His portrayal of Rajjo in Omkara made him a known face in the industry. In a film studded with the likes of Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and the likes, Deepak Dobriyal successfully left his own impact. Though not his first film, Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara served as a platform for him to show his talent, which also won him a much unexpected but highly deserving Filmfare trophy.
Deepak's next film 1971 is ready for release in which he plays a soldier held back in Pakistan. And while the world media is going gaga over Manoj Bajpai and Ravi Kishan in the film, here Deepak Dobriyal who talks about 1971, theatre and his career in Bollywood.
How does it feel winning the critics award at Filmfare?
I was never expecting to win an award. Even when I got the invitation for Filmfare, I thought they are just inviting me to come over and watch the show. In fact, I bought a new suit because the invitation said 'Strictly Formals'. I had actually gone there just to watch the ceremony but when they announced my name, I was shocked. When my name was announced, I didn't know how to walk towards the stage, how talk, yet I somehow managed to do it. I was nervous though. I had forgotten the speech which I was supposed to say; just the few people who really helped me in my career were the ones I mentioned.
Omkara took you to a different level altogether. Your portrayal of Rajjo has made you like an overnight star.
I think for the role of Rajjo, Vishal had me in mind. But still, he asked me to audition for the role. Vishal Bhardwaj had long time back promised me that he will give me a role in his film but I didn't take that seriously because many people had promised me like that. But when he actually offered me Rajjo's role, I got nervous. I had never done a film with so many big stars before. So, I practiced and set up the tuning with all the actors. But my major portion in the film was with Saif bhai. But I made friends with him and we got along well each other. Since I am from North India, I know the accent and dialect of people in Haryana, Delhi and places, very well. So, I used to talk in the same language with Saif bhai, tell him how people are out there.
The shoot went of very smoothly. In fact, the very first scene that we shot was the bridge scene in Omkara. Since that scene is in the middle of the film, the character has to travel that much in terms of story but the shoot happens according to the availability of actors. However, when people saw the film, they never felt that this particular scene was different. This shows that the actors got very well in their characters since day one.
Tell us about your upcoming film, 1971
1971 is a film about Prisoners of War. During the 1971 war of India-Pakistan for Bangladesh, around 54 soldiers went missing. In 1989, a letter came in from Multan jail written by Flight Lt. Tamble in which he said that they are all alive and being held back in Pakistan. Then people asked Indian govt to look into this issue. But, probably the PoW's were shifted to new locations. So, there are many such facts that you will come across in this film. This will make it clear that the Indian soldiers were alive.
In this film, we have added a fictional story that 6 people escape from the jail. Their target is to reach the border anyhow. But entire Pakistani army is tracing them down. So, how these 6 soldiers help each other and make sacrifices to reach their target is what the film shows.
How challenging was it to shoot this film?
Everyone in this film is a good actor, so in that manner, there was no problem. But the weather there was against shooting. We shot in extreme conditions out there. The snowfall and storms kept disturbing the shoot. The shoot was physically tiring as the locations were at 2 hrs drive from the hotel and the temperature used to fall till -10 to -12 degrees celsius. To avoid frost bite, we used to apply brandy to our body; we kept changing shoes throughout the day. We weren't even allowed to light fire out there. The army had certain rules which we had to follow. So, the chill was that bad. The felt as if we were living in a real life army camp. We then realized how difficult life must've been the real soldiers.
What role do you play in the film?
I play the character of Flight Lt. Gurtu, which is a Kashmiri character. He also has a partner named Ram. They bought fell of the flight together and got caught. He is the liveliest character of the lot. He never gives up even in the toughest of the times. In such tough situations, it is obvious for people to be tensed, but Gurtu and Ram have decided not to panic at all. They have their own logic with which they are living. These two characters definitely provide comic relief in the film. But then later, they come under the guidance of Manoj Bajpai and gear up for their mission.
Amrit Sagar makes his directorial director with this film. How talented is the young boy is?
Amrit is the most energetic director I have come across. His passion for work and energy level is so high that everyone gives in. One can't argue with that man as he is so convincing. The best quality of him is that, irrespective of having fun on the sets, he used to be perfect in his work. He used to do his homework well and every morning when came on sets, he knew exactly what he wanted. Even though the weather was extreme, he co-coordinated the shoot very well. He was very well aware of how the film is shaping up, how the characters are growing and to what tempo they have reached.
