In 2005, Abhay Deol arrived on our screens (and in our hearts) as an adorably dimpled boy-next-door who was a far cry from Bollywood's macho leads. Just like him, his debut film Socha Na Tha, was not your usual Bollywood romantic comedy.
15 years later, not much has changed as Abhay Deol continues to star in, and back, projects that are different than the norm, like his latest sci-fi drama JL50.
A sci-fi drama that explores the concept of time travel in a way few Indian films have, JL50 is a gripping thriller, even if it fails to come at par with international sci-fi films and web series.
However, Jl50 is also the latest, in a long list of projects, that have established that apart from being one of our most favourite woke celebrities, Abhay Deol is also the favoured star of unconventional projects.
While Abhay Deol has never shied away from the privilege he has enjoyed in the industry, what can also not be denied is that his filmography is more diverse than most.
Socha Na Tha was a hit with a generation fast losing interest in Bollywood's cliched love stories, and could have been the perfect platform for Abhay to emerge as the industry's 'next big star'.
And yet, he chose to follow his debut success with stories that most people in Bollywood would never have dared to dream of, like Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd., Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, and Manorama Six Feet Under.
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My film “Manorama 6 feet under” released in 2007. They say it was ahead of its time for India. I say that I got tired of hearing, “I saw it on dvd, I loved it, when was this film even released!?” If I had a rupee for every time someone said that I’d be a multi millionaire! At the start of this century no one in power had the faith that experimentation would work with an Indian audience. Hence even if one managed to, the film would barely have any screens or marketing. I always believed that the audience is way smarter than we give them credit for. Had I not believed that, I wouldn’t have made the films I’ve made. #makingwhatbollywouldnt
Despite earning critical acclaim, none of these films achieved commercial success. But that didn't deter Abhay.
He went on to deliver one of Bollywood's finest heist comedies, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. And followed it with a rendition of Devdas firmly rooted in feminism - the black comedy romantic drama, Dev.D.
From the direction to music, both Dev. D and Oye Lucky were nothing like what Bollywood had seen before. Of course, Abhay Deol's performance continued to impress with each film.
After all, he played the boy-next-door 'superhero' in Honeymoon Travels, a sarcastic, almost knavish thief in Oye Lucky, and an entitled, heartbroken lover in Dev.D, with equal conviction.
Simply put, he brought indie cinema to the mainstream audience at a time when few people had access to OTT platforms, and theatres defined the movie-experience for a majority of the population.
And yet, he was just as comfortable in a set-up far removed from the indie productions he'd started being associated with. I'm of course talking about his mainstream ventures like Aisha and ZNMD.
In recent years, he started taking over OTT platforms with films like Chopsticks and What Are The Odds?
Were they perfect films? Definitely not. But were they films that encouraged new talent and celebrated unusual stories and different formats of story-telling? Hell yes.
Similarly, JL50, his film released as a web series, is far from being a sci-fi wonder. But, in an industry where romance and violence take center stage, a thriller that's based on the concept of time-travel is a welcome change.
It's fast-paced, intriguing, contains original music (always a win in the age of remixes), and brings together a truly talented starcast. Which definitely makes it worth a one-time watch.
The star whose movies include Shanghai, Raanjhanaa, and Happy Bhag Jayegi, may not be winning awards for 'Best Film' any time soon. But he has been winning hearts for promoting original content for over a decade now. And we don't want him stopping anytime soon.