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Bollywood actors Sunny Deal and Ameesha Patel at a recent event in Dubai. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Bollywood actors Sunny Deol and Ameesha Patel, who were in Dubai recently to celebrate the blockbuster success of ‘Gadar 2’, have an interesting theory about why the sequel to their 2001 romance has set the box office on fire.

‘Gadar 2’ is touted as one of Hindi cinema’s highest-grossing films in India, having collected over Rs4.4 billion. Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Pathaan’ and epic saga ‘Baahubali 2: The Conclusion’ have enjoyed such stupendous smash box office runs.

“Sunny and I are very similar people. Our profession is filmmaking, but we’re very apolitical, and we don’t belong to camps. We don’t snitch, and we don’t gossip,” said Patel in a joint interview with Deol in Dubai.

The actress, who returns as the angelic Sakeena in ‘Gadar 2’, was alluding to how Bollywood is clannish, and roles are often given to those who know the right people and can network indiscriminately.

“We don’t run people down. Sunny is senior to me, and I am a baby compared to his legacy of work, but that has stood him in good stead these 40 years and counting. He’s a true leading man,” said Patel.

‘Gadar 2’, made on a similar template to its 2001 blockbuster, with cross-cultural romance at its centre, saw Deol play the larger-than-life turban-wearing truck driver Tara Singh fighting for the love of his life Sakeena during the India-Pakistan partition in the 1940s.

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Sunny Deol with Utkarsh Sharma at an event to promote their movie in Mumbai. Image Credit: ANI

The sequel, directed by Anil Sharma and written by Shaktimaan Talwar, set in the 1970s, shows Singh returning to Pakistan for his son, played by actor Utkarsh Sharma.

“This movie’s success shows the incredible love that people have in their hearts for us … I can hear the sound of clink, clink, clink of money, and it’s very beautiful,” said Deol, who breaks into an impromptu song.

While the critics were quick to dismiss the film as overly dramatic/loud, its box office fate tells a different saga. So did they expect it to be such a money-spinner?

“I knew it could go either way. There’s no in-between or middle path for this film … The first ‘Gadar’ had already set its tone, and people took it to great heights. But I wasn’t sure about how ‘Gadar 2’ would do. Nothing much has changed in the film … The time that it’s set in has changed from 1945 to 1971 but its soul remains the same,” said Deol.

However, Patel — who returns as Sakeena — was on a surer footing. She believes that the sequel had lots going for it.

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Bollywood actors Sunny Deal and Ameesha Patel at a recent event in Dubai. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“I feel privileged. It doesn’t happen in the history of cinema that cult films that go down in archives as historic get a sequel. And the beauty of ‘Gadar 2’ is that they didn’t make a sequel for the heck of it by adding an item song, changing actors, or doing any of those calculated moves … Many have told me that ‘Gadar’ is not just a film, it’s an emotion,” said Patel. For both actors, ‘Gadar’ in 2001 was their career’s biggest hit, although they have individually enjoyed other acclaimed hits.

“But this is the biggest validation ever and proves everybody lives with Tara and Sakeena in their hearts. The mania that this film has ignited and the hysteria surrounding Gadar 2 show that people are interested in seeing what happens to Tara Singh and Sakeena’s family and their next chapter. But this feeling is all just sinking in,” said Patel.

In the new streaming era where racy and gritty content rule our hearts, ‘Gadar 2’ stuck to the basics of the drama that unfolds within an unassuming family unit. But Deol is thoroughly confused by such critiquing of the way we consume entertainment these days. He is also not a fan of checking out reviews. In case you are wondering, ‘Gadar 2’ reviews were mixed, with the majority slating the film.

“Why do we talk so much about what’s relevant and what’s modern cinema? All those divisions are being created by people. Art is something that’s beautiful and has to just connect with people. Let’s not analyse it so deeply. What do people actually want, is the only question,” said Deol. He adds that nobody has the right to decide what art should sound and feel like. His credo: Don’t create divisions within cinema.

“People who put out these labels and divisions live in their bubble. They sit and talk without really understanding anything. It’s like insisting that everybody out there likes to eat one kind of food alone. Cinema isn’t predictable … That’s such [expletive],” said Deol.

The son of the legendary actor Dharmendra believes that filmmaking is a journey.

“I think of it as a mountain that we are all climbing, and we must carry on climbing without looking back. Just like how life is a process where we keep moving ahead, the beauty of art lies in moving ahead too … All I want is people to go enjoy good cinema. It’s not meant to be criticised but enjoyed.”

While you may consider his views utopian, he is aware that ‘Gadar 2’ didn’t get the rosiest of reviews.

“People talk, and I have not ever been bothered about reviews in my life. If you are talented, you exist,” said Deol. He remembers going undercover to the cinemas in India to gauge the audience feedback.

“I have seen many viewers coming in a tractor and jumping off it to watch my movie. The joy on their faces and the way this film has brought people together is exhilarating. I saw the magic of cinema unfold with ‘Gadar 2’; I get goosebumps while thinking about it,” said Deol.

Our entire family is going through a great phase. Seeing my father in his new film [‘Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani’] and what he did proves he can carry off anything. I think my son got married and the woman he married ... is a lucky charm after she entered our house

- Bollywood actor Sunny Deol