Q&A: Bollywood Star Abhay Deol
The Bollywood blockbuster of the summer, Zindagi Na MilegiDobara (You Only Live Once) is a cinematic love letter to Spain, followingthree buddies on an epic bachelor trip that takes them from Barcelona toSeville 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 AbhayDeol, filming was an epic adventure all its own—they spent three months on theroad 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 inthe film in chronological order, but this is Bollywood after all, so defying logic goeswith the territory—especially if it creates scenarios "ripe" for spectacularsong-and-dance productions.
Deol, who plays Kabir, the groom-to-be whose impending nuptials inspire thisvacation of a lifetime, was in New York this week to promote Mela, a newentertainment platform that bills itself “the Hulu of South Asian content.”Between his hectic appearances at New York’s India Day parade and a specialscreening of ZNMD, I got the chance to spend someone-on-one time with him discussing his travel adventures, in both real lifeand reel life (and trying not to swoon over his dimples).
Q: You were in the ultimate road-trip movie. What was it likeshooting Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara in Spain?
A: We had 107 locations in three months, and traveling that much ishectic! But it was nice in that we really got to explore Spain, and visitplaces that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The country was amazing, I’m a fanof 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 tripsthrough Spain with groups of friends, and then I heard the film was inspired bydirector 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-seadiving, skydiving, and running with the bulls?
A: Yes, yes, and yes. Deep-sea diving is something I’ve wantedto do for a long time, and we all spent a week getting trained. That part wasactually shot in Egypt. With skydiving, as soon as you jump, you think, I wannago 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.Theones 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 travelstyle?
A: I like to travel light, that helps a lot. I think it’simportant to keep your groups small, and don’t make too many plans, just letthings happen. I used to be more of a backpacker, but I like my boutique hotelsnow.
Q: After your earlier movie Dev D was a hit, you decided you wanted a break from Bollywood andmove to New York for a year and take a course in welding, of all things. Whatdo you like about the city?
A: New York is one of my favorite cities—nothing beats NewYork! The music, the energy, the food, it’s amazing. The hotels are great, likethe 60 Thompson and the Soho Grand. I always meet interesting people here. AndI 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, withall the colonial structures. Go to Linking Road, in Bandra, for shopping, andlounge bars like Blue Frog for live acts. And the food is great, I was just atHakkasan the other day, and Olive and Table are popular. But I mostly like tostay at home—the traffic is really crazy!
Sarah Khan is a copy editor at Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter @BySarahKhan.