Sunny Deol is a weary man these days.
As we edge towards the release of his upcoming 'Ghayal Once Again' that screens from Thursday across UAE cinemas, the Bollywood actor has taken a decision to step away from a genre of films that once made him the only worthy torchbearer to the 'angry young man' accolade that was bestowed upon the legendary Amitabh Bachchan during his hey days.
"If 'Ghayal Once Again' doesn't work, then this is it for me," revealed a candid Deol in a chat with Emirates 24|7 amidst a promotional stopover in Dubai for his upcoming action flick.
What does that mean for a star who has built his entire acting career by being the voice of the enraged and suppressed common man?
"I won't quit acting, if that's what you are asking," he replied. "I will simply have to return to the drawing board, look at my career anew and take up scripts that perhaps appeal to a different genre of Bollywood fans.
"I honestly don't know."
Delays and setbacks
As the sequel to 1990’s National Award winning film readies for its final acid test, Deol admitted he's faced a tough time since the project"s inception nearly three years ago.
"The vision I had for this film, the creative itself, was not something people could understand or perhaps were not even willing to back," he revealed. "After months of frustration, I decided to finally take over the reins and make it myself."
By making it himself, Deol took on the mammoth task of writing, directing, producing and starring in the film, as he resurrected the character of Ajay Mehra and brought him into the digital age.
However, even as Deol doesn't openly admit, the industry rumour mill remained abuzz with stories of financial woes for the makers, unpaid loads and a story of mortgaging the actor's recording studio; the latter, though, has been denied in media reports by his publicist.
"Yes, we had difficulty finding producers for this film. But 26 years ago, we had faced a similar issue with the first 'Ghayal', when our backers ran away midway," recalled the actor. "After weeks of hunting for financers, my father finally stepped in and Vijayata Films co-produced the project with director Rajkumar Santoshi."
A second time around, and father and legendary actor Dharmendra stepped up once again with Vijayata Films to pump money into the project, while brother and fellow actor Bobby Deol also flew down to Dubai to lend emotional support.
The sequel took another year to shoot before it hit yet another hurdle that resulted in its January release to be bumped by nearly a month.
While whispers cited lack of distributors to screen the action film, Deol came on record to say it had more to do with his dissatisfaction with the film's special effects.
Quiz the actor and he said: "We had distribution issues but the delay was largely due to the action sequences that simply didn't match up to the creative vision I was going for."
Hollywood steps up
While B4U movies swooped in to back 'Ghayal Once Again' and are distributing it across 70 screens across the Middle East alone, Deol meanwhile turned to Hollywood for help.
He continued: "I have been a big fan of films such as 'The Bourne Supremacy' and the 'The Bourne Ultimatum'. Those were the kind of action sequences I wanted in my film, raw and impactful."
Deol set out for a meeting with the stunt director of the Matt Damon-starrer, and Hollywood’s Dan Bradley was soon on board to helm the action that was needed for on-screen Ajay Mehra.
"I don't do the gimmicky action, with cars exploding and people flying," confessed Deol. "My action is raw, it is real. That is what I need to show. That is what my creative mind understands."
Will 'Ghayal' strike gold?
Ask Deol if he’s nervous about the upcoming release and he honestly admitted this was the case.
He added: "Some people give their 40 per cent; some people give their 60 per cent. I have given it my all to make this film work.
"I genuinely don’t know whether this film will strike box office gold or not; but I know I have given it my best."
The actor, though, is confident about the movie's premise, which he said would connect with today's youth.
"We had to bring Ajay Mehra to today's age, to connect with the younger audience and create a new fan following for him," said Deol. "So we decided to take the story forward 26 years, with Ajay now a journalist and fighting the good fight through a noble profession."
However, even though Deol is reprising his iconic character, missing are two essential characters of Meenakshi Sheshadri and arch villain Amrish Puri, who played Balwant Rai.
"I missed both while making this film. Amrishji more so because we were very close personally; but I hope this movie does justice to both," he said, adding: "In this film though, we don't have a specific villain as such.
"Today, a villain isn't just black and white. Everyone has a grey; I think that will really connect with audiences."
The premise of the film follows four students who accidentally capture a crime on their camera and turn to Mehra for help.