Abhay Deol comes from a famous Bollywood film family and is now branching out into the worlds of independent and international cinema.
One of his latest projects, Sagar Ballary’s Jungle Cry, tells the inspirational true life story of an underprivileged Indian youth rugby team who travelled to the UK to make history in a prestigious tournament.
Q: Why do you feel ‘Jungle Cry’ will connect with audiences around the world?
A: The film will appeal to people because it is a true story, one of triumph of the underdog, where despair leads to hope.
The journey these children took, born into a life that would have likely lead to slavery, becomes one of potential and promise. It is also the remarkable story of Dr. Samanta, Paul Walsh and Rudrakesh, three men who have dedicated their lives to the well-being of underprivileged children. Most times you read such stories in fiction, but that fact that this is real makes this film special and will surely appeal to all audiences around the world.
Q: Was it a culture shock shooting a film in the blustery weather and small town surroundings of Wales?
A: I wouldn’t call it ‘culture shock’. I’m pretty well-traveled and have shot in all sorts of locales for extended periods of time.
However, since we were in Wales in the winter, it was extremely cold, wet and grey. I’m used to sunshine so the extended period of darkness did get to me after a while. The people there were very warm and friendly though, more than most places. I was touched by their humility.
Q: I read in Indie Entertainment Magazine that Stanley Kubrick was your favourite filmmaker growing up. I’ve been thinking about his work a lot recently with the current exhibition of his work in London. What do you love about Kubrick’s work?
A: Kubrick had a talent for telling dramatic stories with a sense of humour and while doing so, it never took away the gravity of the subject. He was very much against war and highlighted the stupidity of man in the most masterful way.
He had a style far ahead of his time. His movies had a pace very unique to that style. He captured the viewer’s attention and held it almost as though in a trance. His use of actors was always spot on. I was captivated by his craft, his art and his philosophy. He taught me that films were beyond entertainment, that you can entertain but you can also enlighten through that entertainment.
Q: Do you have a favourite scene from Kubrick’s work?
A: I cannot reduce my love for the films of Kubrick to one favorite scene.
There’s Jack Nicholson hacking away at the door with a hammer in The Shining, there is Peter Sellers holding back his arm from giving the Hitler salute as the Nazi scientist in Dr. Strangelove, there is the brutal rape scene in Clockwork Orange set to classical music, there is the bone thrown up into the air by an ape man in 2001, etc, etc. He made me laugh and cry at the same time.
Q: It is hard to compare anyone with Kubrick, but there are filmmakers – like Denis Villeneuve and Alex Garland – who have similarly incredible visions for their work. Can you name a few directors out there who you’d love to work with? And, tell us what you look for in the filmmakers and projects you choose.
A: I love the work of Alejandro Innaritu, Pedro Almodovar, Christopher Nolan, Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo Del Toro, to name a few. It would be a dream to work with these directors but unfortunately I haven’t seen them work with actors from India in any of their films, so my chances are pretty low!
In a filmmaker, I look for their mastery of the craft and their philosophy in the stories they make. With characters and stories I look for relatability, larger than life stories and characters that appeal to me.
Q: ‘Chopsticks’ will be released on 31 May. How was the experience of being involved in Netflix’s first original film made in India?
A: I was very excited when I got Chopsticks. It was a privilege to work with Netflix and the producers Viniyard films. Sachin Yardi, the director, was clear in his vision and is a hilarious comic writer. The dialogues were spot on and production was smooth. Not only did it feel as though we were making a quality product but the crew were wonderful and excited with the movie they were making.
Q: What is next for you?
A: I have five projects in post. Chopsticks goes live on Netflix on the 31st of May. Jungle Cry is ready for release as are my other films JL-50 and Line Of Descent. The Odds is a show I am producing and have also played a small role in. We had a special presentation of it that closed the Indian Film Festival of LA in mid-April.
All of these projects are independent, international collaborations, far removed from the Bollywood formula, and I am very happy and thankful that I got to make them.