Ajay Singh Deol (born 19 October 1956), better known as Sunny Deol, is an Indian actor, film director, producer, politician and incumbent Member of Parliament of Lok Sabha, the lower house of Indian Parliament from Gurdaspur constituency of Punjab.[1] As an actor, he has worked in more than 90 Hindi films in a career spanning over four decades and is particularly known for his angry action hero persona.[2][3] Deol has won two National Film Awards[4][5] and two Filmfare Awards.[6]

Sunny Deol
Deol in 2019
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
Assumed office
18 June 2019
Preceded bySunil Kumar Jakhar
ConstituencyGurdaspur, Punjab
Personal details
Residence(s)Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Ajay Singh Deol

(1956-10-19) 19 October 1956 (age 67)
Years active1983–present
WorksFull list
Political partyBharatiya Janata Party
Lynda Deol (a.k.a. Pooja Deol)
(m. 1984)
ParentDharmendra (father)
RelativesSee Deol family
AwardsFull list

The elder son of actor Dharmendra, Deol made his acting debut opposite newcomer Amrita Singh in the romantic drama Betaab (1983), a major commercial success.[7] He had further box-office hits in action films such as Arjun (1985), Paap Ki Duniya (1988) and Tridev (1989), and gained wider recognition for his portrayal of a boxer accused of murder in Rajkumar Santoshi's Ghayal (1990), winning the Filmfare Award for Best Actor[6] and the National Film Award – Special Jury Award (Feature Film).[8] His portrayal of a volatile lawyer in Santoshi's crime drama Damini (1993) won him the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor[9] and the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor.[6] He also starred in Darr (1993), Jeet (1996), Ghatak (1996), and Ziddi (1997).

Deol had his biggest commercial successes in the period action films Border (1997) and Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001). The latter was the highest-grossing Hindi film to that point.[10][11][12] He subsequently starred with his father and younger brother, Bobby Deol, in the drama Apne (2007) and the comedy Yamla Pagla Deewana (2011).[13][14] After more than a decade of decline, he made a career comeback by reprising his role in Gadar 2 (2023), which became the highest-grossing film of his career and the sixth highest-grossing Hindi film of all-time.[15][16]

Early life edit

Sunny Deol was born as Ajay Singh Deol[17] on 19 October 1956,[18][19] in the village of Sahnewal in East Punjab, India[20] in a Punjabi Jat family,[21][22][23] to Bollywood actor Dharmendra[24] and Prakash Kaur.[25]

He has a younger brother Bobby Deol and two sisters Vijayta and Ajeeta who are settled in California, USA. Hema Malini is his step-mother.[26] Actress Esha Deol and Ahana Deol are his half-sisters.[27] His cousin Abhay Deol is also an actor.

Acting career edit

1983-1989: Debut and rise to prominence edit

Deol made his debut with the 1983 romantic film Betaab opposite Amrita Singh which earned him his first nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actor. The film emerged as a commercial success and went on to be one of the biggest hits of the year, emerging as the third highest-grossing Indian film of 1983. The following year, Deol starred in Sunny, Manzil Manzil, and Sohni Mahiwal, with only the latter becoming successful at the box office.

Deol then appeared in Rahul Rawail's Arjun (1985), in which he played the titular role of an unemployed radical youngster, who alongside his group of friends, fights against the system that thrives on corruption and exploitation of the weak. The film opened to much critical praise and went on to become a major hit and established Sunny Deol's status as an action hero. Arjun is considered one of Deol's best works to date.