I feel this film was possible only because of Amrit. It's because of his zeal that the film got completed and so beautifully made.
So, will we be seeing a very different Deepak in 1971?
Yes. In fact, 1971 is actually my first film. This film was shot before Omkara, but Omkara came out first. I was waiting very desperately for the release of 1971, since this was my first film.
We heard that you have danced a lot in one of the songs in the film?
Oh yes. I've done a Bhangra dance on a song sung by Kailash Kher. The interesting part of this song is that there was no choreography set for this song. It is very real dance. We just started dancing in front of camera. Another fascinating part if that, in this song, no musical instrument has been used. Things like tin boxes, sticks, spoons etc. were used to make music and the way Kailash has sung this song is mind blowing. Everyone had fun performing on this song.
How did your acting career start?
I have two theatre groups in Delhi. One is Ashmita, which is directed by Arvind Gaur. I have about 50-60 plays with them with over 1000 shows for 6 years. After that, I learnt acting from Pandit N.K Sharma for about a year. And he taught me a new method of acting due to which, even if I was unable to do theatre, how can you still polish your acting skills. So, in all for 7 years, I did theatre in Delhi before coming to Mumbai.
Did you do any course from an institute for acting?
No I didn't. Though many people asked me to join NSD, I said no. NSD has produced many great actors but my loyalties lie towards my acting group, I have an emotional attachment to the group. In group, you have to organize for the property, the costume, get sponsors, almost everything by yourself. You can give each other on their scenes, lighting etc. We used to do street plays in Delhi for social issues like women empowerment, rights of labourers etc.
So, though I haven't read too much of literature, I ended up learning a lot from the numerous scripts that I read over the years.
How did Bollywood happen?
I had joined theatre in Delhi and I didn't really want to come to Mumbai. I had heard that life in Mumbai was very difficult; one has to struggle a lot, fix up meetings, living expenditure etc. But my friends were very enthusiastic about coming to this city, so I came along with them.
I told all my friends and relatives in Delhi about my plan and they all wished me luck. But within a month in Mumbai, I got the taste of reality. I wanted to go back home again but I couldn't because everyone back home were expecting a lot from me. After a year, I went back, but then retuned back in Mumbai.
So then, how did your first film, 1971 happen?
I got 1971 because of Piyush Mishra, the writer of the film. Piyush played a very important role in the casting of actors for this film. In fact, both Amrit Sagar and Piyush Mishra auditioned me for this role. So, after Manoj Bajpai, I was the second actor to be selected for this film. Before going ahead with the shoot, the director said that the casting is done in such a manner that all the actors have to just be themselves; they didn't have to act and be someone else.
How did you land up with a role in Maqbool?
One of my roommates wanted to work with Vishal Bhardwaj. Now I had a friend who worked with Bhardwaj, so I took my roommate to him. But in stead of my roommate, I ended up with a role in Maqbool. I wanted to meet and learn from the actors like Naseerji and Pankay Kapoorji, hence I said yes. I even demanded for a copy of the script, even though I had no lines in the film.
I was like a student on the sets of Maqbool. I was observing the methods these big actors follow. Pankaj Kapoor while shooting remains in the character he is playing even when he is of camera. He will talk with people, crack jokes but stay in his character. Naseeruddin Shah however, has a different style and he remains himself till he starts acting.
What is your role in the film Vishal Bhardwaj's The Blue Umbrella.
The Blue Umbrella is a children's film and Vishal Bhardwaj asked me to do a small role in the film. I had seen Makdee earlier, which I liked, so I went ahead to do this film. I have just one scene in the beginning of the film.
Which new films have you signed?
I haven't signed any new films yet. After Omkara, I got many similar offers but I don't want to repeat myself.
What should the audiences look forward to in 1971?
I would request the audiences to watch 1971 respect them and appreciate their efforts. We are able to live normal lives because of them. I feel that the audiences should learn and know something about those 54 missing soldiers. If we help refresh their memories, then that will be an achievement for us.
You expectations from 1971?
The film has turned out extremely well. The content is very nice and is very sensible. Though many films have been made on the Indian Army, this film will focus on a different issue in the life of the soldiers.