is like that, so there’s already an audience image tailor made for you’. And my reaction to that was always, ‘But I am me. I am not my dad, my uncle or my brothers’. I felt a lot of resistance to me being different from them. People said you have a formula made for you, you’d be stupid to turn that down. But I always said, doing that wouldn’t be me. I had to say that I am an individual and why don’t you use that individuality and see what it’s capable of. That is the reality of the industry especially for kids who come from industry backgrounds. That’s why you’ll see the star kids often doing a cover of a song that their father did or acting like their mother. It’s because they’ve been put into that position.
Are things different with the new breed of star kids?
It happens less now. I think actors today are far more willing to make themselves more vulnerable. Earlier the star kids were more guarded and it was all about the image. It’s still a little bit like that, but actors today are a little bit more willing to take a risk. They see that the world is evolving and changing and they feel they should go along with that. Also, growing up in a different environment, with more technology and exposure to variety, choices and travel inherently gives them an individuality of their own. They can’t shake that off so that’s why you’re seeing a little more variety from the younger actors today.
You never shied away from taking risks throughout your career though…
When I was doing it, it was all about the image. It still is, but back then it was all about that. There was literally no space to speak up against it and if you did, you were told, ‘You’re bad! You’re an addict. You’re too absorbed. Not easy to work with!’. My reaction was, ‘Yes! I am not perfect. I am reacting’. But that was because the environment was so hard. The environment in the film industry isn’t easy to live in. So I fought. When you fight, you’re vulnerable to being gaslit, you’re vulnerable to making mistakes.
Being different from the crowd has its own challenges. How do you deal with pressure and expectations of being different?
Don’t have any pressure or expectations. (laughs) One should just chill out and not take themselves so seriously. You are in a great place, you have all this opportunity, you have all this love from the people, get over yourself. Enjoy what you’re doing. Embrace every moment. Just don’t think. You’re incredibly lucky to be making a living for yourself in a creative profession. How many people would kill to be in your shoes? That humility is a good space to come from. In that space, you just allow yourself to be. That is so much of what acting is about, too. It’s not like I don’t feel pressure, but you have to centre yourself. Gratitude is a really strong emotion and it’s a great balancer. That just makes everything fun. You shine and you let other people shine and you feel grateful for your life.
Have you ever thought about revisiting your choices from the past and would you change any decisions?
I don’t love every film that I’ve done. Filmmaking is a team effort and not an individual one. It’s not just the director who makes it, it’s not just the actor or producer, it’s an effort by all of them. There are some films that I don’t necessarily like. Would I revisit and not do them? I think I learnt something from those experiences. Whether they were individuals who cornered me or projects that didn’t turn out the way I thought they would, I needed to experience that. Because that shaped my understanding of the world. That is what made me who I am today. So I can’t really complain, because you tend to learn from your mistakes and not from what you did right. I am just really happy where I am today.
Credit Source – https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/abhay-deol-i-was-never-enamoured-by-fame-money-doesnt-bring-you-happiness-biginterview/articleshow/91716430.cms