Nanu Ki Jaanu actor Abhay Deol opens up about why he raised his voice against actors endorsing fairness creams, his life journey, his upcoming Kollywood debut and his gig with Shah Rukh Khan in Zero.
Q. You’ve been quite reluctant to be part of mainstream cinema. How did Nanu Ki Jaanu happen?
Yes, this is a pretty mainstream film. It is a horror-comedy and so there is a certain quirk to it, which you don’t really see in a regular mainstream movie. I always try to do middle-of-the-road cinema. Nanu Ki Jaanu is like that too. I have never wanted to be all out artistic to the level where it isolates people. I have done the non-mainstream movies too like Manorama Six Feet Under, Road the Movie and Shanghai. But largely my effort has always been to do middle-of-the-road films.
Q. Your audience relates to your characters more than you the star. That’s kind of rare in today’s times.
I personally am attracted to characters that I can relate to. I think that’s my approach to my work and maybe that’s what is translating to the audience. For me a hero is not someone who dances like a dream, beats up the bad guy in the end and gets the girl. I always pick characters where it’s not his muscles or dance skills that help him, because not all of us can look like that. I am more like someone who’d beat up ten guys, not with his muscles, but his strategy. A lot of us want to be heroes in our own lives and do things that are in our power as ordinary people. That is what I like to showcase on screen too.
Q. What has changed for you since you debuted in Imtiaz Ali’s Socha Na Tha?
I really love Socha Na Tha. I loved being a part of the film. I think it is one of the best stories I have read. As a narrative it comes together really well. How have I changed? I think I have grown. I’d like to believe that I am more patient and compassionate. I am more settled in where I am and who I am. I am more secure now. I am not out there to prove anything to anyone. Just more mature, I hope.
Q. You came across as a sole activist-artiste in Bollywood when you started the debate against actors endorsing fairness creams. Can an actor afford to be a rebel while being a part of the industry?
Yes, I did. But, I am an actor. I am not an activist. I have taken a stand every now and then for issues that affect me directly and issues that affect my fraternity. But that doesn’t make me an activist and I didn’t even do that to necessarily be applauded in any way. I did it because I felt I was cornered. I felt I needed to speak up.
With my social media posts on fairness creams, I felt really strongly that I needed to speak up about it because I think we can take baby steps. Colour and caste is engrained in our culture, but I don’t think it should be applauded or packaged and sold. If it’s there, fine. Let’s not try and encourage it. So, I did it for those reasons.
Also, I don’t like to confront people, but I end up doing that. I don’t think that confrontation always leads to a solution. Dialogue is important and I had to learn that while I was confronting. I made a mistake. If I am to stick to my belief and if I am to stick to being who I am and my principles, I need to figure how to go about it, because there is no point if I take one approach and it yields no results. It then ends up just making whole lot of noise with no action. That doesn’t serve me any good. I am not here to create any publicity out of it but make some actual change.
People are joining me in this cause, but they should not because I am not an activist. That’s taking away from real activists. The years that they put in for their activism and the kind of sacrifices they make for their cause, I have done none of that. I am an actor, people recognise me. I just used my celebrity status and platform to draw attention.
Q. After Nanu Ki Jaanu, you have some interesting projects coming up. You are making your Tamil debut and you are a part of SRK’s Zero.
Idhu Vedhalam Sollum Kathai should be done soon actually. It is almost over. I did that film because the director Rathindran R. Prasad is supremely talented. It is his first movie. It is about a guy who makes a video game on the mythology of Vikram and Betal. The video game comes to life and takes him on an adventure. It is based on a graphic novel. It’s pulpy and has action. It is thrilling. It is a fantastic idea. He had shot most of the film when he met me. I have known him from before. I loved what I saw. Me and him were supposed to do a movie before this, but the script never materialized. Luckily in Idhu Vedhalam Sollum Kathai, I don’t have a very long role, so could manage learning a bit of the language, meanings of the words and how to speak them. It was sync-sound, so I had to get it right in the take itself. There was no dub.
About Zero, I wish I could say more about it, but it is the producer’s prerogative to give more information, not mine. But, I can definitely say that I am a part of the film and it was an amazing experience. Anand (L Rai) and me are friends. He is like family to me. It was great to team up with Katrina Kaif after Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. And, I think it is the only chance I’d get to work with Shah Rukh Khan. It was great to see him in his work space and collaborate with him. So, it was overall a really nice experience.