Akshay Kumar made his Bollywood debut in the early ’90s. From doing comedy and romantic films, to action-packed projects, in a career spanning over two decades, the actor has worked in various kinds of movies, and has proved his mettle as a versatile performer. While many of his hits, including his latest release, have been comedy projects, the actor is far from happy with the way comedians are treated in Bollywood. Here, he talks about that, his “blunt” family, importance of self-defence classes for women, and more.
You’ve often said that comedians don’t get their due in the Hindi film industry. Do you think this scenario will ever change?
Hopefully, in my lifetime [it will change], because I feel the world cannot survive without laughter. One would imagine comedians to be the most treasured actors in any industry, but unfortunately, they are considered clowns. Everyone needs them, but nobody respects them. What bemuses me is the fact that why, in such a well-admired fraternity, would a comedian never be thought of, let alone be put in the ‘Best actor’ category. A comedian is only, if ever, honoured as a comedian, and never as an actor. It takes great intelligence and guts to hold a crowd’s attention and entertain them. Ask anyone in the world who their favourite actors are, and you’ll hear names like Charlie Chaplin, Robin Williams and Rowan Atkinson. Laughter is the essence of life, and comedians should be heroes, not extras.
Many of your past comedy hits have got sequels, and they, too, have fared well at the box office. But these sequels star other actors. Why do you stay away from these films?
Sometimes, one has to step away and make new products in order to let the sequels find their own stardom without me. I’m making so many films right now that I can’t ask my co-stars and producers [of those sequels] to hold on just for me and make the movie as per my schedule. I’m honoured to be asked to star in those films, but I know they can rule the roost without me. So, I am more than happy to wish them luck.
You feel strongly about the importance of self-defence classes for women. In fact, you also run such classes in Mumbai. What’s next on that front?
As of now, we are extending all our classes and courses for as long as possible. Plus, we are expanding our facilities and spreading the awareness of our self-defence sessions as far and wide across Mumbai as possible. My ultimate game plan is to make it (self-defence training) compulsory in all schools, for all girls across the country. I also hope to make joining the Indian army compulsory for all boys, for at least two years. It will not only strengthen our armed forces, but it will also make the boys stronger, as I worry that the next generation is only going to be able to work on computers, and not for the nation.
At this stage of your career, how much do box-office numbers matter to you?
The best feeling in the world is not only when your audience enjoys your film, but when your family, too, loves what you have made. That is the icing on the cake, especially when you have a family as blunt as mine (laughs).
You worked with Prabhudheva for the second time, after Rowdy Rathore (2012), in your latest hit, Singh Is Bliing. What works for you both?
We are what you call “passionate film-makers”; we work for the audience, and not for the industry. We make movies for the people and as per their wishes, and don’t get caught in the race for a ‘black lady’ at an awards night (smiles), we just give what we think the average person needs and that is humour and more humour. We just make what we think an average person needs, and that is humour and more humour. Life is hard enough, so sometimes laughter is the only ray of sunshine at the end of a long day and an even longer week.
Are there any aspirations — on the work or personal front — that are yet to be fulfilled?
In my career, it would have to be matching my previous great years. I also want to pursue my dreams of taking comedians to a higher level; I want to show how they are the backbone of the industry. And in life, I want the opportunity to offer self-defence classes to as many women as possible, across the country.
Watch the Singh is Bliing review here