Sunny Side Up
Box Office India (BOI): What was it like promoting this film?
Sunny Deol (SD): It has been tiring but nice because it is necessary. Shooting a film does not tire me as much as promoting a film does.
BOI: Looking back, there weren’t any norms for film promotion, earlier. What do you think has changed?
SD: It starts with one thing and becomes a habit driven by insecurity, which makes people go overboard sometimes. All I know is that now that I am seen and I am doing so much, I can feel the buzz. Earlier, there was no awareness. Back then, cinema was different as was the approach to cinema. People used to watch a film because they wanted to. It wasn’t just a weekend outing as it is now. Then, if a film was good, it would do good business. Now good or bad doesn’t matter as it is more about being a weekend game. Now filmmakers realise that even if a film is not good, we will get good weekend numbers if we promote it nicely. Now, success is the yardstick for a film’s business rather than its content. That is a wrong notion and will get corrected in due course.
BOI: You have been part of many iconic blockbusters. What was it about Ghayal that made you revisit it?
SD: Ghayal was the film with which I became a producer and because of it, I got to understand what my vision was and why I wanted to make a film like Ghayal. When Raj (Kumar Santoshi) came to me, no one knew him at that time. He had brought a producer along and when I said I loved the story, the producer soon vanished. I took the script and hunted high and low for a producer. I approached all my friends and everyone else I knew but no one understood the story. Then I went to papa (Dharmendra) and he liked it and I became the producer. So the film is very dear to me.
While becoming a producer, there was a lot of fight as cinema was very different back then. After shooting the film and its release, I had not anticipated the way people and the media had responded to it. Everything was totally unexpected. I have always believed it is one’s work that speaks, so the film became very dear to me. I wanted to make a second part then itself but people were not doing such things then. Raj didn’t want to do it, so I too forgot about it.
So I have been trying to make a sequel to the film for many years now. Eventually, I became the director and writer of the film too. (Laughs) Back then, with Ghayal, we were very specific about why we were making it and what we were doing. So, when making its sequel, I wanted to be equally clear about the story I chose and why I was choosing it. It wasn’t just for the sake of making a sequel.
BOI: But Ghayal was set in a very different time. What steps have you taken in the sequel to make it contemporary?
SD: At that time, it was considered modern. Keeping today’s times in mind, I have brought my subject and my character to where he would be from that time to the present and there is also his evolution in terms of what he has gone through. The story is about the character going forward and it is also about today’s society. Along with bringing in life experiences, there are also things we go through and see. I just wanted to make my film so relevant that whoever watches it, sees something of himself in the film.
BOI: One usually expects action or drama in a Sunny Deol film. Will we see that in this film too?
SD: Well, when I did Gadar, I played a truck driver and a musician, toh tabhi socha nahin ke image yeh hai aur yeh yeh karna hai. I didn’t take it seriously. Most of the time, the story focuses on the character, who is very strong and positive and there is definitely going to be some kind of drama and fights in the movie. It’s not like Ajay Mehra (his character) will sit tight. He questions what’s happening or why a something isn’t happening.
BOI: Now that the film is ready for release, how happy or satisfied are you with what you had set out to do, and what you have achieved?
SD: I am very happy with it. I am waiting for my special effects to get finalised and then I will know how pukka my special effects are. But from the content point of view, I think I have got it right.
BOI: You worked with four youngsters in this film. What made you choose a younger team for Ghayal Once Again?
SD: My film had to relate to youngsters. All of us have been teenagers at some point, and our beliefs are so strong at that age. Then after getting a job, suddenly woh cheezein compromise hona shuru ho jaate hain. It is an age where you have definite views, so I have placed the story accordingly, taking it as a centrepoint, so that they control the environment around us and because they put their foot forward or make mistakes, it has a ripple effect.
BOI: Was it a challenge to scout for those fresh faces?
SD: It wasn’t a challenge. The script demanded fresh faces, and it is always best to choose people who are fresh so that there is no image attached to them. Conveying the film’s message becomes that much easier.
BOI: You are not only the lead actor in the film but also the director and producer. How did you juggle all these roles?
SD: I had decided from the beginning that I would have to do all this so that I wouldn’t have to think later ke yeh mein kya kar raha hoon. So I thought about it long and hard. With Dillagi too, I was an actor, director and producer, so I had done this earlier. But, at that time, I simply plunged right in; this time, I was prepared.
BOI: You also have a foreign action director, Dan Bradley on board. What was it like to work with him? Will the youngsters also be doing action in the film?
