The Deol family, if not as high profile as the Chopras or the Bachchans, has been part of the Indian cinema for nearly 5 decades now – Dharamendra, Sunny, Bobby and most recently, Abhay Deol.
Dharamendra probably is one of the few actors who changed his on screen persona with the changing times – be it the socialist, thinker, soft-spoken gentleman of Anupama or the dashing and smart spy of Aankhen to the Jat Yamala Pagala Deewana of Aaye Din Bahaar Ke or the good hearted Raka of Seeta Aur Geeta or the extremely funny and witty Shudh Hindi speaking Parimal Tripathi of Chupke Chupke (the same year when he played Veeru in Sholay) or the terrible 80s phase of the ‘Kutte-Kamine’ spewing-corrupt system fighting-hero of such gems as Hukumat and Mardonwali Baat etc. I personally think his comedic skills have been criminally under-utilized by the industry.
Sunny Deol was the first of the Jr. Deols to arrive on the scene in the mid 80s with Betaab and carved his own place as the ultra-macho sleazy cop bashing (eventually Pakistani terrorists) bashing hero in Hindi Cinema with movies such as Ghayal, Damini and Gadar. He continues to cash on this very image even today and makes the producers of his movies a decent profit on the investments they make on his movies.
Bobby Deol, Sunny’s younger brother was launched amongst a lot of fanfare with Barsaat and his career has never really seen a sunny day since. He is one actor who the Hindi film industry has never quite been able to figure out what to do with. He has done nothing of any significance in the last 15 years that he has been around.
The newest Deol to appear on the Hindi scene is the cousin brother of Sunny and Bobby Deol – Abhay Deol. The first time I saw this gawky, tall, unconventional looking actor in the promos of his first film ‘Socha na tha’, I went – Ohh no! here we go again, another product of a filmy family who has no talent and looks but has a big family name to promote him down the throats of the Indian audience (sample these – Kamal Sadanah, Akshaye Khanna, Armaan Kohli). Little did I expect this Deol to change my opinion about him altogether. He has shown an interesting and an unusual taste in the choice of roles. For a newcomer with a weighty last name he has done roles which are the polar opposites of what the Jr. Roshan, Jr. Bachchan and the rest of the filmy offspring gang has played. He plays the everyday guy in most of his movies, characters who you will meet at bus stops, shops, local trains or Government offices. He has shown incredible maturity in depicting these characters – check him out as the court-wedding-witness-for-hire in “Aahista Aashista” or the PWD engineer in “Manorama – Six Feet Under” (IMO – his best work so far). His portrayal of Satyaveer Singh in Manorama is a very careful observation of the daily life of an ordinary working man living in small town India (watch his body language, his dialogue delivery and his eyes). In his forthcoming film “Oye Lucky Lucky Oye“, he plays the character of a charming swindler/con-man allegedly inspired by a real life character.
As Hindi cinema is gradually breaking new grounds in the type of movies that are made these days, Abhay Deol belongs in the very small list of actors who are branded as “thinking actors” but in my opinion are just silent heroes who do their jobs of playing everyday characters with a simple and straightforward honesty. Believe me, playing these characters is a lot harder than playing superheroes or the lovey-dovey Rahuls and Prems. Looking forward to more of this Deol’s movies.