It has been 25 years since he entered Bollywood, with the 1991 hit Saugandh. Now, Akshay Kumar is awaiting the release of his next, Rustom, which also stars Ileana D’Cruz.
Here, he talks about life as a highly-paid actor, and says that it is his family that keeps him going.
You’ve been featured among the world’s highest-paid celebrities of 2016. Does this make you feel powerful or satisfied?
In all honesty, I don’t usually keep track of the numbers game, nor do I believe in this power. But, to be one of the only two Indians in that list is a matter of happiness, especially when one comes from humble beginnings like mine. I have always believed in doing my best. It has paid off so far. So, I’m content, and feeling blessed.
On the work front, you are balancing your film choices intelligently. So, are these conscious decisions, or are you making them organically?
I try to make my decisions consciously, as it wouldn’t be right to make them in my sleep (laughs). It has taken me time to instil the confidence in everyone that I have more than just one acting muscle, or that I am more than just a ‘comedy king’. To build an image in which people can see you in a multitude of roles is not an easy task. Not only has the industry accepted me, it now truly supports my choice of cinema. That gives me the confidence to enjoy my work more. When I ventured into serious cinema some time ago, people couldn’t wrap their heads around it. But today, people are far more intrigued by subjects that are different. The audience has also become diverse.
Few stars, like you and the three Khans, are considered safe bets at the box office. Do you feel a sense of competition with them?
To compete with your peers is to play a fool’s game. The Khans are a force to reckon with. They are the ‘Khans’ for a reason. I have never competed with them. It would be wrong of me to want to do that. I know who I am, and I know where my name and effort can take me. I’m more than happy with my space in this world. That’s why I have so much peace of mind. I’m not running a marathon that has no finish line. On a lighter note, I can run around the block and come back home in time for dinner. I admire the Khans’ star power and salute their success. They do the same with me. But we are not in the same race. We never have been, and never will be.
After 25 years in B-Town, what keeps you going?
Making my family proud [keeps me going]. They keep me going through every twist and turn in my life. If I couldn’t come back home to them at the end of the day, I wouldn’t be half the man I am today. They are my secret ingredient [to success].
Before the release of Housefull 3, you said that with this film you will probably lose all the respect you earned with Airlift. Why are comedies never given as much respect as other genres?
Unfortunately, comedies have always been considered the lowest form of entertainment, even though they are not only the most successful films, but also the most-loved and appreciated ones, especially in India. Life is tough anyway, so laughter is our favourite remedy. But, that will never be the case for film critics. Their lives and thinking will never match the average cinema lover’s thinking. One can never expect the same kind of appreciation for the genre from critics. Comedy, I feel, makes our industry famous.
Your new film, Rustom’s trailer is getting some great feedback. This is also your third release this year. How does that make you feel?
I was halfway around the world — with my kids pulling at my jeans and asking me to go to the Statue of Liberty in New York, USA — when I found out that my film’s trailer had been received with overwhelming respect; it genuinely got me blushing (smiles). One minute, I was off sightseeing, and the next minute, I was swamped with love from everyone back home. Let’s hope that my third release this year works like a charm.
With young talent entering the industry, do you think the competition is high right now?
It’s not just high; it is at an all-time high. I love what the younger generation is attempting these days. I love their talent, hard work, professionalism, and the fact that they have charisma. I’m enjoying watching them challenge us ‘old dogs’ (laughs).
You have experimented with almost every genre. Is there any one genre that comes naturally to you?
I like to watch action comedies such as Deadpool and Rowdy Rathore (2012). When I am with Tina (Twinkle Khanna), we enjoy watching horror movies. But I love watching animation films with my kids the most. I will always thrive and live off making a Housefull, but I get a kick out of making real life-based dramas. There’s something so enthralling about being sucked into the real world or bringing the past back to life. Making such films is hard and dangerous, but it’s also fulfilling.