The is most unlike his uncle Dharmendra and cousins Sunny and Bobby. While they made a mark as action heroes, Abhay Deol has flirted with romance, political dramas, film noir, art house and middle-of-the-road films. From his debut in Bollywood in 2005, to his current choice of films, Abhay has been one thing consistently — unpredictable.
His first film, Socha Na Tha, directed by Imtiaz Ali, didn’t light up the box office, nor did his next, Shivam Nair’s Ahista Ahista. But then he shifted gears, playing one half of a perfect Parsi couple in Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, stepping into the shoes of a man whose life changes when he misses the last train home in Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, followed by the noir Manorama — Six Feet Under in which he played a character with dual identities. By the time Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye and Dev D released, Abhay Deol had a solid fan base and critical acclaim too.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Shanghai and Happy Bhaag Jayegi cemented his standing. As he prepares for the release of Nanu Ki Jaanu, the 42-year-old speaks about his past, present and future.
As an actor, where do you place yourself today?
I have always treaded the middle of the road — it’s neither sell-out formula films, nor is it indulgent artistic films. From my own career, examples that best define these films are Socha Na Tha, Dev D, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Happy Bhaag Jayegi and now Nanu Ki Jaanu. These films have superficial elements of a mainstream movie, but scratch a little deeper and there is something about them that is different from the mainstream narrative. So, it’s a marriage of both.
Nanu Ki Jaanu is a horror comedy. Do you think comedy should be played straight?
Comedy is about tragedy. A guy slips on a banana peel and lands on his butt. That’s funny. But it’s not funny for the guy who has hurt himself. When you are doing comedy, the character is going through what he is going through. It’s not funny for him but for the other person. Similarly, Nanu Ki Jaanu is quite a tragic film, which is actually funny.
You have just done your first Tamil film. What can you tell us about Idhu Vedhalam Sollum Kadhai?
I play King Vikramaditya from the 3rd Century AD. The film is directed by R Rathindran Prasad and it’s about a guy who invents a video game based on Vikram and Betal. The game comes to life, and takes it him on an adventure. Not only do I play a very integral character, but I am also one of the producers of the film.
Did you have to undergo any physical transformation for the role?
Not really. The costumes and make-up went a long way to establish the look — from clothes to wigs and emblems.
How did you equip yourself for a film in Tamil, especially the dialogues?
The dialogues in Idhu Vedhalam Sollum Kadhai are in ancient Tamil. Rathi used to laugh that the lines could have been in Latin or Greek and I would have understood them a little. I learnt all my dialogues and their meaning. Incidentally, the entire film is in sync sound, so you will hear my voice and me speaking Tamil.
Have you been approached for any other projects in the south?
I was approached for one more film, but I had to turn it down, because it would’ve meant devoting half a year to do a whole South film, with learning the language, etc. Interestingly, Nanu Ki Jaanu is a remake of the Tamil film Pisaasu (2014). That was a dramatic horror feature, but we relocated it in Delhi and adapted it into a horror comedy. Nanu Ki Jaanu releases today.