Had this interview been conducted face-to-face, action superstar Akshay Kumar in all likelihood would have retorted, “Don’t angry me!” to certain questions. But since it was on email (he was in Muscat for a shoot), he merely excused himself from queries regarding his friends Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan.
Fair enough! After all, today is Akshay Kumar’s birthday. Rowdy Rathore has smashed box office records. He has completed 23 years in the industry with 100 films. And most importantly, he returns to his khiladi avatar after 12 years in Khiladi 786. So there’s plenty for him to talk about — himself, for instance, and his career.
You are riding high now and you have some good movies coming up. Do you feel this is your time? Or is your time yet to come?
I feel time is irrelevant, moments are more my thing! I’ve had fantastic moments this year — and in many other years for that matter. But if you’re asking me, ‘is this my time to shine?’ then only God knows the answer, I am at His feet. I do not hold God ransom to my success; whatever is his will is my way. I stand by moments; I do not stand by time.
Do you think success has come to you a little late in your career?
Why would I think that?
For a guy who used to steal watches on the streets of Chandni Chowk for kicks, I surely think my success at the age of 22 was pretty early! Or maybe my standards aren’t as high as yours.
Your movies have been successful; you are good looking and have a great physique. That’s superstar material. Yet, how come you’re not a phenomenon? A super success? Do you think you have correctly capitalised on your success?
Thanks, but no thanks! I am what I am and I’ve done the best I can. I’m not a superstar. People call me that, but I’m not the most handsome hunk, I’m me. And yes, you’re right, I’m not a ‘phenomenon’. I’m a man with a family who has a dream, that’s it — me in a nutshell. ‘Perfection’ and ‘phenomenon’ are for optimistic people. I’m a realist. Where I come from, ‘phenomenons’ don’t exist. I’m from a land where people make mistakes and try again, harder, faster; where negativity is not an option.
So forgive me for not being what you signed up for, I’m just a simple man trying to make a living, not a miracle.
At 45 you still look so fit. Tell us: how important are face-lifts and plastic surgeries after a certain age?
People can do it in their 50s and not need something as demeaning as plastic surgery. Youth is a lifestyle; it’s not a blessing from God. If we treat our bodies as if they are not the most precious things we possess, then obviously we will show wear and tear. We’re like a good pair of jeans. If we take care of them, they’ll remain classic forever, but if we batter and abuse them they’ll look like tattered old rags.
What I’m trying to say is, plastic surgery doesn’t make you fit, it makes you lazy.
A) It’s always obvious, so respect is lost almost instantly.
B) What is wrong with growing old gracefully with health and dignity?
Put down the steroids and the needles and go outside and play with your children and your children’s children, that’s my ‘expensive’ secret.
What’s more important to you at this point in life? Money or your fan following?
It always was and always will be my fan following. The money side of it was at the beginning of my career and it was purely to survive. Now it is to put worth to my name. I have put unconditional efforts into making my name what it is today. I don’t live for money, it can’t make you happy. It only makes you and your loved ones feel secure. Even rich people wake up, go to work and support their families.
The best thing about my job is being appreciated and admired along the way by my fans, and no one else really matters. Your family will always love you, your enemies will mostly respect as well as loathe you, but your fans will always support you, guide you, teach you and fulfill you.
People close to you say that you are driven by making money. What do you say?
Then they are clearly not close to me. They must be opposing me, because no one who is so close to me that they can walk into my home with love in their hearts, would ever say or believe such a rubbish statement.
I am telling you I am Akshay, the man who is driven by inspiration. If you doubt me, we can stop this interview right now. But let me ask you this, do you really think I wouldn’t still make four-five films a year with the people I respect if I was still earning Rs 1 lakh a month? Of course I would, but that would be making a mug out of myself. I know what films are worth and I know what my name sells. If it sells Rs 1 lakh, so be it, but if it sells Rs 100 lakhs, that’s fair enough, don’t you think?
What’s the one thing you want to do before you retire?
Line up all pessimistic critics in life and ask them to make an ideal Hindi film that will smash all box office records and, on the off chance that they fail, tattoo their foreheads with the word ‘FLOP’ for a whole weekend. I wonder why?
You have always worked hard, but you haven’t been consistent in your success. Why is that so?
You tell me who is and I’ll tell you why.
Do you think a good communicator has a bigger advantage in Bollywood or anywhere? Are you a good communicator?
Anyone who works in sales needs to be a good communicator. Am I? It depends on who’s listening.
People say Akshay has everything, but a great tone of voice would have added to his appeal. Do you agree that your voice is not your appeal?
Which people? Look, one man can’t have everything, and if he did, it would be underappreciated and most definitely boring (nobody likes the man who has everything). Plus, I don’t remember Hollywood having a problem with the tone of my voice when they insisted I play the voice of Optimus Prime in Transformers 3 for our beloved Indian market, but hey, what do I know? I’m just an actor with a nonexistent voice appeal, right?
Personally, none of the above. I put it down to caring too much.
You ably performed a son-in-law’s duty to the last with the late Rajesh Khanna. Is there any last wish he shared with you?
Yes, but unfortunately for you I will never be prepared to share that with the world. That’s why Kakaji (Rajesh Khanna) shared it with me and not one of India’s most renowned newspapers.
What do you want your son Aarav to choose? Sports or acting?
Sports, while he’s still young, every kid deserves a childhood to remember. Work and acting come later in life. But really, I just want whatever he wants.
You have another child on the way. What do you want this time? A boy or a girl? And Twinkle?
Anything. As long as it’s healthy and loves its Daddy the most, I’ll be happy.
Happy birthday Akshay!
The brand new 45-year-old tells us his plans for the big day
My plans are to rush back to Mumbai to my wife and son and celebrate my 45th birthday with family! I’m currently filming on the rocky plains of Muscat for Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Again. But I have never missed a birthday with my wife in 12 years, and I do not intend to start now. So I’m shooting double time in the hope of catching a private plane some time today, so I can make it back to Mumbai and celebrate with Tina. What’s the point of having a birthday if you can’t be with the ones you live for in the first place? Come hell or high water, I will make it home in time. It’s my only wish!