The Essential Abhay Deol

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Posted on August 7th, 2010 in Features, Stars

10aug abhay deol01 The Essential Abhay DeolThe upcoming release of Rajshree Ojha’s Aisha — based on Jane Austen’s Emma and starring Sonam Kapoor – will also bring Abhay Deol back to the screen in his first conventionally commercial venture since his debut film, Socha Na Tha. Although the focus of the film’s publicity has clearly been on its title character, it provides an opportunity to take a look back at Abhay Deol’s film career, to highlight his growth and maturity as an actor – and as a star.

Socha Na Tha(2005)

The Skinny:
Viren (Abhay Deol) and Aditi (Ayesha Takia) are introduced by their very traditional families who are trying to arrange both their marriages. Viren and Aditi, however, want something – someone – different. Viren refuses the match for them, and the two families start a bitter squabble. And Viren and Aditi? Become the best of friends. Who would have imagined that?

The Abhay Factor:
Watch Socha Na Tha because it’s Abhay’s first film – and also the first film written and directed by Imtiaz Ali (Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal). But watch it first and foremost to watch the relationship between Viren and Aditi blossom. Abhay and Ayesha are lovely together, and their scenes and dialogues together make the whole film worth the price of admission.

Ahista, Ahista (2006)

The Skinny:
Ankush (Abhay Deol) is a professional marriage witness. He meets Megha (Soha Ali Khan), a young woman waiting for Dheeraj to turn up at the Registrar’s Office so they can be married. When Dheeraj fails to turn up, and Megha has nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Ankush helps her out. Gradually, Ankush falls in love with Megha, and dreams of bettering himself and building a new life with her.

The Abhay Factor:
Ahista, Ahista is the first film from director Shivam Nair, and the second written by Imtiaz Ali – and another film based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story “White Nights”. Nair and Ali play with the story’s essential framework. Watch it to see how Abhay takes Dostoevsky’s dreamer and turns him into Ankush – a man with his marriage witness routine down pat, no ambitions in life – and who suddenly finds ambition and something to dream about when he meets Megha. Deol takes Ankush from being a nobody, a cog in the machine, to someone we care about.

Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. (2007)

The Skinny:
In first time director Reema Kagti’s film (written by Anurag Kashyap), six couples set out on a Honeymoon trip to Goa by bus, and their stories are discovered and shared in the course of the film. Abhay Deol plays Aspi, who forms with his new wife Zara (Minissha Lamba) the seemingly perfect couple, who, it turns out, are keeping important secrets from one another.

The Abhay Factor:
Abhay is delightful as the irrepressibly perky and perfect Aspi, and a highlight of the film is the exquisite dance number he performs with Minissha (in an interview he’s said it took them two weeks of rehearsals to get it right). And although you might choose the film because of Abhay, what you’ll take away from it is much more than his performance. The film is clever, well-crafted, and perhaps most importantly, the other couples and their stories are equally – if not more – interesting and compelling.

10aug abhay deol02 The Essential Abhay Deol Ek Chalis Ki Last Local (2007)

The Skinny:
Call center employee Nilesh (Abhay Deol) misses his train home after a night out drinking with friends. He meets Madhu (Neha Dhupia), who has also missed the train, when both of them seek out the same auto-rickshaw for a ride to Vikhroli. The evening the two of them spend together waiting for the morning train turns into something more than Nilesh might ever have imagined and changes his life forever.

The Abhay Factor:
A comic thriller, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local suffers a little from uneven pacing – that said, it’s an intriguing first film from writer-director Sanjay Khanduri. Abhay’s Nilesh finds himself way out of his league as the film progresses, and the film is a reminder of the eclectic and sometimes seemingly risky choices that Deol takes when choosing his films.

Manorama Six Feet Under (2007)

The Skinny:
With a pace as slow as the sleepy, dry town it’s set in, Navdeep Singh’s film invites us to explore the difficult and disturbing issues engineer and wannabe writer Satyaveer Singh Randhawa (or SV, played by Abhay Deol) raises as he investigates what he thinks is a simple case of adultery. The film invites us to think about corruption as a continuum: are there some forms of corruption that are less bad than others? And how does retribution happen?

