News Column

Bollywood Star Abhay Deol Says He's Not Interested in Money or Fame

June 14, 2013

Graham Young

As a third generation Bollywood star, Abhay Deol could turn his life into a celebrity circus. Not only is he making waves on the silver screen, but his partner Preeti Desai was the first Asian Miss Great Britain in 2007.

Preeti, though, is nowhere to be seen.

In mid afternoon she's still upstairs, sleeping in their Birmingham hotel room after a long night.

Having starred in a live BBC3 version of Carmen the evening before in Bradford, gone to the after-show party and then travelled to Birmingham, Abhay himself has only had four hours of kip.

"Sorry I'm late," he says, finally appearing with shades on in the bar. "I just passed out in my room."

Not in the true showbusiness sense, I wonder...

"Oh no," he laughs. "I was just so tired."

A double espresso soon puts the sparkle back into his Eastern eyes.

There are two reasons why he's in Birmingham.

One is to celebrate Bollywood 100, a month-long programme recalling a century of Indian cinema and the latter-years of Bollywood itself.

Another is to discuss the prospects of shooting here.

He's in talks with Bearwoodbased Endboard Productions about a new film called The Bounty Hunter.

Company director Sunandan Walia - brother of fellow filmmaker Yugesh Walia - is hoping that by getting Abhay Deol on board the film will become fully funded.

The project has been in development for several years and both men say "everyone likes the script", but whether the title changes in the wake of the Jennifer Aniston Hollywood film of the same name remains to be seen.

But for Sunandan, having someone like Abhay supporting the project is a no-brainer.

"He's very much an independent kind of actor and filmmaker," he says. "And that's what attracts us to him."

Abhay's relatives in the business include his legendary uncle, Dharmendra, and cousins Sunny and Bobby Deol.

Outsiders would imagine how "easy" it would have been for him to try to adopt a more commercial route.

But he says it's the quality of his work that counts - not the fame and not the money.

Abhay waited before following his relatives in the business and, even then, switched genres in a bid to prove himself.

"When I was 21 I was studying and that just went on and on," he says.

"I began to make my first film when I was 25, but it only came out in 2005 when I was 29.

"That often happens - I'm now 37 now!" he smiles.

"I come from a family of action stars so my first film was a romcom.

"Obviously there's a pressure when you are a third generation actor but it's the same for both sides. I don't want to let them down.

"After my first film I wasn't offered a lot of work which was good because then I felt able to experiment more and earn respect with different producers and directors."

Can acting be taught or it is in his genes? "Anybody can act, but not everyone can be an actor," he says. As a more independent- minded filmmaker, his dream is that Bollywood can learn to move on in much the same way as cinema in Iran and Korea has done.

"It's hard to do," he says. "But it doesn't mean that we can't do it.

"Acting is a very hard profession.

You are creating something and you have to be creative, otherwise you become mechanical. "I learned that it's not about the glamour, but people do want fame and glamour."

Home is a "small apartment" in a Hyde Park-style area of Bombay.

"I could have had a large bungalow in Goa, an hour away, for the same money, but I didn't want to do that.

"I like to travel and to stay in boutique hotels, not big five- star ones, and to enjoy food."

He explains how other forms of Indian cinema could be seen to be even more successful than Bollywood, it's just that fewer people speak the language involved.

"People are becoming obsessed with labels and the media will only talk about things being successful because of numbers," he says.

"I think the next generation will go the opposite way and be disgusted by all of this flashing. We have to deal with it.

"The 80s were never like that and the 90s were not that bad."

Many Anglicised Indians love to visit the homeland of their families - for Abhay Deol the reverse is true.

Born in Mumbai, where he still lives, he travels to visit his English relatives, some of whom live in Langham, Essex.

"It's said that I took my first few steps in England," he beams.

From his perspective, can Birmingham-born Indians really identify with the motherland he knows so well? And could he find work over here? Abhay likens the dilemma to how his parents originated from a village and how he's now part of a sprawling city.

"A culture clash happens when you are born in a foreign country," he says.

"An urban environment is very different to a rural one and the culture here is very different to that at home."

His perception is that Indian people, whether born here or overseas, are still finding it difficult to break into the mainstream media in Britain.

And the same would apply to him.

"People born here going to Bollywood would have an accent. "That wouldn't be a problem for me coming here, but would I want to start all over again? Lots of films made in England never get distributed!" The film he's most proud of is Shanghai, a story of corruption.

"In India it's systemic and everybody knows that, we're all a part of it," he says.

"But who elects the politicians? The public. And we get the government we deserve.

"We're a young country with an average age of 25, the 24-hour media is very young and it's sensationalist.

"I'm not saying we shouldn't have progress, but everybody should have a piece of it and it's not happening."

(c) 2013 Evening Mail; Birmingham (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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