When you accepted a role like Abrar, what was the USP of that character that you decided you had to play?
The USP was Sandeep Reddy Vanga, because he is a magical director. He creates characters that are so interesting, deep and complex. I knew that what I would be offered would be something interesting. And I was really excited when he told me that this was the character and then he was explaining it to me when he said he was silent. So I was more excited because my approach to work is to find work that is outside of my comfort zone. I like to challenge myself.
I started with the class of 83, then Ashramand Love Hostel. So when I was offered this, I was really excited. I was like, wow, Sandeep Reddy Vanga wants me. And from the moment I said yes to the moment I finished filming, I always had a feeling about this movie. I didn't know how much box office business it would generate, but I always knew it would become a cult film.
Is it true that the director saw one of your old photos and then approached you?
I got his message. I checked to see if it was really him and it really was him. So I called him and said, “Let’s meet.” When we met, he said, “Bobby, sir, I want you in this movie because I have a picture of you. I will show you. And I like his expression. I want you because I love that expression of yours. I said, “Mere bekaari ke din kaam aa gaye.” That's how it is. Someone told me recently that all your hard work is like a bank deposit and it's like a fixed deposit. And one day, suddenly, you find a number to open it.”
What did your mother say about the film and your performance?
Mom came out and was crying. She said, “Aise role mat kiya kar. I don't like it when you die. I told her, “I’m in front of you. I'm playing a character. Nothing happened to me.” But I can understand a mother's emotions because recently when I watched Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, I couldn't control myself. I just got up and left.
You are a soft-hearted guy. But when you play characters like Abrar, what is your process?
We all have good and evil within us. We become good human beings when we control our demons. It's as if we have so many bacteria and viruses in us, but they don't do anything to us. But we can use that thought, that emotion, when we have to act like that character. So when I played the character of Abrar, I felt that he was also a hero. Because when he is a child he sees his grandfather burn before his eyes and he loses his voice and swears revenge. And he is a very family-oriented person. He is romantic, has three wives, but loves his family. He gives his life for his family and takes a life for his family. And that's what I looked like as a character. When I was emoting, I was feeling like a normal person. But because I've been put in a space where it feels like, okay, he's a bad person, so that makes him seem even more evil. When a person is wrong, he does not understand that he is wrong. He thinks he is doing the right thing. That's how I felt. I intended to be portrayed.
Did you think Animal would become a game changer?
I think stories are more character-based now. Even the hero has gray and white. Nothing is black and white anymore. Everything is very gray. The shadows are very gray because the world is becoming this way around us. That's how movies are. Movies are a reflection of what's happening in society in many ways, because it's not like that. How can you write a story? Can you imagine a story like that?
Do you think Sandeep Reddy Vanga's cinema is provocative and challenges the audience?
I don't know what he thinks when he makes us perform, but I know one thing: he has a very strong conviction. Everything he does, he does with great conviction. And that's why people tend to like it. That's how it is.
If you had to remember a strong reaction you had after the film?
I don't think I heard a single negative review. Everyone said, 'We're so happy for you. We love you. God bless you.' All that kind of stuff. I received so many calls from people in the film industry that I never imagined that people in the industry would be happy for me.
The Deols are back…
I was very happy when my brother's film became a hit. It was the biggest thing to happen to our family in 22 years. And there was a lot of joy and happiness. And my brother always says, because I have a daughter at home and she is her brother's luck. And I just think that's amazing because when you work so hard, the joy of achieving something when you do is tremendous. And I never imagined that my film would become a blockbuster, but it became a blockbuster. And I think God has been kind and hard work always turns into luck. That's what I believe.
What was going on in your mind when you were going through the low phase? Were you looking forward to a return?
Those days were dark in my life. I was experiencing self-pity. I started thinking, I'm so capable, why doesn't anyone give me work? I kind of gave up. And then suddenly one day I realized, seeing my children, wondering why their father sits at home and their mother goes to work. And I heard them ask my wife that. And it kind of made me realize what kind of father I am. What example am I setting for my child? I can't make you feel that in this world you are a loser. And something just clicked in my head and I became more positive about myself and started believing in myself more. And that's how I told myself that I have to be prepared. And things have changed and I just believe that now you need to have self-confidence.
How many offers are you getting to play the antagonist in the film?
Maybe it is written in my destiny that I will be an antagonist and people will recognize my work. I think that's when they felt like 'oh, Bobby is capable of playing different characters' and I've always been able to. I've never had opportunities like this, but things are changing now.
So when Prakash Jha came with the Ashram, did you agree immediately or did it take a while?
When I met Prakash Jha, I expected him to narrate the role of a police officer to me. But then he said, “Tu Baba ka role play karega.” I was so happy to hear that. For a few seconds, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and worked hard on it.
I will always be grateful to Prakash Ji because he really believed in me and gave me this character in Ashram. It changed the way people saw me as an actor. Ashram is the most watched OTT series of all time. Everywhere I go, people ask me when the next Ashram season will be. But the magic of cinema is different. It's a totally different feeling when people recognize your work in cinema. I had been waiting for this for many years. Hit time aata hai tab aata hai.
Clarify the hand-to-hand combat scene with Ranbir Kapoor
The first thing Sandeep told me was that these two are brothers who want to kill each other. And there will be hand-to-hand fighting and there will be romantic music playing while the fight is happening. He had conceived everything in advance. We rehearsed a week before the shoot in Mumbai. Then we went to London and filmed the fight there. It was very cold and we were naked, but it was fun to film.
I love Ranbir as an actor and as a person I also met him. He is such a down to earth and humble guy. He always made me feel, gave me importance and made me feel special. He has no insecurities. He's just a lovely guy. I had fun working with him.
How would you describe Sandeep Reddy Vanga in one word?
He is a magician.
What are the plans of the next generation of Deols?
My eldest son completed his studies in finance. He passed with honors. He wants to become an actor. We begin your training. Let's see in the next 3-4 years what happens.
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