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Sunday, February 16, 2020

My work has been ahead of the curve: Abhay Deol

Actor Abhay Deol on his latest crime drama, ZEE5's Line of Descent, failures, and independent films.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi | Updated: January 20, 2020 8:11:10 am
abhay deol photos Abhay Deol’s latest film Line of Descent is currently streaming on ZEE5. (Photo: Abhay Deol/Instagram)

From unconventional films like Dev D and Manorama Six Feet Under to diving into the web space with Netflix film Chopsticks and making his Tamil debut with Hero, Abhay Deol has done various kinds of projects.

His latest film Line of Descent is currently streaming on ZEE5. The crime drama has him playing a police officer and brings Brendan Fraser to the Indian screens for the first time. The Rohit Karn Batra directorial also stars Ronit Roy, Neeraj Kabi and Prem Chopra among others.

In an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, Abhay Deol talked about Line of Descent and Brendan Fraser. The actor also revealed why he prefers to do things differently.

Here are excerpts from the conversation:

How would you describe Line of Descent? A digital film, a crossover film or an underworld film?

The interesting fact is that it’s getting a U.S theatrical release and an Indian digital release, so it’s both of those things. It is an Indo-American production. As the world becomes more connected, we will move towards more such collaborations in the world of film. Tomorrow, it will be common to see filmmakers across borders collaborating as the eco-system develops, and more and more people take risks.

Line of Descent took three years to reach the Indian audience. Was the wait too long?

The shoot was done by the end of 2017 and post-production by 2018. So honestly it hasn’t taken that long. Unlike a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Dev D, this is not a film backed by a big producer or studio. All the independent films I have done take a while to get a release, and a budget for marketing. I am used to it, I am also very busy, so it’s not like I am waiting for any one film to release as I have other ones that I am working on.

View this post on Instagram

I love it when an independent film (yes I’m still making them) of mine gets the promise of a good release! Not only is my film “Line Of Descent” opening the @nycsaff, but it will also get a US theatrical release by Gravitas Ventures on the 13th of December. This film is too racy and too real for an Indian theatrical unfortunately, but it will premier exclusively on Zee5 in India, the date is yet to be decided. It is Directed by Rohit Karn Batra and produced by @guylouthan. Besides the fact that it has some very great actors like Brendan Fraser, Ronit Roy and Neeraj Kabi, I was most excited to see Mr. Prem Chopra on screen after such a long time. My grandmother used to say of Mr. Chopra, “he’s a villain in reel life but such a gentleman in real life”. And today I am in the same film as him. This one’s for my granny!!! @zee5premium.

A post shared by Abhay Deol (@abhaydeol) on

The show also has a great ensemble cast, including Ronit Roy and Neeraj Kabi. How was the experience?

I am privileged to work with such talent. Ronit Roy played his character calmly, but there’s always an edge to him hidden beneath the surface, whereas Neeraj (Kabi) wears his heart (and temper) on his sleeve. The difference between them sets up an intense dynamic, one that transcends the screen. I was hooked watching them play the story out. They are real, gritty, and captivating to watch.

What did someone like Brendan Fraser bring to the table?

A bottle of whiskey and soda! That could actually be used as a metaphor for him in this movie. You have never seen him like this before. He is known for his comedy and action. He has taken both of those things, and executed them in a very sinister fashion. It was a joy to see him on screen, not just because it has been a while, but because he isn’t playing the likeable guy. That throws you off, and you see him in a whole new light.

You have always been a supporter of independent films right from the start. What is it about them that commercial cinema lacks?

They explore spaces that commercial cinema fears to explore. They unfold in a manner more believable than commercial cinema. Bollywood formula is set to worship its lead characters, and you are constantly reminded of the star you are watching which alienates you from the larger picture. Independent films highlight the world they inhabit, try to keep things relatable and shy away from the superficial to dig deep beneath the surface of the story. That’s why you rarely see the song and dance routine in an independent film, so essential to the Bollywood formula. Today it’s evident that Bollywood is just a genre. You cannot box independent films in a way like that.

Over the last few years, you have experimented, or rather say, gone mainstream (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Happy Bhag Jayegi). Was that a conscious decision?

It is essential to mix it up in a market place. Also, I really liked the stories and had full faith in the makers of those films. I am happy to explore more such movies.

What goes in your mind when your films fail to impress the audience?

I usually have an idea of how a film will be received, and I haven’t been surprised much yet. Success and failure are part and parcel of life’s experience, and more than impressing an audience, I like to provoke them. Since much of my work has been ahead of the curve, many of the films that ‘failed’ at the box office repeatedly play on the TV, while films that were ‘successful’ at the time are nowhere to be seen. A film is a product that doesn’t necessarily have to be consumed and thrown away immediately. Sometimes what is not understood at the time of release is comprehended later, when the collective conscience of the industry and public have caught up.

You have always been strongly opinionated. Do you think we need more people in the industry to take a stand?

I think you know the answer to that. As the famous MLK quote goes, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

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