face-to-face harshikaa udasi revisits the 1990 blockbuster Ghayal with Sunny Deol, as the actor prepares for its sequel

It's been 21 years since he was last seen, but Sunny Deol is quite certain that his portrayal of Ajay Mehra is strongly imprinted on people's hearts. Ghayal Returns, the sequel to the 1990 film Ghayal that went on to fetch several awards for Sunny, goes on the floors shortly and will see a release next summer under his home production, the Vijayta Films banner. “Ajay is a legendary character — someone who symbolises the victory of good over evil. He sought vendetta against the perpetrator of injustice and became the voice of the weaker sections of society in the Nineties. I see myself as a cine-lover, and I would enjoy seeing him back on screen. As an actor, I have been itching to relive Ajay Mehra all over again for the longest time possible,” says Sunny, after a tired day of shooting for a new TV reality show on extreme stunts.

Ghayal Returns will tell the tale of Ajay Mehra picking up from where Ghayal left. Ajay was apprehended by the police after finishing off the villain Balwant Rai (played by the late Amrish Puri). The story will look at the new Ajay (training to be a professional boxer in the first part) who has become a tough-as-nails guy after spending 21 years in jail, marking time with hardcore criminals. The first look was released last week with the film Ready and gave a glimpse of high drama and action with Sunny mouthing his very popular “dhai kilo ka haath” dialogue from Ghayal.

Work has been under way on Ghayal Returns for a couple of years now. “Ashwini (Chaudhary, co-writer and director, Ghayal Returns) and I have been working on it and discussing it over many sessions. No one was ready to pick up the sequel to Ghayal because the first was a very strong script and the pressure to make an equally good, if not better, sequel is tremendous. We finally spent a couple of months in Kampala now and finally in Manali to get the script right,” says Sunny.

That Ghayal's original director Rajkumar Santoshi is not part of the sequel sticks out like a sore thumb. Sunny is instead roping in the services of Ashwini Chaudhary, a director of a few nondescript films to his name. Rajkumar and Sunny fell out with each other during the making of Shahid Bhagatsingh and the wounds have never really healed. Nonetheless, Sunny says he had approached the director for ideas for the sequel. “I had discussed the concept of a sequel with Raj many years ago. But he was not interested and wanted to do new films. So I began discussing the subject with many writers, of which Ashwini came up with the best. As for his track record, I have never taken that into consideration in my entire career. To me, the script is what matters,” asserts the actor.

While Om Puri is going to be part of the sequel continuing as ACP Joe D'Souza, none of the other stars will be present as Ajay Mehra's family was wiped out in the film. The part to look out for will be the villain's, insists Sunny. “The baddie is so good in this film that I felt like playing him! He is in his late twenties and since I can't get into his shoes, we are auditioning new faces for the role,” he laughs.

Another sequel

Besides Ghayal Returns, Sunny is working on the script for the sequel to Yamla Pagla Deewana – YPD2, which will see the Dharamendra-Bobby-Sunny trio coming together again. He is seeking to revive the Vijayta banner in style by releasing quality films. “We realised that though we had the talent, we were failing miserably in our attempts to publicise our films,” admits Sunny. The Deols are now changing that by becoming more accessible. They now have a website and are soon to launch a Facebook page and a YouTube channel.

Sunny who is close to completing three decades in Bollywood says he has gone through ups and downs in the industry and has learnt a lot from it. “Acting is the truest form of experiencing. We are like sponge; we keep absorbing and hopefully improving with every film. I can confidently say I have a wealth of knowledge now after spending years in this place,” he observes, adding, “Now my children are ready to step into the world of acting. A couple of years from now, it will be my elder son (Karan aka Rocky) and thereafter my younger one too.” And as for seeing the entire Deol family, including Abhay, Ahana and Esha together, “one day it will happen but we need a good script again,” he says, trailing off.