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Afraid to know Sunny Deol’s reaction on ‘Yara O Yara’ spoof in Happy Bhag Jayegi: Abhay Deol

The actor stars alongside Diana Penty, Jimmy Shergill and Ali Fazal.

Keyur Seta

Along with Diana Penty, Happy Bhag Jayegi also marks the comeback of Abhay Deol. The actor has always been very choosy when it comes to signing films. In a chat with Cinestaan.com, the Dev D actor reveals what he looks for in a film, his career and the fact that he internally criticises even his well-appreciated films. 

You have been very selective in choosing films all these years. So what exactly do you look into before saying yes?
When I read a script, I am not necessarily looking at my character. Initially, I just want to know the story, what it is about, the beginning, middle and end, whether it is coherent, does it have anything original and mainly if it is relatable. If the script is relatable it is because the characters are true. 

Did you instantly agree for Happy Bhag Jayegi?
Pretty much. When Aanand (producer Aanand L Rai) called me to say there is a script the director has basically written for you, I said, okay, who is he and what has he done? I am cautious when I take films. More so now because in the past some of my films weren’t distributed well and didn’t get a good release. No matter how good the film is and how successful it becomes on DVD, they were affected at release because of weak marketing. So when Aanand called up, I knew it at least had his backing. Then it all depended on the script. And then pretty much during the script I said yes. 

Director Mudassar Aziz’s debut film Dulha Mil Gaya (2010) didn’t succeed. Did you think of this before signing this film?
At the end of the day, he has written the script. I haven’t seen Dulha Mil Gaya. I have worked with debutants often and people doing just their second film. I went onto do Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D when he had just done No Smoking, which was trashed by everyone, including critics. I can’t just judge a director by one film. Sometimes a lot of circumstances get created around whatever the product is. Surely, having a film that hasn’t done well does affect you; puts you on the back foot. Yes, I agree. But Krishika (producer Krishika Lulla) and Aanand are behind it. If they are backing this film, who am I to judge him (director)?

You are known for choosing content-oriented films. Does that put you under pressure as far as choices are concerned?
The pressure has always been there, to be very honest. During the beginning, there were less expectations because nobody knew me. When you establish a certain consistency of work, the pressure is different. First, the pressure is whether I will deliver. Now the pressure is whether I will continue delivering. I love what I do. Quite honestly, I am pretty critical of everything. I don’t necessarily love some of my films the way other people have loved them. I have a critique of a few of them. But I don’t say anything publicly because they have been liked and accepted. But within my own space and my opinion, I can make those differences out. 

The roles you have portrayed so far seem similar at the surface but deep inside there is much more to it. 
Like I said, it starts with relatability. If you can’t relate to a character, you can't internalise it. And physical changes are superficial ones. For example, TA Krishnan (character in Shanghai) was a south Indian who spoke and dressed in certain way. He looked a certain way with his hair, moustache and glasses. Accents are difficult particularly in our country, where we don’t have a system for accent training for actors. We literally have to find a Tamilian who would say the dialogues back at me and then we are like, “All right, we don’t want to sound like this stereotypical south Indian either.” And since he is an IAS officer, he will be stationed outside Tamil Nadu; let’s say in Maharashtra, so he would have learned Hindi. And he won’t sound typically south Indian as he is very conscious. When you have something superficial, it’s easy to know where to start from.

How much onus do you give to box office numbers?
They are important because you want the films you do to earn their money back at least, if not make a profit. They matter a lot to the industry as it is a business before it is a creative medium for those who look at the business side of it. It determines your longevity; the kind of roles you would get. It is similar to what it is in the west. But over there, one or two films don’t make or break a person, unlike here. While we have a hell lot of similar politics, we tend to be more fickle here on the numbers. 

It’s a lot harder to get into the film industry abroad, which also means it is harder to get ousted. It doesn’t matter if your last couple of films have flopped. You can still do a mainstream film. You can also do an offbeat film and it doesn’t matter if it does well. A studio or director will back you and you will have a big classic film. That’s why people experiment very little here because they don’t make a distinction between experimental and mainstream. If your experiment doesn’t do well, it will have a bearing on your mainstream film, which I find baffling. 

The promo of Happy Bhag Jayegi starts with Jimmy Shergill spoofing your brother, Sunny Deol’s famous dance steps from ‘Yara O Yara.’ What is Sunny’s reaction to this?
(laughs) I haven’t asked. I am still afraid to ask him this question. 

Has he seen it?
He has been travelling. He is not here right now. So I haven’t spoken to him.

How do you expect him to react to it?
I think he will have a laugh. He is a good sport. He can see humour in such things. 

Any other films in the pipeline?
I have one film which I love. Let’s hope they announce it soon. And I am reading another script at the moment.