The Abhay Factor:
Sporting a moustache and stubble, along with a tired, worn expression, Abhay Deol brings weight and maturity to the role of SV. Watch the film for his performance, but also for those of Gul Panag (as SV’s wife Nimmi) and Raima Sen. The film’s broader themes are, of course, food for thought, but what makes the film really sing are the relationships: SV and his brother-in-law and drinking partner Brij (an excellent Vinay Pathak), for example, as well as SV and his wife Nimmi. They bicker about the small issues of daily married life, they fight over the TV remote, and yet they clearly love each other deeply. An intriguing and thought-provoking addition to Abhay Deol’s filmography.

10aug abhay deol03 The Essential Abhay DeolOye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008)

The Skinny:
Lucky Singh (Abhay Deol) is a small-time petty thief who takes as much pleasure in his ability to outwit everyone as in the things he steals – perhaps more, even. What is certain is that Lucky has an idea of the life he deserves – the lifestyle he believes he deserves – and he just goes out and takes it, relishing in the notoriety he builds along the way. Director Dibakar Banerjee gives us a layered, deftly-written story filled with incredible characters, from Lucky’s friend Bangali, to his girlfriend, the feisty Sonal, to an interesting turn by veteran actor Paresh Rawal in three of the film’s key roles. And special mention must be given to actor Manjot Singh, who plays the young Lucky. He gives the interpretation of Lucky a solid foundation – introducing us to Lucky’s charm and vulnerability and his sharp wit.

The Abhay Factor:
Watch how Abhay takes Manjot Singh’s interpretation of Lucky and builds on it – how he takes Lucky from a gawky 15-year-old just realizing that if he wants something in life, he’s got to go out and take it, to the older Lucky, self-assured and self-reliant, but with the 15-year-old boy hiding just underneath the surface, excited to find his exploits covered in the newspaper, or vulnerable when the people in his life (especially the father-figures) betray him.

10aug abhay deol04 The Essential Abhay Deol Dev.D (2009)

The Skinny:
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic novel Devdas has given rise to a number of film interpretations over the years, but director Anurag Kashyap’s version, with its innovative film-making and contemporary setting, stands apart. Kashyap takes the story of Paro and Devdas, childhood sweethearts who are torn apart when Devdas is sent away to school, and plays with its essential elements, giving us a film that is both fresh and original.

The Abhay Factor:
Devdas is, perhaps, one of the most challenging roles for an actor – simply because the character of Devdas is so one-dimensional, with so little motivation to make the effort to do what it takes to be with the women he loves (or the women he thinks he loves). Abhay invests Dev with a sensuality and a restless energy. The more Abhay’s Dev internalizes his emotions and frustrations, the further he slips downward in a spiral of booze and drugs. Another risky choice from Abhay that pays off for the viewer.

10aug abhay deol05 The Essential Abhay Deol Road, Movie (2010)

The Skinny:
Vishnu (Abhay Deol) undertakes to drive an old travelling cinema truck to another city, simply to get away from a life he finds increasingly constraining. On his route, he picks up a runaway chaiwalla (Mohammed Faizal), an old man searching for a mela (Satish Kaushik), and a gypsy woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) searching for water. Along the way they deal with corrupt cops and deadly dacoits with a stranglehold on the region’s water. If Dev Benegal’s film falters occasionally, it more than makes up for it with its colourful characters (Kaushik’s Chacha is just delightful), its beautiful cinematography and, most importantly, its tenderness for cinema and how movies have the power to alleviate our suffering and transform our lives.

The Abhay Factor:
Satish Kaushik’s Chacha and Mohammed Faizal’s spunky chaiwalla clearly steal the film out from under Abhay Deol. That said, Abhay manages to convey Vishnu’s underlying dismay at the thought of taking on his father’s failing hair oil business, and his restless energy as he engages to drive the old cinema truck across Rajasthan. Watch as Abhay takes him from someone just trying to run away from his life, to someone who comes to terms with it.

Kuch Toh Bolo!

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