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October 31, 2001

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Sunny Deol

Subhash K Jha

T he thumping response to Indian has made Sunny Deol one happy man.

For the first time, the otherwise reclusive actor undertook a countrywide tour to promote the film and it seems to have paid off. The film's volume of business has far exceeded last week's other major release, Asoka, starring Shah Rukh Khan.

Sunny says: "It was a very satisfying experience. Fans all over the country, from Calcutta, Delhi and Indore reacted with equal enthusiasm. I was very touched."

Incidentally, Indian is a Sunny Deol production. Hardly surprising then, that his office is buzzing with activity.Sunny Deol and Shilpa Shetty in Indian

"By God's grace, Indian is doing well. Though it's a little early to say how well it's finally going to do, my distributor in Bihar tells me it's as big as Gadar there.

"We suffered heavy financial losses with our last home production Dillagi. And was in a financial soup lately; suddenly, there's a downpour of success..."

He laughs as he contemplates the quirks of fate. Fads and trends in filmdom have changed over the years but Sunny's success has remained steadfast.

Due to a couple of flops in the recent past -- Farz and Champion -- media soothsayers began to write him off. But he bounced back with the super-hit Gadar - Ek Prem Katha in June.

Gadar - Ek Prem Katha will probably become one of the most successful Hindi films in the history of Hindi cinema.

Talking about his upcoming projects, Sunny says: "Maa Tujhe Salaam will release this November. Like Indian, a new director is at the helm. With Maa Tujhe Salaam, action director Tinnu Verma turns filmmaker.

The film touches on the patriotic issue, yet again -- this time, the Kargil war.

"Believe me, I didn't plan all these patriotic releases together. They were signed at different times. What can I do if they've been released together? I have no intentions of selling an image to the public. But I suppose my values in real life are bound to show up on screen."

Whether he likes it or not, Sunny will always be the one-man anti-corruption patriotic force to the public. In Indian every time he delivers a pithy and punch-packed sermon on corruption and terrorism, audiences roar in approval.

Sunny will also produce a cinematic adapatation on the life of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. The film, directed by Deols family friend Guddu Dhanoa, will be the first project to be shot in their studio.

Dhanoa has directed Sunny in his earlier hits like Ziddi and Salaakhen and Sunny's brother Bobby in the hit Bichhoo.

Younger brother Bobby will be playing the title role of Bhagat Singh, while Sunny will be cast as another nationalist, probably Chandrashekhar Azad. The film is being scripted and will go on the floors in January 2002.

Curiously, another filmmaker Raj Kumar Santoshi, once closely associated with Sunny Deol, has announced his own film on the life of Bhagat Singh.

"Yes, I keep hearing these things. Let's see," says Sunny.

Santoshi has lately alleged that Sunny owes him Rs 5 million as the signing amount paid to the actor for his film Lajja Sunny and Bobby in Dillagi

Sunny dismisses such talk as ridiculous. "That's Santoshi for you. By making an unsavoury issue out of a personal matter he has shown his true colours. The matter, in my opinion, has already been sorted out between us."

"I don't have to comment on his behaviour. It speaks for itself. It's time the media realised what Santoshi is all about. Agreed, he made some fine films with me in the past. But they were a team effort. I was involved in them."

Commenting on his highly talked-about fee Sunny laughs, "Some say it's 30 million. Others say 5 million. Some even say it's 150 million. All I will say is that I get only what I deserve. No one pays you an extra buck in this industry."

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