Abhinay Deo just wanted to tell stories. How, didn't really matter, he tells Bhumika K. He's told them short and now he tells them long

At 40, he's a rather late entrant into Bollywood for one coming from a filmi family. But Abhinay Deo had no aspirations to be a star; all he wanted to do was tell stories. Obsessively. And he took his time and listened to his instincts till he found something he really wanted to do. His “Game” releases tomorrow, and his real debut directorial venture, the much-awaited Aamir Khan production “Delhi Belly”, tumbles out next.

Abhinay is the son of actors Ramesh and Seema Deo (remember “Anand”?) and any Bollywood-buff who looks at him will instantly recall his father. Abhinay says his goal was never the glamour, the acting or for that matter, even films. “I've not approached filmmaking as my entry in to Bollywood. I'm a storyteller,” he says matter-of-factly.

His parents were clear about one thing — that he and his brother be well educated. He ended up studying architecture and practised for a year. But he wanted to tell stories and the choices were few. “In 1992/93 bad cinema was happening in Bollywood, but there was a surge in advertising,” is how the scale tilted for him. He's done over 400 ad films working with O&M and independently.

“Then one fine day I got up and said to myself, I want to make a feature film. I started working on scripts. I felt ready from within. I hadn't told anybody about it. Then one day I got a call from Ritesh (Sidhwani) and Farhan (Akhtar), producers of ‘Game',” he says, and responds to my look of incredulousness with, “Really, that's how it happened!”

It's not new, this trend of ad-filmmakers turning to feature films and always managing to make a style statement with them. “The styling of a film is the makeup part of it. But the heart and soul has to be the script,” insists Abhinay. “I don't go into making a film saying I want to make a meaningful film. It's about what excites me at that time. I have no agendas. I don't have a problem doing any kind of cinema; I'm happy to experiment.” But Aamir Khan picked him for his comedy “Delhi Belly” after seeing several of his ad-films, I point out. “I guess style does make a difference…If you look a little deeper, why would Aamir want me to do ‘DB'? A certain approach was needed for the telling of that story.”

He does admit, though, that ad-film making does help when these ad-men turn to features. “You get into the habit of telling a story with the lowest content of fat on it! You simply slice off what's unnecessary.” Such skills come in handy when doing a genre like a slick mystery or thriller. And how does he deal with the singularly Bollywood characteristic — thrillers peppered with songs? “That is the deadly part for me. It isn't a natural part of my system personally…but I have grown up around them. Yet, in this genre, it can hinder the story. I was clear it can't stop the storytelling process, so we have only two songs, and they are not extraneous elements.”

His own production house, Ramesh Deo Productions does Marathi films, and their first, “Jetaa”, had his parents in the lead and his brother Ajinkya Deo directing. “We intend to make more movies with messages, movies for a cause.” They are working on another Marathi and Hindi film too this year.

Personal satisfactions ranks above all else for this director and Abhinay is candid about it. “The Box Office can never decide my fate; my conviction does. I'm not ridiculing the BO, but it can't decide anyone's fate.

“I don't see why I would be in a business where I'm speculating about what others want… then what am I doing there, right?”

Keywords: GameBollywood