Abhay Deol on sexism in the industry, producing independent films and the need for a sustainable future

15th Mar 2017
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Bollywood is a glamorised whole of two disjointed halves. One part of the industry is tailor-made for men and the other half thrills in objectifying women. The overplayed ‘macho’ who saves the day and the helpless damsel in distress have formed the basis of Bollywood since its very inception many decades ago.

While films today like Queen and Kahaani are made to reach out to female movie-watchers, these are unfortunately rare exceptions in a still male-dominated industry.

But some some brave-hearts have spoken up against the basic gross difference that exists between the life of a Bollywood actor and ‘his’ heroine. And leading the pack is none other than the mysteriously charming Abhay Deol.

Image credits: Creative Commons

“The way to threaten the male ego is by threatening the women he is ‘supposed to protect’,” Deol stated sardonically in a candid interview with Goa-based Video Volunteers.

Deol has always been a strong voice when it came to issues of social hypocrisies, be it the flagrant divide between men and women when it comes to professional opportunities or on matters of ‘forced nationalism’ and encouraged racial barriers.

The 41-year-old is known to be picky with his movies, not out of arrogance, but rather because he lately prefers to do movies that carry important social messages. As a result, he has often been called a recluse in the world of Bollywood, especially because of his family-ties with mainstream actors like Dharmendra and his sons, Sunny and Bobby.

In an interview with The Times of India, Director Anand L Rai, who worked with him on the sets of Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016), called Deol a “lazy talented actor”.

“Abhay is a very fine and brilliant actor…It is his choice when he wants to do a film. He is a lazy talented actor and I often tell him that. He does a film, then he goes somewhere and then makes a comeback. I told him to keep working and that the directors need him,” said Rai.

Having been the lead in game-changing movies like Anurag Kashyap’s Dev.D (2009) and Dibakar Banerjee’s Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye (2008), Deol has set base for being considered a powerful actor in the Bollywood realm. But as he turns a year older today, we want to speak about his roles outside the cinematic reel, which makes him appeal to his audience so greatly.

Sexism in the industry

Deol has always been a proponent of gender-equality and equal pay for men and women across all professions and practices. In the interview with Video Volunteers, he also says that while sexism in the industry is a blatant reality, it is also possible for it to be trumped if the same people who display it change the way they think. Coupled with this is the need for the collective mind-set of the patriarchy-driven society to change, so that directors can stop portraying women as sex objects or helpless damsels in distress, in an attempt to appease the former.

“Sometimes we are sexist without knowing it simply because of our conditioning…and only if you are open to seeing your faults can you see them and when you do, you grow in leaps and bounds. That conditioning then just dies in a moment,” he says.

Eco-friendly houses

Deol is also an advocate for clean energy resources and sustainable development. To empower himself in the same measure, he decided to build an eco-friendly home in North Goa on the property he had acquired a few years ago. “I wanted to reduce carbon footprints and also be empowered and independent. I do not want to be at the mercy of others for power and water,” he told PTI in an interview. The actor is also an active part of a number of social organisations looking to adopt and suggest measures for environment conservation.

Deol is keeping in line with a number of famous actors promoting the need for a sustainable environment and development. “We need to stop talking about wanting to make change in future and do things. We need to see what can be done now. Methods which are practical and feasible should be implemented. Like I am doing my bit by building this eco-friendly home,” he said.

Producer for independent films

In 2009, Deol decided to try his luck at production and thus set up his own company, Forbidden Films. Through this he focuses on taking in scripts for nonconformist independent films, to give them a centre-stage platform. Since its inception, the company has taken on powerful films like Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s Labour Of Love, Payal Sethi’s Leeches, and Brahmanand S Singh’s documentary, Kaagaz Ki Kashti which is based on the famous ghazal singer Jagjit Singh.

“As an actor I’ve always wanted to balance mainstream and non-mainstream work…now digital is here, independent filmmakers finally have a platform, so I decided to take the plunge and explore this space,” he said.

We can barely wait to see what this highly diversified actor, producer and social activist has in store for us next!

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