‘Bollywood is a genre’

Debarati Palit
Sunday, 15 April 2018

Abhay Deol talks about his film Nanu Ki Jaanu, why he is known as the ‘experimental’ actor and how he likes engaging himself in developing scripts

Abhay Deol doesn’t mince his words, be it for the causes he supports, his thoughts about society or his perception of the film industry. The talented actor likes to share his feelings without filtering them. During his visit to Sakal Times office on Friday, (April 13) to promote his upcoming film Nanu Ki Jaanu, which releases on April 20, Abhay said that he is developing scripts to create roles and genres for himself because he can’t sit and complain about lack of variety of work in the film industry. 
Excerpts from the interview:  

Experimenting with his roles
His dance number Tere Thumke with Sapna Choudhary for his upcoming film has been grabbing the eyeballs. “It seems to have got a great reception but you never know, people are being nice all the time, so you don’t know if they are being nice or have genuinely liked the song,” says Abhay.

We have neither seen him dance to a Haryanvi song before nor attempt new genres like horror comedy (Nanu ki...) or sci-fi (JL-50). Has he been  experimenting a lot more lately? 
“I think I have an understanding of myself. I have an idea of who I am and what I am about, so with that vision, I select my work and stuff I can identify with because I can only add value to those projects. I have never been tempted to sign projects with the right director, producer or actor or someone hot in the market, so that my value can go up by associating with them. Just because I am in an environment where most people conform to a formula for filmmaking that has been passed down  for decades, doesn’t mean I have to follow them. And this is why I end up looking like the experimenter,” he explains. 

However he clarifies that he is not experimenting but just wants to be different, and trying to add value wherever he can. “In this environment just because those kind of films are not being made very often, it looks like I am experimenting. I wish there wasn’t this tag and there were more variety of directors, actors and ideas. It would be a playground for me and I would be given more work then,” he says.   

Not being confined to a particular genre
For an actor, who doesn’t like to get confined to a particular style or genre, is he not being offered interesting scripts and therefore taking breaks? “First of all, I make a distinction between Bollywood and Hindi cinema. For me, Bollywood is a genre. It will have song and dance, bright coloured outfits, beautiful locations, big budgets, stars and it’s all about the boy and girl. That kind of thing bores me and I try to look beyond the norm, however, they come few and far between. Because this Bollywood giant is so strong and the studio houses themselves are there to make money and not original content, it’s difficult for people to make something out-of-the-box. Even if they make, they will have to add some elements of Bollywood into their stories because that will get them the sales,” he says. 

Abhay adds that he did start with the middle-of-the-road-cinema with films like Dev. D,  Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. “To one side would be Road, Movie and Manorama Six Feet Under and closest to formula would be Happy Bhag Jayegi and now Nanu Ki... In 2005-06, few people were putting out such movies. Now, a lot more people are making such films. It happened then because multiplexes were happening and suddenly there were more exhibition spaces than content. Now, formula films and independent films are trying to co-exist,” he says. 

He further adds that the digital space allows people to come up with powerful ideas. But the tribe needs to grow. “We have a lot of talented people in the industry but they are very reticent to share radical ideas with people for fear of being branded as experimenters or arty. In this environment, everything is there to almost kill your individuality,” Abhay points out.   

Signing ‘Nanu Ki Jaanu’
Horror-comedy as a genre is still new to the Hindi film industry, however, the South film industry has made an attempt at it. Ask him what made him sign the film and he says, “The script came together for me and I always start with the script and then move to the director. If both the director and producer is debuting together, the film does not work; it has been proven in the past. But if the producer is experienced, then the marketing and exhibition is taken care of.” 

The film, which also stars Patralekha, Brijendra Kala, Manu Rishi, Rajesh Sharma and others, is releasing with several other films on April 20. The film will clash with Omerta, High Jack, Beyond the Clouds and Daas Dev. “I don’t know what can and cannot be avoided because the producers have to make a choice. I respect their decision. Having said that, I would like all the films to do well. People who complain about formula films should go to the theatres and watch one or all the films which have different subject matter. Here’s you chance to patronise the films, whether you go for mine or others it doesn’t matter even though mine is the most mainstream of the lot. I think we have enough audience to watch all these films,” he says.

Collaborating with Aanand L Rai 
Abhay will be a part of Aanand L Rai’s next big project Zero starring Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma. This is his second film with Aanand post Happy... There are also reports of him being part of the sequel but Abhay dismisses it saying that he has not been approached by the production house for the film. But will we see him and Aanand in a full-fledged project? “Aanand keeps saying that but I have no idea. It doesn’t seem so because he is in a very big space right now and usually, in the industry, when people hit a certain space they need to need to stick to it. I think he should go bigger. I am not denying the fact that it can happen but he is busy right now. I love him either way because he is family.” 

Getting into direction?
When he is not acting, Abhay is either busy with production or developing scripts. So is direction on his mind? “I had got Dev. D developed and nothing after that. I am working on something that is rather large, so I have kept it aside. There is another one which I am developing with the writer. The reason I am developing scripts is to create roles and genres for myself because we have to do our own stuff and can’t keep complaining about lack of variety. I am not developing them with the idea to direct. The more I develop, produce and act, the more I feel comfortable with the idea of direction but nothing immediately,” he concludes.

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