In 1986, he appeared alongside his father in Sultanat. In the final years of the decade he appeared in several hits including Paap Ki Duniya (1988), Vardi (1989), Tridev (1989) and ChaalBaaz (1989). His role as a police officer in Tridev was highlighted and the film along with ChaalBaaz, was among the top 5 highest earning films of the year.[28]

1990-2003: Established actor edit

Deol appeared in the lead role of a boxer in Ghayal (1990), directed by debutant Rajkumar Santoshi, which became the year's second highest-grossing film worldwide and the highest-grossing film domestically. The film grossed ₹20 crore and was declared a blockbuster by Box Office India.[29] The film won him the Filmfare Award for Best Actor and the National Film Award – Special Jury Award (Feature Film).[30] The success of the film established Deol as a bonafide box office draw and the film recorded a large repeat audience.[31]

Due to the overwhelming success of Ghayal, Deol enjoyed a very successful period throughout the 90s. From 1991 to 2001, he delivered back-to-back successes. Starting with Yodha in 1991 in which he co-starred alongside Sanjay Dutt. It received mostly average reviews and earned ₹12.95 crore against a budget of ₹2.85 crore.[32] The same year, Narsimha was another success and emerged as the 8th highest grossing Indian film of 1991.

In 1992, he appeared in his only release Vishwatma. The film received critical acclaim upon release from contemporary as well as modern critics, with praise drawn towards its screenplay and action sequences.[33] It earned over ₹9.5 crore in its total theatrical run worldwide and was the sixth highest-grossing Indian film of 1992.[34] The soundtrack[35] and the song "Saat Samundar" were popular.[36] It proved to be a major launchpad for Chunky Pandey as well as for debutanté Divya Bharti, who went on to achieve the limelight in Bollywood.[37]

In 1993, Deol reunited with Rajkumar Santoshi to play an alcoholic lawyer in the highly successful crime drama Damini and was awarded the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor and the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.[38][39] The pathbreaking film was praised for breaking social taboos and handling the subject of rape with sensitivity; a rarity in Bollywood at the time.[40] It further strengthened Deol's He-Man image. His dialogues in the film "Tarikh Pe Tarikh" (date after date) and "Dhai Kilo Ka Haath" (Two-and-a-half kilogram hand) became iconic and a pop-culture reference.[41] The film was a milestone in the careers of Deol as well as Amrish Puri who went onto star in various films together in the future.[42] Besides being critically acclaimed, the film also became the sixth highest grossing film of the year and was declared a "hit" at Box Office India.[43] That same year, Deol's character of an lieutenant army officer in Yash Chopra's musical psychological thriller Darr. It was declared a blockbuster and was the third-highest grossing film of the year in India, and the highest-grossing Indian film of the year in the overseas markets. It received widespread critical acclaim and audiences upon release. It was also noted for being Shah Rukh Khan's breakthrough film.

In 1994's Insaniyat, he appeared alongside Amitabh Bachchan which turned out to be the 10th highest grossing film of the year.[44] In 1995, Angrakshak was an above-average grosser at the box office.

At the time, 1996 marked Deol's most successful year in terms of commercial success. The audiences saw four releases that year including Himmat, Jeet, Ghatak, and Ajay. Starring Alongside Salman Khan and Karisma Kapoor, Jeet earned a worldwide collection of 29 crore. It was declared a super-hit and became the 4th highest grossing Bollywood film of 1996. The soundtrack of Jeet was a chartbuster with the inclusion of the songs "Saanson Ka Chalna" and "Yaara O Yaara". Ghatak, released the same year, received critical and commercial acclaim, and was declared a Blockbuster.[45] It marked Santoshi's third collaboration with Deol, Seshadri, and Puri after Ghayal (1990) and Damini (1993). The film earned Deol his third nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actor. Deol's dialogues in Ghatak such as "Ye Mazdoor Ka Haath Hai Kaatiya" and "Utha Utha Ke Patkunga" became extremely popular among the audiences and influenced the pop culture of the time period.

