When you see Abhay Deol talk in his conversations, he emerges as a calm and collected person. And when you see him performing, you get the same idea – of an artist who knows why he chose a particular project, and is willing to give it his all, removing the melodrama. Abhay, who belongs to the influential Deol family, is quite different from the kind of movies his siblings have encountered.
Abhay Deol does not care for the needs of the Indian commercial film, he has not, perhaps since the beginning of his career. The actor made his debut in Bollywood with Imtiaz Ali director Socha Na Tha of 2005, signed by Abhay’s uncle and former Bollywood star Dharmendra. The interesting, up-to-date story starring Ayesha Takia, may not have made much money at the time, however, over the years, the film covered almost the next religion.
Maybe it was the purity of the story, the leading chemistry or the attractive screen presence of the characters connected to the audience. Or maybe, it was the speed and normality brought on by Bollywood legends taken. In any case, Socha Na Tha is now regarded as a favorite film of the noughties.
After opening his innings with the beloved Bollywood actress, despite his differences, Abhay decided to cross the narrow street of what we call, independent cinema and soon became his movie boy. This is not the kind of movie the Bollywood star usually does.
Character-driven, ‘quirky’ and off-beat roles, and this is the space Abhay chose to occupy when others around him wanted to go through the speech and put a mark on the boxes. In the middle, he appeared again in the big-budget movies like Raanjhanaa, Happy Bhag Jayegi and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Perhaps this was an act of moderation, but it certainly helped him gain a wider audience. And these roles, though minor, would never be forgotten.
However, it does not describe the kind of Abhay Deol’s popularity in a country where people are willing to release their wallets only to Khan, Kumar or Kapoor. Yes one can say that for the past few years, the content has been celebrated as ‘king.’ But that was not the case at all when Abhay started. At this point, you can cite the example of Manoj Bajpayee or Irrfan Khan – Deol’s superiors in the industry also have a base of loyal fans, especially Irrfan. So why not Abhay?
But Irrfan Khan and also Manoj Bajpayee have put on more sweat and blood for many years than which Deol has done. Fifteen years ago, Abhay has only 23 movies and two web series on his credit. I say ‘only’ because in all these years, Abhay rarely brings more than one release in one year (2006, 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2019 out). This kind of balanced action or perhaps a lack of healthy competitive spirit can be explained by whether Deol was Khan. But he is not.
“I can play this game better. And I couldn’t defend myself more, ”as the actor himself said in an interview a few years ago. “But I didn’t. And that was my choice. I have no regrets. ”
So for an actor who chooses to focus on the story, and who seems to be putting himself out there, by marketing or ‘big chaos’, one might ask – ‘How did he get to work in 2021?’ in SonyLIV’s series thriller JL50 late last year, and is currently appearing in Disney Plus Hotstar’s 1962: The War in the Hills series. Abhay has certainly used his communication skills and often talks about the problems he believes in, which is one of the ways to keep up with the times. But as for his short film, Abhay Deol’s fame remains (mostly) a mystery.