Akshaye Khanna play-acts as Hanuman in Rumi Jaffrey’s Gali Gali Chor Hai. “My character Bharat is an aam aadmi (common man) who is a bank cashier during the day, and moonlights as Hanuman in the local Ramleela (popular Indian folk play),” he says.
“ For him, it’s a huge social achievement to portray Hanuman in his town, like it would be for a serious theatre actor to essay Claudius in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet,” he adds.
Director Jaffrey informs he needed his leading actor to sport a chiselled frame to suit the character. Khanna says, “I had never seen the Ramleela enacted until this role came along. When Rumi heard this, he arranged for me to watch one of the local Bhopal groups perform.”
Though the monkey God is not the main character in the epic tale, Khanna’s character steals the limelight from a powerful politician’s younger brother who plays Lord Ram, the main character in the epic tale.
“This, and the fact that my character doesn’t allow the politician to use an extra room in his house for his election campaign, turns them into foes. The tale then unfolds depicting how he makes my life a living hell,” says Khanna.
Besides Aakrosh (2009), Khanna’s recent releases have been few and far between, but that doesn’t deter the actor. He explains, “I prefer to play strong meaningful characters in my career and let my work do the talking.”
Known to be particularly reclusive, Khanna admits he actively shuns the page three circuit. “Well-meaning friends have advised me to go out and network, but I am not a party person. If at all you are blessed with fame, it is because of the work you do.”