Deol kicked off 1997 with another blockbuster Ziddi. Ziddi, with a net collection of Rs 292.5 million, was one of the highest grossing films of 1997. The film flourished particularly in North India. The songs were well-received, with the dandy number "Mera Dil Le Gayi Oye" becoming extremely popular. He followed it up with the massive hit Border, an epic war film based on the real life events that happened during the Battle of Longewala in 1971, in which Deol played the leading role of decorated Indian Army officer Brigadier Kuldip Singh Chandpuri. The film featured a huge ensemble cast of Deol, Jackie Shroff, Sunil Shetty, Akshaye Khanna, Tabu, Raakhee, Pooja Bhatt, including others. It opened to strong box office results and was declared a blockbuster by Box Office India. It also became the second highest-grossing Hindi film of 1997 in India, and the second highest-grossing film of the year worldwide. Border grossed a worldwide total of ₹65.57 crore and it was the fourth biggest blockbuster film of the 90s decade.[46] The film earned Deol his fourth nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actor.[47]

His 1999 film Arjun Pandit marked his first collaboration with director Rahul Rawail after Yodha. Due to the critical and commercial success of their previous collaborations Arjun (1985) and Yodha (1991), the film was among one of the most awaited films of the year. Although it was not well reviewed upon release, the film became a hit. UP gangster Vikas Dubey was reported to be an ardent fan of this movie. He was rumoured to have watched it over 100 times. Inspired by his love for this movie, he had earned the monicker Pandit.[48] The film is also remembered for its song Kudiyan Shehar Diyan, sung by Daler Mehndi and performed by Juhi Chawla.[49] In 1999 he made his directorial debut with Dillagi starring himself, his brother and Urmila Matondkar, but the film failed to gain success.[50]

Deol's only release of the year 2000 was Champion which was a box office disappointment.[51]

His first blockbuster hit in the millennium was 2001 film Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, directed by Anil Sharma, in which Deol played the role of a patriotic Indian truck driver, Tara Singh who falls in love with a Muslim girl, Sakeena, in the backdrop of 1947 partition violence, and makes a dramatic trip to Pakistan to get back his beloved.[52] Gadar became the highest-grossing Hindi film up until then in mainstream cinema earning over 1.3 billion (US$16 million) worldwide. It ranks among the top 3 Indian films in all-time highest footfalls since 1990s.[53] The soundtrack of Gadar was immensely popular, especially the songs "Udja Kale Kawan" and "Main Nikla Gaddi Leke" which topped the charts for months. The soundtrack sold approximately 2.5 million copies.[54] The infamous "Handpump scene" became a major cultural symbol and influenced the contemporary meme culture in India in the following years. The film earned Deol his fifth nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actor.[55] In the same year, Deol also worked in another successful action thriller film Indian (2001). It was the fourth highest-grossing Hindi film of the year in India with collection of ₹42.60 crore.[56][57][58]

In 2002, Deol starred in the war film Maa Tujhhe Salaam which opened strongly but only emerged as a "below average grosser" due to poor reviews.[59] He played the role of Indian revolutionary Chandra Shekhar Azad in 23rd March 1931: Shaheed, starring his brother Bobby Deol in the role of Bhagat Singh. The film's release coincided with another film based on Bhagat Singh, directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and titled The Legend of Bhagat Singh. Both films failed at the box office.[60][61]

Then, in 2003, Deol teamed up with director Anil Sharma yet again for The Hero: Love Story of a Spy, which also starred Preity Zinta and the debutant Priyanka Chopra.[62] Released on 11 April, The Hero was billed as Bollywood's most expensive film at that time with an estimated budget of 600 million (US$7.5 million).[63] The film became the third highest-grossing Bollywood film of that year.[64]

2004-2022: Career setbacks edit

Deol attending the release of Dev Anand's autobiography Romancing with Life in 2007.

