Q&A: Bollywood Star Abhay Deol
The Bollywood blockbuster of the summer, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You Only Live Once) is a cinematic love letter to Spain, following three buddies on an epic bachelor trip that takes them from Barcelona to Seville and beyond. But lest you jump to the inevitable comparisons, the Indian Hangover it is not—ZNMD (as it's now called) has a lot less raunch, a lot more soul, and plenty of beautifully shot musical sequences.
For megastars Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, and Abhay Deol, filming was an epic adventure all its own—they spent three months on the road and even re-created Buñol’s famed Tomatina festival (with 16 tons of tomatoes!) and the running of the bulls, in Pamplona. Granted, these events don’t appear in the film in chronological order, but this is Bollywood after all, so defying logic goes with the territory—especially if it creates scenarios "ripe" for spectacular song-and-dance productions.
Deol, who plays Kabir, the groom-to-be whose impending nuptials inspire this vacation of a lifetime, was in New York this week to promote Mela, a new entertainment platform that bills itself “the Hulu of South Asian content.” Between his hectic appearances at New York’s India Day parade and a special screening of ZNMD, I got the chance to spend some one-on-one time with him discussing his travel adventures, in both real life and reel life (and trying not to swoon over his dimples).
Q: You were in the ultimate road-trip movie. What was it like
shooting Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara in Spain?
A: We had 107 locations in three months, and traveling that much is hectic! But it was nice in that we really got to explore Spain, and visit places that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The country was amazing, I’m a fan of everything Spanish: the color, the music, the people. We ate a lot of food, had a lot of fun. I really liked Ronda, in the south of Spain.
Q: I kept thinking that the movie reminded me of my own trips through Spain with groups of friends, and then I heard the film was inspired by director Zoya Akhtar’s travels through Spain with her girlfriends...
A: Yes, she and her friends had gone and done the bull run, that’s where the idea came from.
Q: Did you really do everything shown in the movie—deep-sea diving, skydiving, and running with the bulls?
A: Yes, yes, and yes. Deep-sea diving is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and we all spent a week getting trained. That part was actually shot in Egypt. With skydiving, as soon as you jump, you think, I wanna go back up! Your body doesn’t understand, it thinks you’re committing suicide. When I came down the first time, I felt pukey. And we did run with actual bulls. The first bunch we got we called cows, because they wouldn’t run, they’d trot. The ones we had in the next round were more aggressive. Zoya wanted better bulls, but then she also didn’t want her actors to die.
Q: You’re on the road a lot these days. What’s your own travel style?
A: I like to travel light, that helps a lot. I think it’s important to keep your groups small, and don’t make too many plans, just let things happen. I used to be more of a backpacker, but I like my boutique hotels now.
Q: After your earlier movie Dev D was a hit, you decided you wanted a break from Bollywood and move to New York for a year and take a course in welding, of all things. What do you like about the city?
A: New York is one of my favorite cities—nothing beats New York! The music, the energy, the food, it’s amazing. The hotels are great, like the 60 Thompson and the Soho Grand. I always meet interesting people here. And I love the music scene, we don’t really have much of that in Bombay.
Q: What are your recommendations for people visiting Mumbai?
A: South Bombay is the better-looking part of the city, with all the colonial structures. Go to Linking Road, in Bandra, for shopping, and lounge bars like Blue Frog for live acts. And the food is great, I was just at Hakkasan the other day, and Olive and Table are popular. But I mostly like to stay at home—the traffic is really crazy!
Sarah Khan is a copy editor at Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter @BySarahKhan.