“I always wanted to do stuff which is considered in Bollywood as offbeat” – Abhay Deol

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Since we at BollySpice last caught up with Abhay Deol, the actor’s status as the poster boy of alternative cinema has been further cemented by critics and audiences alike. After his last film Dev.D scooped a handful of Filmfare Awards on Sunday, Deol is all set for his eighth release to hit theatres, the Indo-American production Road, Movie. We talked movies and more with the actor as he negotiated Mumbai traffic, returning from a shoot at Film City.

You have Dev Benegal’s Road, Movie releasing 5th March. If the promotional material is anything to go by it looks to be a very stylish film. What is the film about?

In a really short pitch, it’s about a guy driving a truck through the desert which he discovers is actually a moving cinema. In one line that would be the story. Of course there are many layers to the film. It is an adventurous story about a protagonist maturing, who has not really been out there much. He takes upon the responsibility of driving this truck, and we see what happens to him on the way, the kind of people he meets, how they influence him, and what he discovers about himself.

How long was the shoot?

I remember we shot for two months then we had to take a break because we lost the location in Gujarat because of the rain. So you can say about two and a half months.

It was beautifully shot and I don’t know how many Indo-American productions have been made, but we had people from America, people from France, and of course many of the team were Indians, so a nice joint effort of people coming from around the globe.

It’s an interesting concept making a film about film, how did people react when you were shooting on location?

In India people love the movies and you could put up a camera anywhere and put anyone in front of it and it would still attract a crowd. So it doesn’t have to be your celebrity status that draws a crowd. Although, the big change is that a lot more people know me now than they did before. With me, I suppose, there is more recognition today, with the names of my characters from my movies called out which was great. Lots of the films are named after the characters I play like Lucky and Dev.

You don’t have that one Raj/Rahul name that you stick with?

(Laughs) I haven’t repeated any name at all. I don’t know why actually, it’s probably a different form of cinema that I do.

So you have lived in New York and LA, how do you find living and studying abroad with working in film in India?

Well I studied abroad and did my college there. I spent time in New York recently and did a couple of courses in welding and life drawing classes. It was only essentially because I was in New York and thought it would be interesting to keep myself busy, but didn’t attend as much as I wanted – my social life took over unfortunately. I had more of social life than a school life.

Did you get recognised when you were there?

In New York I got free cab rides all the time, people would get insulted if I tried to pay them for their services. It’s a wonderful feeling because abroad there are no borders. People from the sub-continent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh are all one and the same abroad – they are all South Asian, and they all watch Bollywood so you get a lot of love. The other interesting thing was also I got recognised, and I didn’t think it would happen, from people from Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, which I wasn’t expecting.

You have now completed five years in the industry, was it a conscious choice from the outset to do offbeat or indie films?

Being exposed to cinema from around the world I always wanted to do stuff which is considered in Bollywood as offbeat. I’ve always looked for content and the song and dance thing was something I was not going to do for very long, though I conformed to the commercial norms for my first two or three films. Even though my first film Socha Na Tha was a flop on paper it was a huge hit in the DVD circuit and on satellite. I did the typical Bollywood film because I felt I had to being a newcomer, but given the chance I would have started off with something slightly edgy and original.

You worked with Kalki in Dev.D – what is your perception of foreign actors in the Hindi film industry?

Bombay cinema needs to expand its horizons in many ways. As soon as you open up content ideas, you open up Bollywood more for people of all sorts of backgrounds to partake of it… For foreigners the difficulty can be language barriers but with Kalki, she was born in India she knows the language so has an advantage. Kalki was born here and is Indian in that sense. I think there is a lot of scope and the more we become universal in our approach to subjects the more universal we will have an audience.

It seems that social network sites are an essential component to being a star in Hindi cinema. Yet if @abhaydeol is your real Twitter profile, it seems you have posted only one solitary tweet.

One of my friends said you have to do it, you have to do this. So I did post that one post ‘OH no I’m on twitter!’ That was me actually.

So are you tempted to start tweeting regularly like actors such as Shah Rukh Khan?

I wouldn’t know what to say, I’m not good with technology to begin with. I don’t want to start it and get bored after a month or two and drop it. And then what? Once you commit to it you have to follow it through I suppose. If I don’t get into it I’ll probably offend less people than if I did and went on to drop it.

We asked Abhay which question does he wish he had been asked by BollySpice. The actor replied ‘Why didn’t I get any food today?’ After a full day of shooting promotional bytes for the film and giving countless press interviews, the actor had to then grab a bite to eat on the side of the road on the long journey home to Juhu. Despite missing lunch, Deol being the professional that he is, gave a charming interview. Be sure to watch Road, Movie when it opens in theaters this Friday, March 5th.


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