During this phase of his career, Deol ventured into a range of films that deviated from his usual style and the prevailing trends of the Bollywood industry, unfortunately achieving lackluster success.[65]

In 2004, Deol starred in Lakeer, which featured an ensemble cast including Sunil Shetty, and newcomers Sohail Khan and John Abraham. The film was a flop.[66] In the same year, he starred in the sports comedy film Rok Sako To Rok Lo, another flop.[67]

Jo Bole So Nihaal released in 2005 was Deol's solo release for the year. Despite the buzz, the film didn't fare well at the box office.[68] However, Deol's unique portrayal sparked a noteworthy trend in the industry, inspiring the creation of comedic movies centered around Sikh protagonists exuding a carefree and jovial persona. This trend saw subsequent releases like Singh is Kinng (2008), Son of Sardaar (2012), and Singh is Bliing (2015) in the years that followed.

In early 2006, Deol starred in the techno-thriller Teesri Aankh. It marked the second time he co-starred alongside Ameesha Patel, after the all time blockbuster Gadar. The film is also inspired by the 1994 movie Mute Witness. It was panned by critics and turned out to be a disaster.[69] In September 2006, Deol took on a role in the action-adventure film Naksha, an endeavour by Bollywood to capture the essence of films seen in the Indiana Jones and The Mummy series. Despite being hailed as ahead of its time by certain critics, the movie unfortunately met with box office failure.[70]

Deol kicked off 2007 with another atypical film for the time, Big Brother, a vigilante film. This was supposed to be Priyanka Chopra's first release in 2002 but was delayed by almost 5 years.[71][72] The film was a disaster.[73] Continuing his year, he appeared in the comedic caper Fool N Final, sharing the spotlight with emerging talents Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia. This film was also a box office disappointment. Deol appeared alongside his father Dharmendra and brother Bobby Deol together for the first time in Apne (2007), a sports-drama film.[13] The film garnered significant hype and achieved considerable success.

In 2008, he appeared with his brother again in the ensemble film Heroes. Deol's performance, although brief, was praised. 2009 saw Deol star in the thriller Fox (2009) opposite Arjun Rampal. It marked Deol's first film appearing as an antagonist. The film was inspired from Hollywood film A Murder of Crows (1999).[74] The film failed miserably at the box office.[75][76]

Deol's first release of 2010 was Neeraj Pathak's crime thriller Right Yaaa Wrong which had him playing a police inspector.[77]Yamla Pagla Deewana which also featured him alongside his father and brother was Deol's only release in 2011 and was declared a hit.[78]

For the first time in his career, Deol lent his voice in the Animated film Mahabharata for the role of Bheem.[79] It earned ₹16.9 million.[80] Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, a sequel to his 2011 hit was released in 2013 but the film was a critical and box office failure. In the end of 2013 Deol teamed up with Anil Sharma yet again for Singh Saab The Great which was loved massively and created a big pandemonium in the cinema hall as well as on Facebook. The film turned out be success.[81]

Sunny Deol and father Dharmendra in 2016.

In 2015, he worked in Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru's I Love NY opposite Kangana Ranaut. Due to an unknown reason, the film was delayed from its original release date of 2011 and released several years later. The film failed at the box office.

In 2016, Ghayal Once Again was released which was a sequel to his 1990 film Ghayal. It marked Deol's second film directorial since Dillagi (1999). It was one of the most anticipated movies of the year. The action sequences were praised but the story and pacing were criticised. The film earned well but ultimately failed.

In 2017, he and his brother appeared in Shreyas Talpade's comedy film Poster Boys, which flopped at the box office.[82]

In 2018, Deol appeared in Yamla Pagla Deewana: Phir Se, the third film in the franchise. Also that year, two of his long delayed films Bhaiyyaji Superhitt (where he plays a double role for the first time),[83] and Mohalla Assi were released. All of them were box office failures.

Meanwhile, in 2019, Deol took the mantle of a director again, his third film as a director, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, which marked the debut of his son Karan Deol, with another newcomer Sahher Bambba in lead roles.

