MUMBAI—His father, the legendary Dharmendra, always describes the three Deols (including himself and his other son Bobby Deol) as “people traveling on the service road, watching others zoom and fade away on the highway!”
Sunny Deol, in the 34th year of his career, seems to be doing just that. The Deols have the ability to spring back after a lull, the way we saw them in “Apne” (2007) and “Yamla Pagla Deewana” (2011). As for Sunny, he has had blockbusters and big hits at intervals all the way from his debut in “Betaab” (1983) to “Paap Ki Duniya” (1988), “Tridev” (1989), “Ghayal” (1990), “Darr” (1993), “Jeet” (1996), “Border” and “Ziddi” (both 1997) and the biggest of them all – “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha” (2001). This besides acclaimed or cult performances in films like “Arjun” (1985), “Chaalbaaz” (1989) and “Damini” (1993).
Like every action star, be it his father or his contemporaries and juniors like Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn and Suniel Shetty, this Deol made a great shift to comedy with the comedy franchise of his family and is all set to repeat the fun in “Poster Boys,” their home production directed by co-producer and co-actor Shreyas Talpade. India-West met a very fit-looking and jovial Deol at a 5-star for a chat.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Have you watched “Poster Boyz,” the Marathi original that was also produced by Shreyas?
A: I did not, deliberately. I heard about the film and asked Shreyas, who is my co-star in “Bhaiyyaji Superhit,” about it. His narration excited me, and since I wanted to make one film quickly with Bobby and me, things fell into place. The urgency also made me offer the film’s direction to Shreyas, who was anyway looking at a Hindi remake.
Q: Why did you not direct the film yourself?
A: I am already directing my son Karan Deol’s debut film “Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas.”
Q: How much of yourself can you see in Karan?
A: That’s difficult to say, and I wish I could ask you how much of my dad can you see in me? (Laughs)
Q: Quite a lot, actually! In this film, the ‘dhai kilo ka haath’ Sunny Deol has actually got this anorexic look!
A: Yes, it adds to the shock value! (Chuckles)
Q: One serious question: most viewers loved “Ghayal Once Again.” Why do you think it did not do well? We do have a theory: that your regular fans were disappointed as you were not loud, and the youngsters who could have enjoyed this crisp and very contemporary film stayed away thinking it would be like your loud films.
A: Could be what you say is partly true. But the main reason was that I had no corporate with me. It is a dirty battle fighting for screens and shows today, unlike the more straight dealings between producers, distributors, and exhibitors in the past. From a promised 1500 screens, they brought it down at the last moment to 500! So people assumed there was something wrong with a big film that was getting such a limited release! When people watched it later on television, they were surprised to find it so good, but at that time it was too late!
I have vowed now never to go it alone. Big corporate entities, headed by executives who do not know the ABCD of Hindi cinema, are given preference by the movie-halls for screens and shows as they have films releasing every two months or even more often. I have Sony with me on “Poster Boys” and our next film “Yamla Pagla Deewana 3” will also be a corporate entity.
Q: Your father had said that the “YPD” franchise shall not go on.
A: He was depressed and disturbed when the second part did not do well. But now, we have a great script, and people love to see the three of us together.
Q: Unlike the kind of films the Deols have done, today most films lack the heroism of the past movies. How do you look at this?
A: I do not see heroism going away. As you can see, that is the charm, and that’s why today, regional films like those from the South are better off. Heroism is always ‘sacchai ke saath’ (for and with the truth), but now people here apparently think differently.
What the studios here want for the reason I have said before are films that talk of something in India that is not seen in society. Youngsters even get wrong ideas about what is love. And why do such deviant ideas find the censors missing? We Deols believe in sticking to the roots, and trends, hits, and flops are a cycle that will carry on.
Also, most directors today do not present the complete picture of our society. But the studios are not ready to touch those directors who know our audience and are aware of what is Hindi cinema. Those filmmakers are considered dated. In my time, heroes and heroines were characters to be emulated. That was actually the problem I had with “Darr” – I had no idea that the villain (Shah Rukh Khan) would be glorified.
Q: Did the corporate entity here interfere with your film’s content?
A (Laughs): No, no, not at all. I can fight that much! If that becomes the case, there would be no point in making a film or being creative at any level. We got the freedom, but there is nothing I can do about how they take it ahead.
Q: How was the situation earlier? Weren’t there other hiccups apart from “Darr” even then?
A: There were, like the idea that “Ghayal” would not work as so many romantic films had become super-hits. That is why we turned producers. But things were not anywhere as bad as they are today.
Q: So many of your films and roles have been iconic.
A: They turned out that way. Yeh sab sochke nahin hota (you cannot design such things). Like my character in “Damini.” I must just want to do a film, but I will not do a film for money. Even the dialogues for which I am known happened because they fit my character. In many cases, even in “Gadar,” I had to turn down certain lines that my director Anil Sharma told me to speak because for me they were not right for the characters I was playing, but more for effect.
Q: You have said that you want to do a sci-fi film.
A: Definitely, there is so much to be done, but it should all happen in the right way. I get angry when people talk about my age! Despite the passage of so many years, there is so much more to do, to learn, and to make mistakes like I did when I was younger. Age is just a number.
Q: In his autobiography, Rishi Kapoor has claimed that your mass-friendly role in his “Damini” was finally much longer than in its narration.
A (Shakes his head and laughs): Nahin, nahin (No, no). Come on; I wasn’t even there in the climax. It was all him!. Where else could the character I did have gone?
Q: Why are Hindi movies not doing well of late?
A: Today, a visit to a multiplex is a family happening, an outing that includes shopping, dining out and ALSO watching some film! The idea is not to watch a movie, and the theatres are like a mall – they are selling so many things from ad films to food, not realizing that movies are the main reason why they are able to sell the other things.
So people who really want to watch a movie do not mind waiting. Again, that is why my older movies are working so well, both on television and wherever they are screened again. Of course, there is a dearth of writing talent as well.
Q: In your career, so many of your films have beaten the business done by the three Khans. Why do you not market yourself on these grounds, like on social media?
A (Laughs) I can only be me, I just can’t be anybody else. I believe in subjects, in depth that is very difficult to get now. Take this current fad for biopics. They are all interested in the person’s look, clothes, and mannerisms! The younger generation has not known these people and accepts this shallow depiction. Who focuses on how these people thought and why they did so, what was society and its influences around them at that time that helped make them what they were? No one!
Q: One more fact: why are you not working with major heroines?
A (Laughs): I had approached Sridevi and later Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for “Ghayal Once Again.” They both refused! Now, what do I do? I cannot manipulate them, maybe others can! The top heroines must be thinking that they will have nothing to do but sing or dance when one or all of us are there in a movie. Though they have no problem doing exactly that in other films! (Laughs again).
Q: Are you doing “Si3” as reported?
A: I want to do a good action film with my director Ravi Chandran. I liked the subject of the Tamil “Singham 3,” but I am waiting to hear from him.