For someone who started off making television commercials, Abhinay Deo’s foray into movies has yielded a great variety of films. From his debut “Delhi Belly”, a dark comedy that won critical acclaim, to directing the first two seasons of the Indian adaptation of U.S. television series “24”, Deo has dabbled in a lot of genres. His last film, “Blackmail”, which saw him return to black comedy after 11 years, won over critics and audiences.
Deo tells Reuters why it took him so long to return to the genre and what he is working on next.
Q: Why did it take you so long to return to black comedy?
A: Much as people like dark comedy in our country, nobody likes to attempt it. Nobody wants to put money on it. On paper, dark comedies always seem a little unviable, not just for the people who are going to put money on it, but also for actors. A dark comedy will always have a subject which is edgy, and edgy is not easily accepted in our country. Thank God for the digital platform, because that is what they are meant for. But in features, because audiences are used to rounded edges, dark comedies are not the first on their list. But once they are made, people love to watch it.
Q: You’ve done “Delhi Belly, “Force” and also a TV series like “24”. What comes more naturally to you?
A: I believe that if you are good at your craft, you should be able to handle any subject. I like action, but what comes very naturally to me is comedy. But I cannot do straight comedy. What I would love to do is an action comedy.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a bit of an experiment – docu-fiction. Not many people have attempted it, but it is about our country. India, from the 90s to now, and how our psyche has changed - from the time of liberalisation to now, when India is a different place altogether. In 1991, we were almost running out of foreign currency reserves. Today, we are the sixth largest economy in the world. My film is about all this, and how cricket played a part in it.
The game played a very important role in changing the mental psyche of the nation. If you think about it, cricket is the only thing that unites Indians today. Everything else is interested in breaking them. That is the documentary part, and the fiction part is the story of a girl who is growing up at the same time, and how these changes affect her. Through her, we tell the story.
Q: Without asking you to give too much away, why do you think cricket had such a crucial part in changing attitudes in India?A: Actually, that’s the film (Laughs). We don’t even realise that the game that was taught to us by the people who ruled over us ended up becoming one of the strongest unifying elements in our country. In 1947, we got political independence, and in the early 1990s we got economic independence. But when did we get attitudinal independence? When did we break away from our inferiority complex against the white man? There is a very important, catalytic moment that did it. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The film focuses on that.
Q: Why did you choose a female protagonist to tell the story of cricket?
A: Even when a country, which has been ruled over for thousands of years, when it achieves independence, half its population - which is the women - still don’t get free because the white man leaves and is replaced by the brown man. In the 80s, in small-town India, a woman still had to be submissive to the men in her life. If we are talking of coming of age, then it should be the most important coming-of-age story – which is of the girls in our country.
Editing by David Lalmalsawma