EXCLUSIVE Interview with The Correspondent Deputy Editor, Gourav Sharma:
Bobby Deol has had a resurrection of sorts with Animal. He has only a 15-minute role in the film and plays the villain and yet, people have taken to his character, Abrar Haque, big time. Even he’s hard-pressed to explain the popularity of his character. The hype is even bigger than what he saw with his debut film Barsaat (1995). It’s like a new generation of fans have rediscovered him and are liking what they’re seeing. Thanks to OTT, he got to act in products like Aashram and Love Hostel, where his dark-hued roles got him a lot of plaudits. Now, Animal has cemented that foundation and looks like Bobby is all set to play another big innings. But the Deols have all been like that. You write them off at your own peril…
Thanks to your role in Animal, you’ve been flooded with compliments over the internet.
I feel like I am dreaming. It was so humbling and overwhelming. It has been an amazing year for all of us. Bhaiya’s film was a blockbuster. Papa’s film did very well, and now Animal has given me so much love and appreciation. When Papa’s film Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani got released, the character that Papa played, if somebody else had played it, the magic wouldn’t have happened. And then, when Sunny Bhaiya’s Gadar 2 got released, I was so happy that after 22 years, Bhaiya’s film has been such a big hit. I did have a gut feeling that Animal would be made well, as Sandeep Reddy Vanga was directing it. But I never thought that it would garner such a huge box office collection. God has really been kind and the love of my fans and the audience has just been extremely amazing.
We have seen you teary-eyed after the success of the film.
I am a very emotional person. And there is nothing wrong with that. We Deols are like this only. I am not able to control my excess emotions because I have waited for many years for this day.
Which is the best compliment you’ve received so far for this role?
Many of my colleagues and my juniors have called and wished me well. I have spoken to some of them and have received many messages. The kind of love the industry gave to my brother after Gadar 2 became a hit, I’m getting the same kind of love from them.
How did your family react to your performance?
When I met my father, he told me that people were going crazy over you. He is very fond of checking social media reactions. He was so happy. I told him, “Haanji papa, main aapka beta hun isliye mujhe itna pyar mil raha hai.” I feel that I have finally achieved something to make my father proud. He feels that I have done something special for him. Bhaiya is also very happy. So every evening, when he comes back from work, we look at each other and wonder about what’s currently been happening in our lives.
Has the definition of success changed for you?
What is success? For me, the biggest achievement is to be understood as an actor. I just want to be loved by people as an actor. I mean, people love me, but I want them to see my work and to achieve that in a role that’s only 15 minutes long. That’s special, indeed. I never imagined this. That’s why I call it a dream. So every actor dreams that they will get that kind of fame and love. I am getting all of it together at once. It’s heady indeed.
When Sandeep Reddy Vanga offered you this film, did you feel that you would be able to play this extremely violent role?
I have done many action films in my life. It was challenging. But when you are okay with being challenged, then everything becomes easy. That’s how I look at it. I want to be thrown into situations as an actor where I really have to find a way to perform and that’s the joy of every actor.
How did you prepare physically and mentally to play Abrar Haque?I didn’t look at Abrar’s character as a villain. I looked at it like a hero. His grandfather committed suicide in front of his eyes, and that shocked him. Because of that shock, he loses his voice. He loves his family so much that he will kill for them. He is a romantic. He has three wives. And he wants to avenge his grandfather’s death. And that’s how I looked at it. I love my family very much, so I imagined that. Physically, I did a lot of gym work. I had to control my diet. In fact, I had to control it so much for two to three months that I stopped feeling hungry. I used to work out thrice a day. But I used to enjoy it because I knew the benefit of that would be something else.
Do these kinds of characters affect you mentally?
Nothing at all. No. I am an actor. I switched off. Nothing affects me. I have done so much before this. I have done Aashram. When I was doing Aashram, the character was way more villainous than the one in Animal.
People loved your negative characters in Aashram and then Love Hostel.
When I was doing a negative role in an Aashram, I felt weird. I would feel disgusted with myself. But I reminded myself that I was only playing a character. In every person, there is something good and bad. You become good only when you can control your bad. In the evening, when I would eat along with other actors, I would feel normal. It doesn’t affect me.
There have been mixed reviews for this film owing to the violence.
Every film gets mixed reviews. There is so much violence in the world. We have made something related to what’s happening in the world. Everybody is ready to create a fuss. We are not promoting violence.
A good co-actor helps you give your best. Did something similar happen when you shared the screen space with Ranbir Kapoor?
I am a big fan of Ranbir. According to me, he is one of the best actors today. He is just amazing. He and I are both from film families and we have been through the same things, and our families have been through similar things. He is such a big star, yet he gave me so much respect. And such people are few and far between in our industry. So I became even a bigger fan of his as a person.
From chocolate boy to villain, do you give credit for this transformation to OTT?
Obviously. I give complete credit to OTT because it has given opportunities to so many actors and technicians. Every actor wants to play different characters and we don’t get that chance. And OTT gave me that chance. So
I think that’s one of the best things that has happened to me.
You have come out of a dark phase. You overcame alcoholism. How did you gather the strength for this fight?
Self-belief is the most important thing to anyone. If you don’t believe in yourself, then how will you move forward? For that, you need to be focused and disciplined. Discipline is an important thing. And that’s how I have moved forward. There was self-doubt for sure; that’s why people didn’t want to work with me. I used to think, “What is wrong with me?”I started doubting myself.
What has failure taught you?
Stay focussed. If you are focused, you will stay disciplined. You lose discipline, then you get depressed. I have learnt this from my Papa and Sunny Bhaiya. Self-belief is important. Be true to yourself and be a good human being.
Your wife, Tanya, has always been supportive.
She is my backbone. Being married to her is the best thing that has happened to me. She is a simple and strong lady. Only a wife can understand her husband’s difficulties. She understands me very well. She is very talented and a successful entrepreneur.She has three kids and she looks after them. The biggest one is me (laughs). The other two are younger than me.
What kind of relationship do you share with your sons?
When we were growing up, Papa used to be busy with film shoots. So we hardly got a chance to spend time with him. But I can say I was lucky to spend time with him. I used to go with him for outdoor shooting. My father always complains that I don’t open my heart to him. But that’s not been easy for me, as we were brought up differently. That era was different, as there was too much distance between father and son. I’ve tried to negate that and look upon my sons as my friends and be as close to them as possible.
Having seen the extremes of life in showbiz, what advice would you like to share with your sons?
First, be a good human being. Believe in yourself. Be disciplined. Be focused.
Animal Park is coming, so are you going to rise from the dead?
(Laughs) I didn’t even know about it till I saw the film. I wasn’t told the entire story. I was only narrated and given the gist of the entire film. People are forming their own stories about it now and some are very interesting. But I don’t know anything about it.