Box office may not have been kind to him but Abhay Deol continues to work for variety at the turnstiles

Be it cinema or the environment, the alternative to the popular is usually called the offbeat even if it makes more sense. So when Abhay Deol turned up for NDTV’s Mission Energy Session, he was a perfect fit. One of the few stars, who have a first hand experience of using environment-friendly sources of energy, Abhay clears some myths. “When solar energy first came out it was indeed expensive but the idea was in the long run it proves economical. You make your money back. However, most people here want to save money immediately. They don’t want to wait for the long run benefits. Having said that solar energy is now subsidised. Also, it depends on the specific product and the technology. Rain water harvesting is still expensive as getting the tank built is not cheap.”

Has it something to do with the labour having fixed notions about construction material? “As the industry grows the expertise will also be easily accessible. Right now the consumer has to come up with a number of inputs. At one point it was considered niche, for many people considered it experimental. But now it is more of a myth as the niche has grown and has learnt how it works. It is like experimenting with films. Nobody wants to experiment initially but when it works everybody wants to get on board.”

Indeed. Despite coming from a film family he has never been a yes boy and has actively worked against the formula. “I do have to learn the game a little bit more. You live and learn. Coming from a film family I learnt what I wanted to learn. I knew what it means to be in public eye, what it means to be part of a family which is written about and the responsibility that comes with it. I was never enamoured of fame and glamour. It never wowed me. I was only focussed on content.”

Growing up in a city like Mumbai, Abhay says his sensibilities are urban. “When I was offered regular stuff, and I refused people felt offended. I said, hey look! How am I not Indian? I know Bombay is not India but Bombay is part of India. Urbanisation and liberalisation opened the world to people and they are hungry for choice. And that has been my focus. Let’s have variety. And once you are open for choices, you give space for new ideas, new actors, new filmmakers and new approach and that is the need of the hour.”

Ironically, the filmmakers he worked with have been sucked into mainstream space. “I won’t judge them in that sense. It is not an easy industry. In the 80s Naseeruddin Shah and Kamal Haasan broke the mould but later joined the commercial space. Also the definition of mainstream keeps changing. When I backed Dev.D, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local they were not seen as part of commercial space. I wanted to make them. When I got the impression that such subjects won’t get the backing of traditional producers, I quietly made them and put them in between the regular stuff. It worked but the impression it created was that I don’t want to work them but the truth is they don’t want to work with me. The point is you didn’t invest in me so I invested in myself but that doesn’t mean I don’t work with you.”

Usually, when an actor successfully makes a point, he is picked up and not the directors. “Producers have their own actors they want to invest in. I didn’t get into any clique. I was not part of any camp. I usually get to hear, Oh! We thought that you won’t work with us,” reasons Abhay.

Recently, he was in news when he openly took up the copyright issue when the music of his production One By Two was not allegedly marketed properly by T-Series. The issue was said to be later resolved and it appeared that Abhay unnecessarily came out openly. “Here people are not vocal. They want to sort out their differences behind the scenes. People called up to say that I did the right thing but nobody said it openly. There are very few people who have real power in the industry. They don’t really need to resolve their difference publicly and in fact they actually don’t have any differences. It is the affected guy, which constitutes the other 95 per cent which bears the brunt.”

The box office failure of One By Two has made him understand that audience doesn’t want to see him in romantic comedy space. “I made a statement with edgy stuff and I think they want me to explore that space more. That space was once again overrun by formulaic stuff in the last couple of years. So I will try all over again.”

He is shooting for three films. “People might not know but I have never been this busy. I have two back-to back thrillers. One of them is in indie space for which I am going to start shooting later this month but the irony is that they still haven’t announced it. They want to quietly start shooting and I respect that. Then there is a big action adventure later this year. And no I am not part of Bombay Samurai as IMDB suggests!” he clarifies.