By Maria Giovanna
Clad in a yellow t-shirt, a navy Armani Exchange blazer and jeans, Abhay Deol breezed through New York City recently to promote the launch of Mela.com this month, a broadband service that will provide Indian TV and film content across the United States. In between press conferences and meet-and-greets, he stopped to talk about the changes happening in Indian cinema, corruption and more.
On that Sunday morning, Deol had considerably more perk in his demeanor than many of the press people in attendance, and he seemed more at ease than during the summer, on stage at various malls to promote Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. While Hrithik Roshan tripped the light fantastic front and centre with Katrina Kaif, and Farhan Akhtar hoofed along doing his own thing, Dev.D co-stars Deol and Kalki Koechlin were the two who smiled bravely, but underneath it all looked liked they’d rather not be prancing around.
Dressing up formula films
When asked about that part of being an actor, the promotional gimmicks in the lead-up to the release date, Deol was sanguine: “You keep getting asked the same question over and over again and you want to keep it fresh. And then the whole dance thing; I’m always uncomfortable going up on stage and public speaking is not my strongest point. It always takes a little bit for me to warm up to it.”
Part of his time in New York that day was to attend a special screening of the ensemble hit, the latest of several he’s been part of, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Deol agrees that there are different and positive changes happening in Hindi cinema, albeit slower than he might wish. “I still think there’s a huge resistance to change from within the industry,” he says. “I think formula will always be (there). Some of the biggest hits this year follow the formula, whether they be Ready or Murder 2, so that’s here to stay. More actors need to step out and take chances, and some do, like Aamir Khan. But it’s all about ‘Ok, we’re gonna pick this subject that’s not conventional but we’ll dress it up a little bit so that it doesn’t come across too arty-farty as people say, too alternative'.”
“That’s the start of the process and I think it’s just starting, whether we will actually achieve something extreme that will appeal to the whole world, I don’t think it’s gonna happen any time soon, because you can’t just suddenly introduce people to something that is completely alien to them; you need to ease them into it. And that’s the angst I feel as an artist because I want to go the whole extreme but I know that I need to strike a balance.”
According to Deol, even the edgy Dev.D struck a balance. “The original treatment had him start dealing drugs and he gets shot by the cops. But Anurag wanted to lighten it a little bit towards the end, and it made sense, the film’s done well. Zindagi in that sense is quite radical for Bollywood ‘cause a lot of people who were traditionalists were like ‘What is it about?’” he mimics, his voice getting tighter and higher, before he breaks into laughter. “For them it’s about nothing, there’s no external conflict, all the conflicts are internal, but Zoya’s brilliant in that sense. She dressed it up with the fancy locations and the songs and all that stuff, but within, it’s a new idea.”
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