It’s been a little more than 25 years since Sunny Deol captured the imagination of movie-goers as Ajay Mehra in Rajkumar Santoshi’s hard-hitting drama Ghayal. “Time has really flown past. When we started work on Ghayal Once Again, I thought it must have been only 10-15 years,” says Sunny. The 58-year-old actor is back as Ajay Mehra in Ghayal Once Again, a film that he has also directed. Sunny hopes that “everyone who has loved me as an actor will also know me as a competent director”.
Sunny’s abiding memory of Ghayal goes back to how tough it was to get the film greenlit. “When Raj (Kumar Santoshi) narrated the script to me, I had liked it, but the producer he had come with ran away. I took the film to many known producers of that time but no one was interested. They said people are not interested in vendetta films. But I was sure of the script, so I went to dad and told him that I want to produce it.”
It took almost two and a half years to make Ghayal. “I was shooting for so many other films at the same time. This was a film where we were up against many odds. There were suggestions from directors I was working with at that time. People kept telling us to add unnecessary comedy tracks.”
Not only was Ghayal a huge blockbuster, it also won multiple Filmfare Awards and a National Award. But ask Sunny what it was that worked for the film, and he is not sure. “I am the last person to figure out what an audience connects or doesn’t connect with. Most of my films, even those that have become iconic today, I have no clue what touched a chord with the audience. I like making films without planning and plotting things that the audience will like.”
The action star had been wanting to make Ghayal Once Again for some years now. “But things weren’t falling into place. I couldn’t get directors who were on the same page with me. Nor could I find the perfect story. Eventually, I decided to direct the sequel myself because I had already announced that I am making Ghayal 2. I am very stubborn. When I start something, I have to see it through. Once this film releases, I’ll know if my stubbornness worked or not,” he says with a laugh. Ghayal Once Again continues from where the first film left off. The latest instalment is reportedly based on a real-life incident and also stars Soha Ali Khan along with four newcomers.
If rumours are to be believed, Sunny tried to rope in Santoshi to direct the sequel, but there were creative differences. Not one to rake up only wounds, Sunny talks fondly of their very successful collaborations. “Raj was an assistant director when he came to me with the script for Ghayal. We gelled immediately and that’s how we decided to work together. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have arguments about the film. Both of us had no idea whether this film will or won’t work. So, we were both groping in the dark. With Damini, I wasn’t a part of the main cast, but I had heard the story and I was keen on working with Raj again. So, he narrated the role of the Meenakshi’s lawyer to me. It turned out to be another memorable role. We did Ghatak after that, which also did really well. Unfortunately, we didn’t work together after that.”
It’s been 16 years since Sunny last directed (his last was love story Dillagi). “I directed Dillagi only because Gurinder Chadha couldn’t. The film was stuck. And, that’s how I became a director. The film did reasonably well, so I figured that I could direct. But I was busy as an actor that I never got a chance to direct again. With Ghayal Once Again, it was a similar situation.
The only difference is that then I was directing because I had to and this time it’s a choice I have made. I have discovered a lot about myself in the process.”