SD: The reason I chose a foreign action coordinator was because I have worked with several of them before, ever since my first film Betaab. Again with Ghayal, it is very real but also a little larger-than-life, so I wanted the action to gel with that. I have watched a lot of Hollywood films and I was very fond of the Bourne Ultimatum and Bourne Identity, where the action is very real and it is of the same pace. That’s why I took him on because that is what I wanted in my film.
BOI: Can we expect a Part Three to Ghayal?
SD: (Laughs) Well, this is my asset. I want to do so much more. I hope this film works so that I can venture out and do more stuff that I really believe in. I believe today’s youth need to see that it is not only about gimmicks and cosmetics. We have to look deep into our society and deep into our country. There are so many things out there which we should bring into our cinema because cinema is a reflection of us and it is an indirect way educating people. I want it all to happen.
BOI: Is there any other film of yours that you would like to remake?
SD: I have a lot in mind. Like I said, first let this one happen. Let’s see how people respond to this film and then I will open the box, but, of course, sensibly.
BOI: All your films are also known for action and dialogue. When you were writing the dialogue for the sequel, how did you make sure it was fresh?
SD: It doesn’t happen that way. The lines from my films that are popular even today… we didn’t know back then that they would be remembered even today. That’s what I love about myself. I have done the same in this film too. There is a story and there is a character and the dialogue is about what he will say in the given situation rather than uske liye pehle dialogues banao phir uspe fit karo. I don’t believe in that.
BOI: Cinema has become more about good scripts and different kinds of roles, which even actresses are now doing. Are you also open to such roles, even if you don’t direct?
SD: Yes, I have done quite a lot of those films but because they have been dramatically strong, they are known as ‘action films’ but there were also different characters that I have done. Again, of late, I have done films which have not released yet. There is Mohalla Assi, which is definitely of a completely different genre, where I myself was not sure as to how I would be presented in the film when I started shooting because I am playing a Sanskrit teacher, a Pandit. That was very challenging. But, you know, I am basically a director’s actor and that is the fun of it. So if you have an interesting director or an interesting script, you can create magic.
BOI: Do you think it is easier to experiment now than it was, say, 15 years ago, as the audience is more receptive today?
SD: It is neither more easy nor difficult, it is about getting different types of scripts. It is about getting a director who believes in the script because that creates an image for you, where people start believing in what they see in the film. Unless you are given a chance, you can’t prove yourself. The period of the ‘60s when my dad was acting, when he started, there were beautiful directors, there was beautiful writing, there were different genres of films and they all stood their ground. My dad had the opportunity too and, to me, he is the only star who has delivered successful films in every genre. And there were so many of them! Today, we tell ourselves ‘I am number one’, ‘I am this and that…’ blah blah blah, par andar se khokle hain (Laughs)
BOI: Will we see Sunny Deol as a producer, giving new directors a chance, or Sunny Deol as a director?
SD: But Sunny Deol has always done that, Sunny Deol has been in this industry because of newcomers. Very rarely have I done a film that is by an established filmmaker. I have always done films with new people and producers. That’s why dekhte dekhte picture atak jaati hai… Even with directors… I have worked with many new directors for the simple reason there is so much honesty in what they want to do. Obviously, they have talent because they have been able to convey their vision to me. It is fun to work with them because you see an honest product that has been brought out without any malice. There is no other agenda. That beauty exists only when you are a fresher and when you have your first film.
BOI: Since you are in the final stretch of your release, what is the line-up and what kind of response have you been getting during your interactions with people?
SD: Well, all I can say is that because I have been doing so much PR for this film, I feel a buzz around me which I had never felt before, maybe because all that people were seeing were my earlier films, which keep airing on satellite. Obviously, you make a film with a good gut feeling and I feel very positive about my product. I am sure the film is good because I can feel it. I want to make cinema like it happens in Hollywood, where if a film is good woh chalti rahti hai, regardless of the first week or second week collections. I would love to be known because of the work I have done rather than the business that my films do, business se mujhe kya lena dena hai? Mazaa aata hai jab log kehte hai woh role acha kiya tha, woh dialogue acha tha, woh character tumhara kitna acha tha. Those are my highs.
BOI: After Ghayal Once Again, what next?
SD: As I said, this is my asset. After this, I will jump into something new, otherwise I have Bhaiyyaji Superhitt and then I have Mohalla Assi, which I hope releases after this film because it is a must-watch.
BOI: How wide is this film’s release?
SD: I am hoping we will be releasing everywhere. You guys tell me. Mujhe keh rahein hain 2,400-2,500 screens. This is what they are saying. Let’s see!