Sunny Deol makes his zillionth attempt at a comeback on May 3, when he returns with a new action drama, Blank. In the promos, the aging actor’s latest has looked like a thriller straight out of the nineties. Deol is obviously trying to reload vintage action fare — which is his area of expertise — rather than experiment with image, which he did lately in the slapstick Poster Boys, the action spoof Bhaiyaji Superhit or the satirical drama Mohalla Assi.
The trailer of Blank shows the 62-year-old Deol, duly Botoxed and with hair dyed black, hitting action hero mode as a senior cop out to thwart an amnesiac suicide bomber. Clearly, the film isn’t pathbreaking fare. Deol, once the angriest among Bollywood’s proverbial angry young men, certainly won’t reinvent the action drama with Blank despite returning to the genre after a while.
The vintage action tag is perhaps too overbearing to shed. Deol, after all, invested decades into creating it on and off the screen. He once claimed in an interview to have torn through his own pants in rage over an argument with the late filmmaker Yash Chopra during Darr (1993). Even in his films, he is best recalled for yelling (think of the trademark “Tareekh pe tareekh” hollering in Damini), performing outrageous stunts (uprooting a handpump in Gadar) and stomping the ground in what is presumably his dancing style (Jeet). His oblong frame and stiff body language might have comically set him apart but Deol’s career has mostly been a function of ruggedness his metrosexual peers lacked.
It was a ruggedness highlighted by his dhai kilo ke haath in Ghayal (1990), Ghatak (1996), and Ziddi (1997). Even in the crowded Border (1997), he stood out for his macho heroics.
Deol’s image and relatively modest range earned comparisons with Hollywood’s action hero of the nineties, Bruce Willis. Like Willis too, Deol slowed down at the turn of the century when heroism became suave and nimble. New-age machismo returned with Salman Khan in Wanted and Dabangg, and Akshay Kumar in Rowdy Rathore and Gabbar in the late 2000s and early-to-mid 2010s. Although they were merely following up what the by-now aging Sunny had peddled in his heydays, these heroes were far younger. Also, by then Deol’s past antics were beginning to look ludicrous. He started losing out.
Deol is actually taking a calculated risk trying to re-haul his action image with Blank. Interestingly, he seems to be drawing inspiration from Willis again. Willis, having failed to reinvent, lately returned to trademark retro action thrills with releases such as Death Wish, Reprisal and Acts Of Violence. The response was lukewarm.
Will Deol’s Blank click, or will the film draw a blank?
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