Monday, May 4, 2015

Akshay Kumar

“I am never apprehensive about anything”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From the May 2, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

When you’re called for an interview with a superstar at 10am, you know it has to be none other than Akshay Kumar. The reason being, 10am would probably be afternoon for the man. We’ve all heard stories of his disciplined lifestyle, haven’t we? So, there he was, in a simple shirt and jeans, sporting a salt-and-pepper bearded look, looking as fit as ever. He’d put on weight for ‘Gabbar Is Back’ but now he’s 17 kilos down. At his witty, funny and charming best, here’s Akshay Kumar talking about his latest release and much more...

Was it the subject of the film – corruption – which inclined you towards ‘Gabbar Is Back’?
Yes, I’ve never come across anyone who hasn’t been taken for a ride, or hasn’t bribed someone. The problem is, nothing moves forward without corruption. Our life goes on so fast that we don’t have the time to deal with situations, we find it better to give money and get things going. But, ‘Gabbar Is Back’ doesn’t deal with those kinds of problems. It deals with higher scams. From 2011 to 2015, India has had scams worth 2.2 trillion US dollars. That’s equivalent to 20 years of income tax that common people wouldn’t have to pay. We’ve lost that much money into scams. This film talks about bringing violence to stop corruption, and set an example for people.

So, you want people to take a message back from the film?
At the end of the day, it’s just a film, it has to entertain. So, people shouldn’t take it too much to heart. But, whenever a person reads or sees something, they should always grasp what’s good and what’s right. Obviously, a film will always have a negative character, who does evil things, watches item songs, but you don’t have to follow that. You have to follow a right path.

Violence being the crux of the film, tell me something about the action in it.
That’s essentially what the film is about. Gabbar’s take is that it’s important to bring violence sometimes. For instance, if your child is getting spoilt, it’s important to slap them. If a teacher punishes the child in the classroom, the rest of the students will also get scared and learn from that. ‘Gabbar Is Back’ is about publicly punishing what’s wrong, setting an example so others also rectify their mistakes. I’m a big fan of Subhash Chandra Bose, I believe in his ideologies. Plus, my father was in the army, so I also believe that people should either do the right thing or get hit! As far as the action is concerned, whatever you see is very real. There’s no cable work, or computer graphics.

Did you watch the original film ‘Ramanaa’ as a reference point?
No, I was told not to see it and I’d myself prefer not seeing it because then I would tend to copy that. And we’ve also made a few changes. About sixty per cent of the film is similar to the original Tamil version, and then we’ve changed the rest 40 per cent by bringing in some real incidents which happened sometime or the other.

You’re a very spontaneous actor; having said that, your gait and walk does change from film to film. For instance, the walk in ‘Special 26’ or ‘Baby’ has been different from this film…
When your look changes, hair grows long, you have a beard and you put on about 15-16 kilos for the film, you automatically get into that zone. I had to put on weight, so I think the walk also changes accordingly, without much of an effort. I don’t have to go deep and plan everything in my head. I try not to get all mad about a character or film. It’s my work, so I take it seriously, but not so seriously that it makes me crazy (laughs)!

The tone of humour in ‘Gabbar Is Back’ is very subtle, but you’ve also been a part of slapstick comedies. What do you enjoy more?
Yes, it’s very subtle, not the kind of comedy in ‘Rowdy Rathore’. This character is very serious, but at the same time he has his subtle humour also. Serious people have a different kind of humour. They are straight-faced, you understand it and just have a smirk on your face. So, there’s just that much humour in the film. But I enjoy all kinds of comedies actually – whether it’s subtle humour, ‘Hera Pheri’ humour, slapstick comedy or David Dhawan comedy.

Not to mention, you’ve also been largely appreciated for comedy, apart from action…
I’ve been appreciated by the audience, but there’s no appreciation from the award nights (laughs). It’s a funny thing. You do a romantic film, and they give you a best actor award, but my point is what about a person who does comedy? It means they’re weighing romance higher than comedy. A hero doing comedy doesn’t become less of a hero, so why differentiate? Unless and until there are various categories like ‘best actor in romance’ or ‘best actor in action’. Actually, the choice should be made just on the basis of who acted the best irrespective of the genre. But, unfortunately, the person who screams more is the best actor.

Talking about the genres of films, there’s been a slight shift in the kind of scripts you’ve chosen in the past 1-2 years. So what has been the criterion?
I’m inclined to something which makes a difference to the society, whether it’s ‘OMG: Oh My God’, or ‘Holiday’. I don’t do films to break some record. In my life, honestly, I’ve earned a lot of money, and I’ve paid my taxes, by the way (laughs). Now I want to do something which makes sense, which is a different take. For instance, ‘OMG’ was a different take on religion. I just want to do something that’s enjoyable and different. But, it’s been two years since I’ve just done this kind of cinema, so now I’m actually itching to go back to ‘Housefull 3’. I feel I haven’t laughed for long. I want to do a slapstick comedy again.

But when you’re offered a particular role, do you consider if it’ll suit your personality, because eventually, you bring in your individuality to each character?
Certainly! I look at the character, understand it, and see if I can be able to justify it. When there’s a voice from my heart which says yes, then I do it.

Has there never been any apprehension ever? Be it the choice of films or doing stunts.
I am never apprehensive about anything. I have always done stunts, so I naturally have this streak in my head to take risks. I don’t think too much about what’s going to happen. In fact, not just me, but many people in the industry have started taking a lot of risks. We have different kinds of cinema being made with very unique characters. The success ratio of the industry isn’t very good at the moment, we have some grey clouds, but hopefully it shall pass.

How is it that you’ve steered clear from comparisons or competition with other big-league actors?
That’s because I have never believed in competition. I don’t believe in being a ‘Mahalaxmi ka ghoda’. So I don’t take it seriously. It’s never about who is better than whom. All these things are pointless. I would like everyone’s films to work because we work in the same industry and it needs more money so we can make bigger and better films.

Hindi cinema is evolving in terms of our content and quality. But what is it that you think we lack?
Money! People keep comparing our films to the west, but Hollywood makes films that cost about 300-400 crores. If we have that kind of money, we’ll make better films. They make quality cinema, technically, visually, because they have a lot of money to put in. They spend so much, and they take so much time to make a film. Even the actors live with just one film for so long. We don’t have the money to do that. But we shouldn’t underestimate our industry, it’s huge. A few days back I was in Germany passing through the immigration and the guy there asked me what I did. When I told him I was an actor in the Hindi film industry, he got happy and immediately said, “Oh Bollywood!” So, people all over the world are aware of our industry. It’s just that our films aren’t releasing as mainstream cinema abroad.

And of course, apart from Hindi cinema, you’ve also been inclined towards Marathi cinema…
I produce Marathi films because I like the sensibility of Marathi cinema, it’s very different from Hindi cinema. I know the language very well and I watch a lot of plays as well. They have a very intellectual sense of cinema and I love that.

Lastly, tell me about your next film ‘Brothers’, and how is ‘Airlift’ along with ‘Singh is Bling’ shaping up?
I think ‘Brothers’ is one film which has needed maximum physical training. It has the toughest action I’ve done so far, and we may release the promo in June. And I’ve finished 60 per cent of ‘Airlift’ and 25 per cent of ‘Singh Is Bling’, so both are shaping up well.