'I don't fit in now'
One of Bollywood's top hit-makers at one point, Sunny Deol has been lying low these days. Known for his patriotic action image, the actor now wants to try other genres as well. His next releases include a thriller, a comedy and a romance.
The reclusive Sunny opened up to Patcy N in this candid chat about his movies, and tell us why he will never be a patch on his father Dharmendra, and why younger actors should follow Abhay Deol.
Why are your films mostly patriotic? You play a cop once again in your forthcoming film Right Yaa Wrong.
There's no harm in being patriotic. But I don't think all my films have been patriotic. Right Yaa Wrong is a thriller, and I've never done one before. What is wrong for one person will be right for another and vice versa -- that's the concept of the film.
In this film, there is a time when my character wants to kill himself, and he tells his wife to kill him. Whatever he does in the end, it is for the audience to decide whether I am right or wrong.
Subhash Ghai said that he had never seen you so charged about any film before. What you have to say about that?
It is an interesting film and has turned out well. But I am always excited about my films, always very involved in them. I don't watch some of my films because I know they have not turned out well. I curse myself when I watch those. But Right Yaa Wrong is different because I have never played a character like this before.
Another reason why I am charged up is because the actors in the film -- whether Irrfan Khan or Kangna Ranaut -- are very good actors.
Image: A scene from Right Yaa Wrong
'I have been ill a lot since the past few years'
What made you work with director Neeraj Pathak?
I have worked with many newcomer directors. I look at the director's skill and the story. If I like it, I go ahead. I don't have too many 'ifs' and 'buts'.
How difficult is to carry a film on your shoulders at this time of your career?
When you do a film, you don't think you are carrying it on your shoulders. At the end of the day, filmmaking is a team work and you are portraying a character. If the character has been woven nicely, it's good. The sub plots have to work out too. Then the film will work -- not because of one person. For me, the biggest hero of the film is its story.
You're doing a comedy next, called Yamla Pagla Deewana, with father Dharmendra and brother Bobby Deol.
Yes, it will go on the floors next month. I haven't done comedies before so I think it will be fun. The story was very interesting -- it's based on a lost and found concept like our olden days.
Is the success of Apne bringing the Deols together again?
No. In fact, it is difficult to do films with the three Deols because you don't get good film scripts. This idea was in our minds but to write the script took a year. We made so many drafts, now the story has come out well. People will enjoy the film.
Why don't we see you on the big screen that much these days?
I have been ill a lot since the past few years. I have a severe back problem so I've had to get treatment for six months or more every year. By the time I recovered, times had change and different kinds of films were being made. Now, I don't fit in.
Image: Sunny Deol, Dharmendra and Bobby Deol
'Audiences listen to critics and don't use their heads'
In a previous interview, you had said that the Deols are a misfit in Bollywood today. Why do you think that is?
I said that because in today's Bollywood, you need to do a lot of PR to sell your film. Earlier, a film would work because it was good, nothing else. The audience loved you for your films and your acting, not for what you said or the drama that you did.
Fans knew that your film is going to release and they would go and watch it. Today's generation actors spend time on how to present themselves. Deols can't do that. I don't even think it is important.
I think people do publicity stunts when they think they don't have talent. We are happy and content with what we do and would rather do our work properly since that's why the audience loves us.
You started off with great movies like Betaab, Arjun and Damini. But you have not done any good movies off late.
Off late, I have not done films belonging to the Damini and Arjun genres. I have done some films for reasons I don't want to disclose. I did not believe in those films, and that's why some of them didn't do well. But I'm excited about my forthcoming films.
Do you see any difference in the style of filmmaking from Betaab to now?
No, not much. We've always had good directors.
But there are some films that you don't understand but people call it cinema. If critics praise a certain film, people think it is good and it will work. The audience has changed. They listen to the critics and don't use their heads.
Earlier, cinema was the cheapest form of entertainment. People would watch films to get lost in it. Today, the scenario has changed and so cinema has changed.
I think this is sad. People go to watch films but through the film, they are either talking on their mobile phones or stuffing their faces with food. So what have they come for? Have they really come to watch the film? The chairs are so comfortable that you can go to sleep!
Very few films do well because the director believed in what he was making. People don't make films based on issues. They just look for plots and subplots and call that cinema.
Image: A scene from Damini
'People make rubbish with Rs 100 crores'
Gadar: Ek Prem Kahani was a huge blockbuster. Yet, you did not capitalise on it.
