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Searching for Abhay Deol

Why the Dev.D actor shouldn't quit acting

Sonal Pandya

Whatever happened to Abhay Deol? Remember him, cousin to Sunny and Bobby and nephew of Dharmendra? The younger Deol has been less prolific than his cousins, acting in only 16 films since his film debut in Imtiaz Ali's Socha Na Tha (2005). In his decade old career, he has quietly garnered acclaim and admirers for his performances in  Manorama Six Feet Under (2007), Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) and Shanghai (2012).

He is perhaps most well known for channeling Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's Devdas in the 2009 feature Dev.D. Abhay Deol suggested the different take on the classic Bengali novel to filmmaker Anurag Kashyap who then wrote the film with Vikramaditya Motwane. Deol's interpretation of Devdas has become one for the ages, a Gen X-er succumbing to vices of his own making. But this is not to say that Deol has shunned the mainstream.

After debuting in an uncommon rom-com, he was a part of an ensemble cast in Reema Kagti's Honeymoon Travels Ltd. (2007) in which he played a newlywed with extraordinary abilities. From there he stepped into the shoes of Mr. Knightley when he essayed the role of wiser and older Arjun in the remake of Jane Austen's Emma, Aisha (2010). In Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), Shanghai (2012) and Raanjhanaa (2013), he gladly played supporting actor roles. His co-stars Farhan Akhtar, Emraan Hashmi and Dhanush all walked away with most of the laurels.

But the thing to remember about Abhay Deol is his quiet presence onscreen makes him indispensable to the feature. Remove him from the equation the film lacks the stability his being brings. Which is why fans have been bemoaning the lack of Abhay Deol on their screens. His last leading role was in a film he produced, One By Two (2014), co-starring his then girlfriend, Preeti Desai. One By Two had a dismal box office performance and Deol hasn't been seen in a Hindi film since.

But Abhay Deol has never particularly given credence to commerce, he cares more whether his part is essential to the entire filmmaking process and whether it's a good film or not. Looking back at Deol's career, one finds more good films than bad, if we're turning a blind eye to the box office numbers. And throughout there seems a conscious choice in not repeating himself onscreen. Amongst the sea of heroes who are, in fact, acting as themselves, rather than the role, Abhay Deol is an exception.

So when do we see him next? His long delayed Roland Joffe film, The Lovers, with Josh Hartnett and Bipasha Basu was the only film of his to release in 2015. Most people weren't aware when the film made its way to theaters. For awhile, it seemed that he had shifted to Los Angeles, taking up creative pursuits in sculpting and carpentry, somewhat like another serious actor, Daniel Day-Lewis. His lone film on the horizon is Happy Bhaag Jayegi, directed by Mudassar Aziz and produced by Aanand L. Rai. Co-starring Diana Penty and Ali Fazal, the film is set in Amritsar and under production to release sometime in 2016. Hopefully, this time, Abhay Deol will makes a proper comeback, taking up films in earnest. His fans are still waiting.