Bollywood actor Abhay Deol slams paid movie reviews

Abhay Deol in ‘Line of Descent’.
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Indian actor Abhay Deol’s latest Indo-American production ‘Line of Descent’, releasing in UAE cinemas on January 28, has enjoyed a staggered release on various platforms worldwide.

In India and in select American territories, the crime thriller released in 2019 on the streaming platform Zee5, but UAE audiences will get to watch his film on the big screens this weekend at the local cinemas.

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Ronit Roy in the movie.

Deol promises that his film will be worth watching in theatres, which are facing a slump since the COVID-19 pandemic hit worldwide, leading to movie halls to shut to stem the outbreak.

“This thriller isn’t your formulaic Bollywood film … It’s not your regular fare,” promises Deol over a Zoom call from Los Angeles.

‘Line of Descent’ is billed as a crime saga about three warring siblings (Ronit Roy, Neeraj Kabi and Ali Haji) fighting to retain power as they indulge in shady land deals in Delhi.

The award-winning actor Deol, whose credits including a mix of blockbusters such as ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ and ‘Socha Na Tha’, along with stirring films such as ‘Shanghai’, plays a righteous cop who’s determined to put these men behind bars. Veteran actor Prem Chopra plays the power-hungry patriarch.

Excerpts from our interview with Deol as we talk about his career, his lack of faith in reviews and surviving in the industry without being a part of any Bollywood clique …

‘Line of Descent’ revolving around three warring siblings from a mafia family reminded me instantly of Hollywood’s iconic film ‘Godfather’ … Your thoughts?

Whenever a film deals with mafia and politics, you cannot help but think about ‘The Godfather’. That movie set the tone for every film that came after it because ‘The Godfather’ is such a benchmark. In my case, any series to do with big business families reminds me of ‘Dallas’ [hit American TV series from the 80s] instantly even if they have no similarities to it.

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Prem Chopra.

Have you read the reviews that came your way after its release in India and were they fair?

Honestly, I have stopped reading reviews. Many reviews out of India are often political and paid for. Reviewers and critics have lost their credibility as well … I have come from a space where I have seen what critics in India are like and I have stopped their reviews entirely … Plus, this film was released a while ago and I am now working on other projects.

We live in strange times. This film is having a UAE premiere in cinemas even though it has already released on certain platforms in India …

It’s not unusual for the distribution of a film to be done in parts and its release being spread over time is normal. In India, the reason why they want a simultaneous release is because of the problem of piracy. This is an Indo-American independent production and American films don’t face that problem of piracy as much as the Bollywood industry.

The boom of streaming platforms has ensured that actors such as yourself are flooded with choices … Do you think it’s a great time to be an artist today?

It’s a great time to be an artist and this is something I wouldn’t have said a couple of years ago, perhaps. This is especially true for Bollywood and Hollywood. If diversity was not given a chance in Bollywood — in terms of the colour of your skin and ethnicity — and if individuality wasn’t given a chance in Bollywood, we wouldn’t be in this space. Imagine if we had to just conform to what a hero is in Bollywood films.

The kind of individuals who now get a break in Bollywood is because we have these OTT platforms. Once the OTT platforms came in, it wasn’t all about the hero and the heroine. The OTTs demanded content that was different from the formula. The Bollywood industry has solidified a formula that sold well and didn’t want to move out of that box. They just wanted to play up that winning formula, but OTTs are keen to build their own audience. So now you have actors who don’t conform to the Bollywood hero prototype thriving. They are gaining center-stage because you now have some choices. As an actor, you don’t have to be part of any cliques that hold power in Bollywood anymore. You need not work for studios either.

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Neeraj Kabi.

You have never been a part of any Bollywood clique or gang … But you have lived to tell your tale.

I am alive and thriving! I didn’t once compromise with what I believed in … It’s hard not to be a part of a clique, especially in a society that follows traditions so stringently. Even the Bollywood formula of conformity is just a part of the tradition that they have come from … Trust me, it has taken me longer to reach where I am. But what I have today is my own and nobody can take it away from me. It’s an extremely empowering positing to be in. I answer to no one.

Your mantra ‘I answer to no one’ would sit well on T-shirts as a slogan …

Yes, but on the back of my T-shirt it will go … ‘Except mom’.

Coming back to your film, what is Hollywood actor Brendan Fraser doing in a Hindi film?

Brendan is a fabulous actor and he fits in well with this film. He’s experimenting here and he’s put himself out there. It’s a very vulnerable position to be in. He’s not in his safe zone, but he is trying something different and he has done well.

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Hollywood star Brendan Fraser.

So he’s not that token white guy in an all-brown cast?

His character of a foreign arms dealer in India is an unusual one, but that works in his favour. Imagine a white guy in the middle of Delhi. It’s not unheard of for white people to work in India. But the question remains — how many among them work in the underworld? It just made sense that if we had a Western arms dealer, then why not get somebody like Brendan Fraser to play that role. It was a privilege to act alongside him. It is nothing like what you have seen him do before.

As a producer of this film were you involved in the casting? It’s a random casting …

I wouldn’t say random, but unexpected.

Don’t miss it!

‘Line of Descent’ is out in UAE cinemas on January 28

Did you know?

Select cast of ‘Line of Descent’, including director Rohit Karn Batra and actress Anisha Victor will be in the UAE on January 28 at Vox Cinemas at Mall of the Emirates for a premiere of the film, followed by a movie screening at 8pm. It’s an invite-only event.

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