Blackmail director Abhinay Deo on Irrfan: He has redefined comic timing with his straight-faced delivery
In an interview with Firstpost, Abhinay Deo discusses how he got into filmmaking, Irrfan's unique comic timing, learning from Piyush Pandey and helming 24.
The memory remains vivid as ever for director Abhinay Deo, who recalls the exact two moments in his life which prompted him to become a filmmaker.
While the first one happened in 1977, the other one transpired in 1984. “The first time I got fascinated by this field was in 1977 when I watched Star Wars at Sterling in South Bombay. I simply could not believe what was happening in the film and my father had to explain everything. At that point I felt this is what America looks like where everyone is flying,” says the filmmaker. The second time the bug bit him was in 1984 when he wrote a full-fledged 32-page story and presented it to his father, veteran actor Ramesh Deo.
With no knowledge of screenwriting, it was just a story with music, audio-video references and scene break down. The effort was to seek his father’s help in directing the story. “My wish at that time was to become the youngest director in the world. After I expressed my desire, my dad told me that to direct a film only to become the youngest director in the world was a wrong reason. He further added that the reason one should make a film should be based solely on a story which needs to be told," reveals Deo.
Though the film never reached fruition, Abhinay ensured that bits and pieces of the script became part of his films and his upcoming film Blackmail is no exception.
Blackmail brings Abhinay Deo and Irrfan together for the first time. There's no doubt that Irrfan’s comic streak is different from other actors. How would Abhinay define his comic streak? “Comedy to me is all about timing and what Irrfan has done is that he has redefined that timing. This man has now started a completely different genre of comedy which is understated, straight-faced but delivers everything. Through every comic scene, he manages to do lesser but makes you laugh more. It’s the mark of an incredibly mature actor," he says.
Abhinay is a film addict and for the past 20 odd years there has not been a day when he has not watched a film at night. Recently, Call Me By Your Name was playing on a cable channel and he thoroughly enjoyed the film. Abhinay Deo’s comic streak came to fore when he made the nation take notice of his dark humor in Delhi Belly. So after having watched tons of films, which film does he feel could be text book material for comedy? “The sort of comedy I really identify with is Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading, which to me is absolutely spectacular comedy. In India, I would say it has to be Chupke Chupke. I must have seen it some 70-80 times and am still not bored of it.”
Abhinay has followed a different trajectory in his career. After getting a degree in architecture, he followed his dream of becoming a director through ad films. He reveals that the quality of films that were being churned in early 90s forced him to resort to advertising. “I was enjoying architecture but wanted to do more and I was not interested in limiting myself to brick, mortar and steel. Around 1992, the film industry was going through one of its most average times. We were lost. It was in that ‘lost’ period I decided that I won’t venture into the film industry. At the same time what was not lost and was picking momentum was the ad industry.” Abhinay spent his next five years at Ogilvy and learnt tricks of the trade under the baton of Piyush Pandey.
It’s interesting to note that Abhinay’s entry into the ad industry was vehemently opposed by his father citing the reason that the industry is full of dopers. How true is it? “It’s true. My dad had told me that ad industry is full of bad people and most of them are drug offenders. I convinced him anyhow saying that there is absolutely no need to worry about me. Today he is an extremely happy man."
It’s strange to know that despite him and producer Bhushan Kumar being neighbours for years, it was only two years ago that they both came together for a project. “It’s all destiny, I think. The film made its usual rounds at various studios but it was destined to be made with Bhushan Kumar. The film started its journey three years back when my friend Pervez Sheikh gave me the script. I won’t name any one but the film did go to many producers and they all loved the script but somehow things never materialised.” Viacom was one of the producers who had shown keen interest in the project but there was no progress. Funnily, Abhinay had narrated the film to Bhushan in exactly the same manner as Irrfan narrates things in the beginning of the trailer of the film. It was a clincher in flat 15 minutes.
Inform him that he is a lazy filmmaker who takes ample time to make his films and Abhinay fires his own salvo which is peppered with statistics. “To be very honest, I have made close to 20 films in the last six years. I have done it at the rate of three films per year. It seems that you are not counting two seasons of 24. 24 is 17 hours of edited footage per season and that makes 34 hours in all. 34 hours in itself is close to 15 films. I might have lost more weight and hair doing 24 than any other film in my life because it was a humongous project. But to answer the question differently, I prefer to work on everything threadbare and systematically,” defends Abhinay.
For someone who gives more credence to Cannes Lion Awards than Oscars or Filmfare Awards, it’s surprising to know that Abhinay remains the only anomaly in his family which is full of actors. “There must be someone in the family who could direct all three of them,” quips Abhinay.
Watch the Blackmail trailer below:
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