After being in the shade for some time, Sunny Deol is hoping for a new dawn at the box office with Anil Sharma’s “Singh Saab The Great”.

Like his on-screen punches, Sunny Deol’s career is a case of lots of misses and a few hits. But when he connects, he connects big time. In business for three decades, he gives one monstrous hit, then delivers a series of duds making you wonder how he picks his films. This week he is looking to strike form with Anil Sharma’s “Singh Saab The Great”. Sharma is the same man with whom he conjured up a “Gadar” at the box office once upon a time and went on to do two more films with him. “I am eager to know the reaction of the public because it will decide my future course. I believe if put together well people will still respond to thick emotions,” says Sunny looking interested in a conversation for a change.

Often, it is difficult to separate between his two hit films but this time he is playing a guy who is part of the system. “Usually, I play characters which are pinned down by the establishment. Here as the collector I am there to change the corrupt system from within.” With punches? “Not really. It is not about badla (revenge). It is about badlav (change). The idea is if you kill the bad man, a new villain will crop up. We should try to bring a change in the corrupt. So there is an interesting mix of punches and persuasion as today we need not just Gandhi but also a bit of Patel and Bhagat Singh.” Is it possible? “Cinema is larger than life but yes the way things are going we need to take a stock of things. In 1969 my father did a film which talked about corruption in public life. ‘Satyakam’ was a classic which my film is not but the point is the subject is still as much relevant. The suffering is the same. Many of us pay bribe to get out of a sticky situation not realising how it affects the society in the long run. We want the other person to be honest but don’t try to look within.”

Sunny believes a punch works only when there is some solid emotion behind it. “Here is a family which is trying to lead life with honesty. But if you choose the path of integrity, you are tested at every turn. You have to make sacrifices. There is an arch of emotions before the action begins. It is not just earthy but also believable. I am sure women and family audience will relate to the story. You also need a strong support cast. ‘Ghayal’ and ‘Ghatak’ worked not just because of me but also because of Amrish Puri and Danny. Here Prakash Raj is providing that support. He is a brilliant actor and with such actors the central character looks well fleshed out.”

In times of action comedies, talk of strong values sound outdated but Sunny, who keenly follows trends, wants to check the audience taste one last time before moving on. “My gut feeling says it will work. Not just action, I have some interesting stories to tell. I made ‘Dillagi’ and backed ‘Socha Na Tha’ much before romantic comedy became a trend but it all boils down to finances.” He has been trying to put together the sequel of “Ghayal” for a long time but somehow things are not falling into place. “I had even cut the teaser but twice I had to shelve it because of differences with the director. Now I am putting it together again with a new story.”

Image trap

In the 80s he was praised for bringing a touch of sensitivity to action entertainers, with films like “Arjun” “Dacait” and “Yateem” but today he is reduced to 2.5 kgs of sheer brawn. “It makes me sad that the media focuses on just one aspect of my career. They have turned it into a joke. People tend to forget, that the dialogue is part of a National Award winning performance (“Damini”).” At 57, he is paired opposite a 19-year-old newcomer Urvashi Rautela. This age comparison also irks the seasoned actor. “It is not that I have become 57 today. Last year I was 56 and was not a spring chicken when was I paired opposite Ameesha Patel in ‘Gadar’. In cinema you have to look good as a pair. Your age is irrelevant. We didn’t go for casting according to the age. We did a screen test and found her suitable. That’s it.”

He reminds that his two films “I Love New Year” and “Mohalla Assi” are waiting in the wings for a long time. Both are solo-hero films but distributors are not ready to touch them because in these films Sunny is not living up to his action image. One is a romantic comedy and the other is a realistic social comment by Chandraprakash Dwivedi. “This is an unwritten rule of the industry. When you don’t try to do something different, they say you don’t attempt to change and when you do they don’t support it. Now if ‘Singh Saab’ works then these two will easily come out,” reasons Sunny.

From the last few films, one gets an impression that the Deol family has realised that their popularity is now limited to one territory. “Yamla Pagla Deewana” had a distinct Punjabi flavour, Dharmendra is doing a Punjabi film and now Sunny’s get-up in “Singh Saab” reinforces that the family is relying on Punjab to deliver. Sunny sees it as a welcome change. “Earlier, heroes feared to play a Sikh character in a mainstream Hindi film. They felt it will not be accepted at the pan Indian level. I believe if the story demands it, why not?”

Not eager to join the corporate bandwagon, Sunny says he has slowly realised the value of marketing. “It doesn’t come naturally to me but I am trying to enjoy the rounds of promotion. I know we are left out of the corporate churning of the film industry but to me corporates are more interested in business than content. There have been cases where they held back a good film because they couldn’t understand its potential. What hurts me is that the actor is reduced to a product. It is not about but how good an actor you are but how good a product you are. Even I find audience talking about numbers and not the content. They watch films because they liked one song or a few punchlines.” Will Singh strike a chord with them?