Abhay Deol: “Digital is an infinite space that Bollywood won’t be able to control”


He has often been addressed as the other Deol, often called the “thinking woman’s sex symbol”, Abhay Deol is known to walk his talk. The actor has had two releases this lockdown, ‘What Are The Odds’ on Netflix and ‘JL 50’ on MX player, and has been rather vocal on it being high time Bollywood does serious introspection.

As the digital wave sweeps across, with films taking to OTT platforms for releases as well as many stars also making their debuts on streaming platforms, Deol maintains the OTT platforms are far more original than the Hindi film industry has been. He shared with me, “With the OTT platforms coming in, things have not only become democratised but there’s no longer control on the artists. So what happens with Bollywood is there is only a handful of studios and producers who have the clout of marketing and money behind them and because of the formula they have put our for decades, so when new talent comes in they are honed and shaped by those individuals to make those kind of films. In that environment, you are just going to get a repetition of what came before, stars today are going to be clones of stars before. But that’s not going to happen on the OTT platforms because these people, the platforms are coming from abroad, have a reputation of being edgy and new age in India they will embrace a culture and cater to that audience but since they haven’t been jaded by being decades in Bollywood, they will let individuals have their individuality when it comes to new ideas and talent. They won’t shape or control the talent as Bollywood does. Bollywood will try to control these platforms like the way it did with multiplexes, but digital is an infinite space they won’t be able to, and this is what Bollywood needs. They need to allow fresh talent and let them maintain their individuality instead of making them and expecting them to be like their predecessors”.

Deol admits that Bollywood was not welcoming to the idea of ‘Dev D’, ‘Manorama’, ‘Six Feet Under’ and even ‘Zindagi N Milegi Dobara’. They thought these won’t work since it didn’t conform to the tried and tested.

The actor, who been travelling has been working on developing an old skill of painting, which he has revisited, also said, “It was initially intimidating but doing it has given him a sense of freedom”. He has been constantly putting up his works on social media.

Deol, one of the few men to post the “let’s fight patriarchy” post after Rhea Chakraborty’s arrest, had also expressed his dismay at the blind items culture and tabloids in Bollywood but has chosen to keep himself away from the news and coverage, saying, “I have kept myself away from it, there are people exploiting the news cycle, in my industry as well as the news industry, they are exploiting the environment. There is a need for change no doubt, people are asking for it, but instead of voices which are trying to unify the culture they are not being amplified and given space. It’s the voices that want to divide and rule are those being heard. It’s telling on us as people whose chose to give attention too, and I try to keep myself away from it”.

Though the actor is yet to catch cousin Bobby Deol’s digital debut, says he is happy that he managed to get over the difficult times and reinvented himself.

The wanderer admits he is happiest when travelling and away from Mumbai for long stretches – from Goa to Los Angeles to Canada; this is one man who has no excess baggage.

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