At a time where most heroes from the 90s are failing to impress the audience, Akshay Kumar is still riding high on his films. With no godfather in the industry, the actor began his career in 1991 with Raj Sippy’s Saugandh. Soon, he established himself as the Khiladi who aces the game of action. And, when everyone thought he is limited to that, he surprised everyone with his comic timing in Hera Pheri (2000). At present, he is seen as the poster boy for movies that are either patriotic in nature or carry with them a social message. And, while all his contemporaries are extremely careful about choosing their next film and stick to doing a film or two in a year, he manages to do about four films every year. In a free-wheeling chat, the actor chats about action films, doing multiple films and why he enjoys producing Marathi films.
Excerpts from the interview:
With films such as Padman, Toilet, Baby and Airlift, you have created a niche for yourself and people now prefer watching you over the Khans. How do you react to it?
This industry is for everyone. To be in the film industry is a big thing and to sustain here is a very big thing. This is all media created. It is a nonsensical thing.
Since you mentioned that it’s a big thing to sustain in the film industry, how difficult is it for an actor to reinvent himself and stay relevant?
It is not difficult, it is fun. If I am changing my image then it is because I am having fun with it, I am enjoying it. It is not that I have to prove it to anyone. I want to enjoy my work and so, I keep doing different things. Initially, in my career, I was doing only action films and no one would offer me any other kind of work. I remember before going for a shoot, I used to realise that today again I will have to do some kicks and punches, etc. I questioned myself — Am I capable of doing only that? Suddenly, I got Hera Pheri and from then on, I kept doing different things. I am glad I got the opportunity to keep changing my image with every film. So, it is not a tough thing for me as an actor.
You often do about four films in a year. Is it taxing?
I don’t do too many films. I am just doing four films in a year and it’s not very difficult. I don’t know why this question is being asked. I mean, why not? One film barely takes 45 days so it takes six months (to do four films). It is not rocket science and is about time management. Anybody can do it.
Recently, SRK made a statement that it will be difficult to work with you because you wake up too early and it will be tricky to manage?
Even if we have two heroes, they have a lot of solo work and there is not much work that needs to be done together. I did Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004) with Salman, who used to come to sets by 11 am after gymming and I would reach the sets by 7 in the morning. So, David Dhawan, the director, would shoot my solo scenes in the morning and would begin working with Salman after 2 pm. So, even that’s a great way to shoot.
You have been producing content for the regional cinema. How proud are you of the content being made there and as a producer, how do you control the budget?
As a producer, the budget should be intact and it should be made nicely. I have made two Marathi films and both of them have won awards. I have also made a Punjabi film. I feel lucky that I get to do all these things. In fact, I want to make Bhojpuri and Tamil films. I have tried making a Telugu film too but we couldn’t complete the script. So, I think to reach into the core of India, you have to get into the regional cinemas. I particularly enjoy making Marathi cinema because I love their content. Best content comes from Marathi cinema.
You had mentioned somewhere that you will give yourself five more years to do action movies?
I am 51-year-old, I think I can do action films till the age of 56. If I am fit till then then I will continue. Otherwise, there are other things one can do.
The sentiments are raw post the Pulwama attack. How do you think the audience will take Kesari?
I did not plan this. It is a coincidence. This film is real. The sentiment is the same for martyrs. To think, whether it will do well commercially or not will be really shallow for me. I don’t know what the audience will feel. It is an honest film. The romance part is very little, it is brave of Parineeti (Chopra) to do this film in which she has a small role.
Do you spend a lot of time prepping for your characters?
I am not the kind of actor who would spend months on a character. I don’t prep much. My director works on the script and does the research. I listen to that and ask for dialogues and screenplay and if I like it, I do it. If you all think that I lock myself in a room for a character, I don’t work like that. I take it as it comes. I am a director’s actor. I like to be guided by the director and that’s why he is called the ‘captain of the ship’.