In 2022, Deol starred in the crime thriller Chup: Revenge of the Artist. The plot of the film centered around a serial killer who targets dishonest film critics. Released on 23 September 2022, where it received positive reviews from critics.[84][85][86][87][88]

2023-present: Resurgence edit

The sequel of the 2001 film Gadar, Gadar 2, was released on 11 August 2023.[89] The film's story is centered around the era of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, in which Deol as Tara Singh returns to Pakistan to bring back his son. It is directed and produced by Anil Sharma, and the film stars Deol along with Ameesha Patel, and Utkarsh Sharma in lead roles.[90][91] Gadar 2 emerged as the highest-grossing film in Deol career.[16] The film earned ₹691 crore worldwide.[92][93] It emerged as the year's 3rd highest-grosser and one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time.[94]

Deol will next be seen in Soorya. He has also committed to star in Baap.[95]

Political career edit

Deol joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 23 April 2019.[96] He won the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections from Gurdaspur constituency in Punjab against Sunil Jakhar of Indian national Congress with a margin of 82,459 votes.[97][98]

Personal life edit

Sunny Deol is married to Lynda Deol (a.k.a. Pooja Deol). Lynda comes from an Anglo-Indian family. Her father, Krishan Dev Singh Mahal, is an Indian; while her mother, June Sarah Mahal, is a British descending from the British Royal family.[99] The couple has two sons, Karan and Rajveer. Karan was an assistant director on Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 and has rapped in a song sung by Diljit Dosanjh in the film.[100] Karan Deol has made his Bollywood debut in 2019 with the Hindi-language feature film Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas.[101] Karan also starred in the 2021 crime comedy film Velle.[102] In June 2023, Karan married Drisha Acharya in the presence of the Deol family, including Sunny Deol, Dharmendra and Bobby Deol.[103] Rajveer Deol has made his Bollywood debut in 2023 with the Hindi-language feature film Dono.[104]

In August 2023, Bank of Baroda, a public sector bank in India, issued a notice to auction Sunny Deol's property in Mumbai's Juhu locality, known as Sunny Villa, for failing to repay a loan amounting to nearly ₹56 crore. The bank stated that the property was being auctioned under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2022, and the reserve price was set at about ₹51.43 crore.[105] However, shortly after the notice was issued, Bank of Baroda withdrew it for "technical reasons".[106]

In the media edit

Deol has established himself as an action hero, with his roles in Arjun (1985), Ghayal (1990), Ghatak (1996), Border (1997), and Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001).[107][108][109][110] Deol's involvement in the action genre films has earned him the monikers of the Indian Rambo and the Sylvester Stallone of India.[111] Deol's portrayals personified masculinity and radicalism in India.[112][113] At the peak of his career, Deol stood as a beacon for bodybuilding and fitness in India.[114] Deol was one of the prominent actors of Hindi cinema in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. He was featured in Box Office India's list of top actors nine times from 1989 to 2002. Deol topped the list twice, first in 1997 and then in 2001.[115]

In 2016, Geeta Phogat, the Indian wrestler and Olympic gold medalist, expressed her admiration for Deol, citing him as her favourite actor and how she drew inspiration from his "angry man" portrayals.[116][117] Also in 2016, actors Varun Dhawan and John Abraham referred to Deol as "the greatest action hero of Bollywood of the last generation".[118] Deol's dialogues, including "Balwant Rai Ke Kutto", "Dhai Kilo ka Haath", and "Tarikh Pe Tarikh", are considered iconic.[119] In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated India's spirit by tweeting one of Deol's dialogues: "Hindustan Zindabad Tha, Hai, Aur Rahega".[120] In 2022, he was placed in Outlook India's "75 Best Bollywood Actors" list.[121] In 2023, Deol was referenced in the lyrics of Haryanvi singer Raju Punjabi's song "Choudhar Jaat Ki." The specific lines from the song were, "Hawa banai thadi re meri Sunny Deol si body re (I make you look good with my Sunny Deol-like body)".[122][123]

Filmography edit

Awards and nominations edit

References edit

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