KARAN DEOL ON STEPPING INTO FILMS AND WORKING WITH HIS DIRECTOR DAD
by MOHNISH SINGH
Newcomer Karan Deol being surrounded by acting greats from his birth led him towards the same cinematic path.
After studying filmmaking abroad and assisting on his home production Yamla Pagla Deewana, the 28-year-old grandson of legendary actor Dharmendra and son of action star Sunny Deol makes his debut with this week’s big Bollywood release Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas.
The film, directed by his father, sees him star opposite debutante Sahher Bambba in the romantic drama about two unconnected individuals, who unexpectedly fall in love.
Eastern Eye caught up with Karan to speak about his debut film, famous family and co-star Sahher Bambba.
What is more challenging, shooting for a film or giving interviews?
(Laughs) Interviews. In a film, you know the character, have dialogues and go according to the script, and the director. In interviews, you are on the spot. But I speak with honesty. And we all are kind of the same in our family. We speak our hearts, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad too.
When did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
Well, when you are four or five years old, you don’t know what you want to do. But when I was five years old, I saw the film Star Wars and after watching it, I was in love with filmmaking. Then there was this DVD collection of my father’s films, and every evening, I would watch one film because I was so captivated by the world of movies by then. Also, that captivation was a form of relaxation for me. Watching films takes me to a whole other zone. The perfect afternoon is when I am watching a film with good food.
How did your parents react when you told them that you want to pursue acting?
At the age of 18, I went to my mother and told her that I wanted to be an actor. I had not told my father anything yet. My mother explained to me that the profession of acting has two sides. One is where you just do a film and move on, the other one is the emotional turmoil you go through when your films don’t do well or you receive criticism. She said, if I was ready for that then they will support me. My father also said that I have to be emotionally and mentally ready for the evil side of the industry. After that, my training started and now, I am here in front of you.
Tell us, why was it that you told your mother first?
I used to be scared of my father. That is why I couldn’t tell him anything. When I need to tell him something, I first go to my mother and then she tells him. My mother has been my go-to person as my father would mostly work and was very busy.
How did your father, Sunny Deol decide to direct the film?
During the early making of the film, we talked to various directors, but none of them were clicking with the script. It is important, even with big banners, to not sign-up with someone until you are sure of the content. Big banners can suffer flops too because there is no guaranteed formula for success. It is all up to the audience. So, we were having a hard time finding a director for the film, so my father took over that responsibility.
Tell us about your film Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas?
While we were in the scripting phase, we never thought the movie centred on the life of a particular hero. We were making a film about the story of two characters; one is from Delhi and the other is from Himachal Pradesh. My character runs an adventure camp homestay, and he loves living his life on the edge. He is an adrenaline junkie and has made that into his job. He takes different groups for adventure expeditions, up various mountain peaks. On the other side of the story, there is a girl from Delhi who is a vlogger for a travel show. She comes to my character for a review and that is how they meet. After that, I cannot say much, you have to go and see for yourself.
Is Sunny Deol a tougher father or director?
(Smiles) He is a tougher director.
How close are you with your grandfather, Dharmendra?
I had a very loving experience with him while growing up. He told me so many stories about his struggle. He told me about his journey from Punjab to his film career. If he had never got a break in the film industry, none of us would have been here, so, my whole life is because of him.
Did you get any tips from your grandfather?
My grandfather taught me that acting is all about reacting. You listen and then you give your reaction. Like right now, we are talking and accordingly I am reacting to it, so acting is that simple. Also, that growth as an actor never stops. If you ever think that you have grown enough as an actor, that is when you stop being an actor because even at the age my grandfather is, he is still learning a lot of things.
What else did you learn from your family?
From my father, I want to learn to have his intensity. From my grandfather, Dharmendra, I appreciate his wittiness, comic timing and improvisational skills. My uncle, Bobby Deol, is the best dancer in our family, so I would like to be good at dance like him. I would like to take risks like my uncle Abhay Deol. The off-beat scripts he chose and followed through so bravely, made his own identity in the industry, and those are very impressive.
Being a star-kid, do you carry any kind of baggage with you?
Honestly, I don’t carry much baggage, but fans have this presumption that since he is the son of Sunny Deol, he must pursue acting, and I cannot run from this because they think so out of love. I believe that as soon as you think there is baggage, you won’t be able to work. You should focus on your work and let it speak for itself because as soon as you start tackling other things, your work is affected. Also, criticism is good. Take it with a pinch of salt and move on because there will be negativity, and not everyone will love you.
In action scenes, was there any train-ing given by your father Sunny Deol?
Not directly. He just said to me, “whatever you do, do it with complete belief, then the intensity will show itself. When a person has intensity, there is no stopping him. The intensity of an honest person is such that the other person will back off because the honesty is seen through the eyes and you wouldn’t have to use your hands.”
In one scene, people are holding me back while I fight back. It was quite painful. I was hurt and had blue-black marks on me. My father wanted the scene to look as real as possible and made the real rawness come out.
Tell us your favourite film of your grandfather and father?
My favourite film of my grandfather would be Chupke Chupke (1975),
and my father’s would be Arjun (1985). I feel that the story of Arjun is very relevant today. Maybe the look has changed, but the problems are the same.
Have you ever thought of helping your father on the production front?
I think the farther away from the production of the film you are, the better it is for your health or you will age fast. Production is a huge responsibility; I am happy being an actor and have no interest in production. I saw it with my family that when production goes bad, it can go really bad.
Several other movies are releasing alongside yours, do you feel any pressure?
All the films coming out alongside mine have different genres. At the end of the day, your work speaks for itself. I don’t have expectations; I just hope people love it. I just hope to be appreciated for my work.
There is always a pressure regarding box-office numbers, does that pressure get you?
If you think about that, you won’t ever be able to sleep. That is a whole other ball game concerning distributors. I can only focus on the content. So, I don’t think too much about it.
How did it feel about your father winning the Lok Sabha election?
I was happy because after a long time there was a piece of good news in the family. It was a happy moment for us.
Everybody in your family is very emotional, what about you?
I am very emotional too. But I am from a different generation, so there is that practicality too. I feel that emotions in this generation have kind of disappeared and we forgot what our roots are. In this world, there is only a drive for money or fame. But that does not keep you happy. When you die, neither the money that you earned goes with you nor the fame that you achieved. You should live your life to its fullest and enjoy it at your heart’s content.
Are there any actors or directors who you would like to work with?
My favourite actor is Vicky Kaushal. I saw him in Love Per Square Foot, Sanju, and he gave such a great performance in Uri: The Surgical Strike. He is such a versatile actor. He is making his niche and trying different things. He is not stuck in a particular format. For directors, I follow Neeraj Pandey, Zoya Akhtar, Rajkumar Hirani, Imtiaz Ali and some more. It would be a blessing to be working with any of these talented directors.
Are you fond of any particular genre?
The actor has to be versatile. My happiness is in acting. I won’t be happy doing just one kind of films, like action. An actor has to show all kinds of emotions. Anyone who appreciates me and is pleased with my role, I am happy with it, because honestly, I am in love with filmmaking. As long as I am working, I am happy.
Pal Pal Dil Ke Pass is in cinemas now