With his movie-star good looks hidden behind an impressive beard and tinted glasses, Bobby Deol was virtually unrecognisable when Eastern Eye caught up with him at a hotel in central London.
The normally shy actor, who happily blended in with the crowd, was in the city to promote his home production Ramta Jogi, a Punjabi love story that launches newcomers Deep Sidhu and Ronica.
Bobby was excited about the film and also preparing to act in his next project, which is a dark thriller that goes on the floors later this year. He talked about Ramta Jogi, his beard, future plans, love of London, his legendary father Dharmendra, inspirations and why he can’t direct a movie.
What is the story behind your impressive new beard?
Asjad, I couldn’t afford to get razors to shave it off! Seriously, though, I have grown it because I am doing this film which is a dark thriller. It’s the first time that I have actually grown a beard and I didn’t realise how thick it could get in terms of growth.
You must be proud of how it looks?
Yes, I am proud of the fact I have a thick growth and how it looks. Also how people react to it. But definitely it’s just for a film I am starting with a first-time director; his name is Vivek Chauhan and we are producing it. We are still working on the scripting and locations. We are hoping to start the film in October.
What does your wife think of your beard?
(Laughs) She knows it’s my profession. She knows you change your looks according to the films you do, so she is used to it by now.
What can you tell us about this thriller?
I can’t talk about it for the simple reason that there is no point talking about a film before it has even started shooting. So it’s just a dark thriller. There are a lot of characters in it and it’s going to be interesting. It’s very different from all the films I have done, but keeping my image in mind at the same time.
You are a great actor with a solid fan base. Why have you slowed down in recent years?
It is because I guess my PR isn’t good enough and I can’t approach people. When I first started off, it was very different and simple, people who wanted to do films just came to you. But it’s not like that now, because a lot of people have got into the industry. There is a lot of talent and cinema has changed. You have been watching Hindi films so you know what I mean.
I think I need to do good PR, tell people I want to do good work. People have this notion about me that I am a lazy actor, but that is not true. I want to do different kind of characters, not just the lead. I want to do characters with more substance. When you watch movies, there are always these characters who stand out more because of the interesting way they have been characterised.
It seems to be a good time in Indian cinema right now for that?
It is and that is why the film I am doing is very different. I can’t talk much about it now, but when it is released I will. I have decided to make a film where I would be able to do something different.
Would you ever direct a film?
You know, it’s a lot about taking charge of a lot of people. I’m too soft when it comes to controlling people. Half the time I would be feeling bad that I said something to someone, or why I couldn’t say something to someone. Also, direction isn’t that simple. When you are on a set and watching a scene being shot, you think ‘I could do it this way’ or they should do it that way, but it is not that simple. Maybe one day I will, I don’t know.
What about acting in regional cinema?
Regional cinema in India is doing well. Punjabi cinema is like Hindi films where they will see a formula, think it’s working and then do it. But they make so many (formula) films that don’t do well. Cinema isn’t doing as well as it should be. Yes, people are becoming more adventurous in our industry. But many end up spending so much money and without reward. I’ve heard a lot about that happening, so it’s great people are happy about Punjabi films. I am really excited that the Punjabi film industry is doing well. In the future I would love to do a good Punjabi film. Today I am promoting this film, Ramta Jogi.
Tell us about Ramta Jogi?
It is a love story, it’s an emotional film. When you watch love stories, you like to see and enjoy the pain of a love story. It is that kind of a film after a long time in Punjabi cinema. The film is not commercial, it’s not just a comedy, but it is good cinema. I can’t say anything is bad cinema, but it’s a movie I think you will want to watch.
What do you like about Deep Sidhu as a leading man?
Well, he is a sweetheart and like family to us. I think he has it in him. He has a great personality. It is his first film and he has really worked hard. He is also a producer in the film, so he is an all-in-one army. It has been directed by my uncle Guddu Dhanoa, and my cousin Vijay Dhanoa is one of the executive producers. I just hope that people enjoy the film because no matter what I say, it is up to the audiences and how they react.
Have you given Deep any tips?
I have obviously given him some advice. You don’t give tips. When someone asks you questions, you tell them what you feel and how you think it’s supposed to be done, but unless you feel it from within and do it, it won’t come out. I could tell you so many things, but you need to understand and feel it yourself. So it’s up to his understanding, his way of getting that out of and showing it as an actor. I hope everyone enjoys his work.
London is like a second home to you. You must enjoy being in the city?
I love London, I just love being here. I have been coming here since I was a kid and it becomes a part of your life. You have so many memories and there is so much nostalgia. The city just makes you happy. What I really like about London is that it has buzz and energy, but at the same time, it has beautiful parks and you can just walk on the streets. I don’t take cabs, because I really enjoy the freedom of walking around. Not even shopping, just walking and eating some good food.
What inspires you today?
My inspiration has always been my family. My dad, my brother and my mother; just looking up to them. They have always inspired me to do my best and be down to earth. Then my kids inspire me in different ways. My wife inspires me, so you can never pinpoint just one inspiration. Every day you get inspired by something new.
Where does your father Dharmendra get his incredible energy from?
He is just one of a kind. He is a super human being who has the biggest heart in the world. People love him because he is honest, down to earth and true to himself. That’s an incredible quality in a human being. That is the most important thing.
My dad always says, first be a good human being, then you can do anything in life and I guess that’s what it is. That is what he learned from his parents. His mother, my grandmother, was an incredible lady who was selfless and only knew how to give things to others; she never wanted anything and that is how my dad is. When you don’t think about anything else, that’s what makes you. You only think about seeing a smile on someone’s face and that is what my dad is like.
I think you and your father have incredible chemistry. Will you be working together again soon?
I really would love to. I’m the youngest in the family so I guess I share that freedom with him. Obviously in the films we did together, my character was a little buddy of his. We were like buddies and my brother [Sunny] was the serious kind in those films.
Why should we all watch Ramta Jogi?
There isn’t an answer for this question, because why should anyone go see anything? They should go see a movie and be entertained. Our main aim as filmmakers is to make films that entertain people. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t. So all I can say is it’s a new boy and new girl. Deep Sidhu is an actor with a great personality. The movie has good music, so I think people will really enjoy it.
Finally, tell us something that no one knows about you?
(Laughs) There are so many things that not many people know about me, and it will always remain like that. So I’m sorry I can’t tell you anything I would not want anyone to know.
Ramta Jogi is in cinemas on August 14.