• Monday, April 22, 2024

Arts and Culture

Sunny Deol: Four dynamic decades

Eastern Eye marks the actor’s birthday by putting together a watchlist of his 12 best movies and performances, listed in chronological order

Sunny Deol

By: Asjad Nazir

POPULAR actor Sunny Deol has scored one of this year’s biggest Bollywood successes with Gadar 2. The Hindi cinema hardman also made it 40 years in Bollywood recently and will celebrate his 67th birthday on October 19.

Eastern Eye decided to mark all the occasions by putting together a watchlist of his 12 best movies and performances, listed in chronological order.


Betaab (1983): Although he became known as an action hero, the actor made a winning debut in this musical romance about two young lovers. He showed great screen presence opposite fellow debutante Amrita Singh in what would become the second highest grossing Bollywood movie released that year. It would be his first step towards a glittering 40-year career.

Sohni Mahiwal (1984): The actor made it two great romantic movies in a row with this musical adaptation of the famous story of star-crossed lovers. Poonam Dhillon played his love interest in the film that combined a historical romance with high drama and great songs. Although the Indo-Russian production became a success, it remains underrated and deserves more praise. Incidentally, the lead stars children Rajveer Deol and Paloma Dhillon just made their Bollywood debut in the newly released romance Dono.

Sohni Mahiwal

Arjun (1985): The actor found his niche as an action hero with this powerful drama. He took on the title role in the story of a young, educated but unemployed man, who fights back against wrongdoing and a corrupt system. The story and his intense screen presence made a strong connection with audiences, especially the disaffected youth. It would gain a best film nomination at the Filmfare Awards.

Tridev (1989): The full on action entertainer was a massive commercial success when it was released. Deol headed an impressive star cast that included Jackie Shroff, Naseeruddin Shah and Madhuri Dixit in this masala potboiler, which had everything from romance to action, revenge and violence. The escapist entertainer also had top tracks, powerful performances and a memorable villain.

Ghayal (1990): The first career-defining role of Deol’s career earned him multiple awards including a Filmfare best actor and a National Award. The action drama swept the Filmfare Awards including best director and best actor. He plays an honest man, who is pushed onto the wrong side of the law and fights back against the villains. His intensity was once again applauded in Rajkumar Santoshi’s directorial debut.


Damini (1993): Deol may have only had a supporting role in the cult feminist classic but stole the show with his explosive performance as the no nonsense lawyer, who takes on the case of a woman who is wronged. His dialogues like the iconic ‘tarikh pe tarikh’ became stuff of Bollywood legend in the powerful film. The Rajkumar Santoshi directed drama received multiple awards, which included a National and Filmfare award for Deol.

 Darr (1993): Although the Yash Chopra directed classic is best remembered for Shah Rukh Khan’s star-making turn as the stalker, many people forget that Sunny Deol was the headline star and hero. The blockbuster hit about a woman terrorised by a deranged stalker became a worldwide hit and Deol’s presence added weight to proceedings. It had great songs and received multiple award nominations.

Ghatak (1996): The dream team of Deol and director Rajkumar Santoshi reunited for this successful action drama at a time when romance was ruling the Bollywood box office. The blockbuster hit saw him take on another role of a good man, who fights for the oppressed and takes the law into his own hands. Like his previous successes, the film combined eyecatching action with an explosive dialogue delivery.


Border (1997): The epic JP Duttadirected war drama may have had a huge star cast, but Deol was very much the headline star and delivered a power-packed performance that earned him multiple best actor awards. The story set during the India-Pakistan war of 1971 showed the plight of soldiers on the frontline. It would become the highest grossing Bollywood film in India that year and is regarded as one of the finest army films made in Hindi cinema.

Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001): Deol’s second career-defining role was in a partition-set drama, which clocked up record-breaking figures, despite being released on the same day as Oscar-nominated film Lagaan. The story of a Sikh truck driver falling in love with a Muslim woman separated from her Pakistan-bound family connected strongly with audiences. The sequel was released in 2023 and clocked up huge numbers, despite not being very good, because audiences wanted to see his character Tara Singh back in action.

Gadar: Ek Prem Kath

Apne (2007): A movie that perhaps doesn’t get the credit it deserves united the actor with his brother Bobby Deol and father Dharmendra on the big screen for the first time. The story of a disgraced boxer trying to train his son to glory has plenty of great moments and strong performances. The only weak aspects were the boxing scenes, but that didn’t take away the positives, including the emotional family drama elements.


Chup: Revenge of The Artist (2022): The critically acclaimed movie may not have done well at the box office, but it did get solid reviews and has found its audience on streaming sites. The multi-layered story of a serial killer murdering corrupt film critics put a unique spin on the Bollywood thriller formula. Deol plays the police officer hot on the killer’s trail and like all his previous movies, he made his presence felt.

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