In less than four years, he has emerged as the most exciting young actor in Bollywood, picking up interesting parts in unconventional films that may or may not have rocked the box office but have made their way into the public consciousness.
Abhay Deol, the star of films such as Manorama Six Feet Under, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Dev D understands the business he is working in and recognises the constraints. Yet, he is determined to change things around as much as he can. CNN-IBN's Entertainment Editor Rajeev Masand spoke to the rising star.
Rajeev Masand: Over the last two, two-and-a-half years, you have made some interesting choices which have resulted in you emerging as a poster boy for this new Indian cinema, for this parallel industry. Was this by design?
Abhay Deol: I always went for the scripts that I really felt comfortable doing. Also, I guess it would be by design because I felt that taking risks might give the best dividends, it might not pay off and I might not last, but if it did, then I would fall into something like what is happening right now. So it's I think part design.
Rajeev Masand: Are you surprised by the success and popularity of the choices that you have been making?
Abhay Deol: Yes and no. No because I knew that there would be that audience that would appreciate the kind of films I made. I knew they would be out there. But how soon this would break out of its shell, I was not sure of. I had a lot of faith in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Dev D, not just because of the directors and the subjects at hand, but also because UTV backed them. I know from my experience in this industry that without support - no matter how good your product is - it can just easily go without being noticed.
Rajeev Masand: Let's talk about your latest film Dev D. I read somewhere that you hated the character of Devdas as one knows him from previous films. What then interested you to tell director Anurag Kashyap to make a film on those lines?
Abhay Deol: I definitely wanted to take this character out from the image he had. I didn't hate the character. In fact, I really wanted to play this guy because it's one of those roles that as an actor makes you want to dig deep into the psyche of this person - addiction and obsession. It's not about the plot or the style, it's just about how deep can you go into the psyche of a person. And then the field is open for you to play with. What I suppose I was wary of and what I didn't want to do and what I saw about this character was that because it tends to be so high on drama, it ends up being melodramatic. So I was very aware of that. I wanted to get the melodrama away and just get to the core of the issue. And to contemporise it seemed perfect. I see so many Devdases in that sense around me. It's common.
Rajeev Masand: Personally, are you drawn to the Paro type or the Chandramukhi type?
Abhay Deol: Wow that's a good question. Both the women are positive. I mean, Paro is somebody headstrong and a go-getter. Her pride is her dignity and I find that very attractive in women. At the same time, Chanda is this girl who finds herself at the wrong place at the wrong time, but instead of giving her hope, she takes her life into her own hands. Now suddenly the morals which other people abide by, she does not adhere by those because she thinks what is the point of being a certain way in a world when you are judged for it. The world puts you in a corner and then forgets about you, so you make your own rules. So I find those qualities attractive in a woman. So I don't know what to tell you.
Rajeev Masand: You are forming a film production company soon called Forbidden Films. Is this so you can exercise more influence and control over the films that you are interested in doing?
Abhay Deol: What hurt me most was the fact that when you do these small, independent films, it's so hard to get distribution and exhibition. There is no budget for marketing. And since they are low budget and you tend to make that money on the table, you wouldn't even care to put that money more into marketing and take a risk because as it is you are thinking, 'Nobody is going to come and watch it, but I've made my money'. That harmed me and the directors I worked with a lot. It's fine, you've made a movie and done a good thing by doing so, but you have done more harm by not giving it the right platform. That was very frustrating. So I thought I might as well take that risk myself. Anyways as an actor I am taking a risk. And as I started to understand the business, I realised there are so many ways that you make money, then I thought why don't I just take that risk myself. Right now is the best time for an independent movement, an independent production. With the recession coming in and the bubble of inflated prices bursting, it's actually helped people like me. Now most people with money are looking for content. They have realised that you can package a movie with content. They realise that as long as you are content heavy and your product is good, it can be sold. The formula doesn't always work - it hasn't been working for many years now - but I am glad that now they are open to experimentation.
Rajeev Masand: Well thank you so much for talking to us. Best of luck and looking forward to seeing lots more exciting stuff from you.
Abhay Deol: Thank you.