Karan Deol: 'I am dreading my grandfather's reaction'
Aware of the pressures of being a star kid, Karan Deol on waiting for Dharmendra's stamp of approval for debut film.
"I'm finally part of the fraternity," says Karan Deol—the third generation of the Deol family—as he sits down for a conversation with mid-day. Under the supervision of his father, Sunny Deol, Karan says it was like film school for him. He talks about hailing from a lineage of actors, soaring expectations and learning acting from scratch.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
There's barely a week left for your debut film. Has the nervousness settled in?
It's a mixture of both [nervousness and excitement]. I got teary-eyed when I saw the trailer of my film. I am finally a part of the fraternity and that's an emotional moment. The mounting expectations are scary. The fall is obviously going to hurt more, but I don't want to concentrate on that. [This film] is a responsibility and we've worked hard on it. I hope people give me a fare chance, see me as an individual and not compare me to anyone. I haven't tried to
Was it a conscious decision not to use your nick name, Rocky, as your screen name?
Dad wanted Rocky to be my onscreen name, but I insisted on being recognised by my first name. Also, I associate Rocky with my family, so it would be weird if random people started addressing me as Rocky.
Most star kids follow in their parents' footsteps. Did you always aspire to be an actor?
At 18, I was clear that I want to be an actor. While dad is understanding and loving, I feared him, not only because he is strict, but out of respect. I confided in my mother, who acted as a mediator between dad and me. I remember telling him about my aspirations and he said, "Are you sure? It is emotionally and mentally challenging. During your good moments people will be with you and abandon you as quickly when in trouble. But come what may, you can't succumb to the pressure."
Are you professionally trained as an actor?
I attended several workshops and learnt acting under director Rahul Rawail's guidance. I had to let go of my inhibitions. I did a six-month filmmaking course in London. I also assisted [Sangeeth Sivan, director] on Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, which was an enriching experience. The scripting of Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas started after dad was done with Ghayal Returns. To prep for my character who hails from the hills, I moved base to Himachal Pradesh for four months. I trained in valley crossing, rappelling and other mountaineering techniques. I camped in the wilderness, interacted with locals and grasped the area. It wasn't easy to get under the skin of my character.
Was it easy for you to keep the father-son relationship aside while filming?
For 27 years I have only been his son, so it was difficult to switch that off. Once dad donned the hat of the director, he became a hard taskmaster. It took me a while to adjust to it, but in the hindsight it helped me grow as an actor. There were days when I would break down because he wouldn't let go until he was satisfied with the shot. Dad doesn't believe in complimenting you either. The take is 'okay' or 'decent', it was never 'good'. He constantly pushed me to do better.
Growing up, was watching Sunny's films a part of your routine?
Yes, it was. We wouldn't see him often, so watching him on the screen was a way to emotionally connect with him. On rare occasions, Mom and I would travel to his shoots. When his character was punched by villains, I'd start crying. At the same time, seeing him do action was scary. I
feared that dad was an angry person [laughs].
What was it like among peers who knew your lineage?
No one told me to recite my father's dialogues. In fact, as they were aware that I was a quiet kid, they would often intimidate me by pushing me around to check if I would ever behave like his onscreen characters. But I didn't let it affect me.
Your grandfather and father have seen the highs and lows of the film industry, has it prepared you the feedback you may receive?
It prepared me to maintain a balanced view. There was a phase in my father's career where he had a back injury, which affected the workflow. In this industry, out of sight is out of mind. I have seen him at his most vulnerable state, but he is a fighter and emerged out from it. Even in the toughest times, he had a smile on his face.
Are you aware that being a star kid is like a double-edged sword?
Yes, there are people who are eager to pull me down and nitpick on my performance. I am aware that this opportunity has come my way because of my father. However, I have also put in a lot of hard work and dedication. Even with all the criticism, if my work speaks out, I don't think anything else matters. I am also aware that I have the privilege that despite the outcome of this film, I might get a few more of chances, but if I am not good nobody will want to put their money on me. More than anyone, I am dreading my grandfather's reaction. Until I get his stamp of approval, nothing else matters.
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