That has been my nature from the start. I have given so many hits but I have never relied on my past glories. I have never been insecure. In fact, I fell sick after Hero: Love Story of a Spy as well. My back problem started just after Gadar and that's why I had to cut down a lot of things. When you lie in bed for three months, it really troubles you, and that was an ongoing process. At the end of the day, destiny plays a big hand in your life. What has to happen, will happen.
You've had an action hero image. But nowadays, not many action films are being made. Do you think that people don't want to make action films?
I don't think that's the reason. I have done so many action films and I'm still doing them. In fact, my next film will be an action film.
I'm trying different things too -- Yamla Pagla Deewana is a comedy film, and I'm doing a romantic film with R Madhavan and Kangna.
But you don't get scripts and subjects on which you want to do films. So you have to decide from the scripts that come to you.
Why is The Man delayed?
It is a big budget film and all big budget films have gotten delayed because of recession. I hope to release it after the Indian Premier League. I will speak to Shilpa (Shetty, Deol's co-star) and get her dates.
You were going to do a period film on Prithviraj Chauhan.
Very few directors can make a film on him -- only directors like Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi, Rajkumar Santoshi and Anil Sharma can do justice to such a huge topic. Unfortunately, nobody wants to make that kind of films with these directors.
One the other hand, if the person can speak well, people will spend a huge sum and make a big budget film even though it may lack soul. People make rubbish with Rs 100 crores. That's really sad.
Unfortunately, my company is not rich enough to make such huge budget films. A couple of years ago, Vijeyta Films would have done any kind of movies. But today, it can't.
Image: Sunny Deol
'I have done films where I did not like the subject'
Which of your films has been closest to your heart?
My first film Betaab has been closest to my heart. We worked very casually on that, we did not have any stress on our minds. The film was done beautifully and it was a great experience.
The film that made me work a lot was Ghayal. Nobody wanted to produce Ghayal and I had never been a producer before. But I was sure about the subject, so I wanted to make it. I went through a lot of turmoil while making Ghayal. Nobody believed in it even while we were making it. People said it was a wrong decision. In the end, we decided to release the film and if it didn't do well, we would never make a film again. The rest was history.
Any film you regretted doing?
We have regretted doing certain films many times but I don't want to take names. Nobody makes films with the intension of making bad ones. But when we are halfway through the film, you know whether it is good or bad. But you cannot leave it halfway so we would go ahead and finish it.
I have done films where I did not like the subject at all. Yet, I did it because I was emotionally bound to somebody or because of financial reasons. I regret those times, because you should always do films because you believed in the subjects.
Actors nowadays are involved in the whole filmmaking process, right from the scripting stage.
That was always there. Actors have always interfered. Before no one knew about it because the media was not so prominent. Nowadays, the media is very active and brings all the news to you.
Very few directors command respect on the sets and know what they are doing. Nowadays, actors or producers give directors a chance to make a film, so they are always trying to please everyone. That's how directors lose their focus, and then say 'it's good to take suggestions from everybody'. I think you don't need to take suggestions from people because when you are making a film, you should know what you're doing as you have run the film in your mind so many times.
Image: A scene from Ghayal
'The younger lot should take Abhay as an example'
Do you think you will become a legend like your father?
I have never thought of becoming anything -- not even a legend like my father. I never knew what I wanted to do. I never knew my films would be a big success. But my dad came with a dream of wanting to be something and he worked hard towards it. His dedication and simplicity made him what he has become today. I can never be a patch on my dad. I am happy with whatever I have achieved.
Do you think he got his due in the industry?
There is not much written about my dad; nor have people spoken about his great works. They forget to mention him many times. They don't talk about his cinema but will name new actors who have not even done little of what my father has done.
But his fans will always love him and never forget his work.
Is it difficult to be Dharmendra's son?
No. It has been nice being his son. When you are around him, there is a wealth of knowledge. I doubt that is available anywhere else.
Abhay Deol has had a good career so far. What do you think?
He reminds me of the way I was when I entered the industry. I wanted to do films I believed in, and not follow the existing trend. That's how youngsters should be.
I think our youngsters are more into body-building and dancing, or learning publicity tricks to sell things. They are not in the industry to be good actors and do good cinema. The younger lot should take Abhay as an example (and follow him).
Image: Abhay Deol and Sunny Deol