In the past 25 years, Akshay Kumar has created a stable place for himself in Bollywood. Currently, he is one of the most sought-after stars in the industry. Personally, he’s in a happy space, and admits that having dabbled in several genres over the years, he now finds film-making “much more refreshing”. Here, he talks about his work-life balance and why competition doesn’t bother him.
You are known to give your family as much time as you give your work. As an actor, is it challenging to strike a balance?
Work is my hobby, and my means of living. But my family is the reason of my very existence. If I can’t make them feel that they’re the most important thing in the world to me, then I don’t deserve them. Balancing my life is the key to my success. I get tired not from giving too much, but by not having enough hours in a day to do all that I wish to do. That’s why, I wake up early, so that I can complete my work and get home on time.
Your wife, Twinkle Khanna, recently wrote a book. Did you know that she was such a fantastic writer?
I knew my wife has many talents. Since the day I married her, she’s never failed to surprise me with her strength, her wit, how she deals with motherhood, and now her writing. Tina (Twinkle) reinvents herself every year with some sort of thing that she enjoys doing. I hope she sticks to writing, as I really enjoy people telling me how much my wife has either made them laugh or made them think twice about something. It makes me proud, but more than that, it makes me happy.
On the work front, you are in the same league as the Khans (Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman). Do you ever keep track of your competition?
I keep track of their films and philanthropic activities only out of respect for them, and to know what they are doing in life. I don’t follow their moves so that I can beat them to it or anything as desperate as that (smiles). What they do is their business, and I support them. I never look at their successes and go, “Damn! That should have been me.” I look at them and think, “Come on Akshay, if you want to stay in this industry, you better show your fans that you are worth it.” Healthy jealousy is the best jealousy. I look at them, and think, “Wow, what a shot, what a film or what a kind gesture.” My fellow brothers are amazing human beings, and can be looked up to in so many ways. They are no angels by a long shot (smiles), but they’re pretty close.
You have been seen in a variety of films in the last few years. Is this a conscious effort?
It’s obviously planned to an extent, but remember, I can only do films that are offered to me. Nowadays, a lot of diverse scripts are coming out of nowhere, and it’s been my immense pleasure to do such genius work. It has placed the actor in me on a whole new level. I know I had it in me, but I’ve had to wait for what feels like a lifetime, to change paths [as an actor]. Now, after 25 years in the film industry, I’ve dabbled in so many genres that film-making has become much more refreshing for me.
Salman Khan often praises you. What kind of an equation do you two share?
Our equation is one of the most honest ones in the industry. We let each other do our own thing, and admire each other’s work from a distance. We’ve always had each other’s backs. Plus, we have an on-screen chemistry that not many can match. Salman is one actor I love doing movies with.
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You have achieved so much over the years. What still keeps you motivated?
Maintaining it (success) is harder than gaining it. Luck will get you there, but only talent and hard work will keep you there. Stardom is one of the scariest things about being an actor. You can spend decades reaching there, but it takes a few Fridays to knock you back to the bottom. Being unwanted is every actor’s worst nightmare — the day no one wants your autograph or a selfie with you is the day you are no longer needed.So, these moments are to be cherished, because, unfortunately, stardom doesn’t last forever.
Recently, you said that you often confide in your sister (Alka Bhatia), especially about your films. Do you discuss work with your wife (Twinkle Khanna) too?
My sister is an angel without wings. She has no agenda, no favourites, and no hang ups. When it comes to my work, she is like a member of the audience, and not my family. She is part of the very crowd I’m trying to please. She has seen both sides of life — rich and poor. So, she can judge, laugh, and can critique everything with utmost sincerity. When I ask my wife, I know she’s giving an extremely valid opinion, but at the same time, she comes from a different league. She was brought up within this industry. But my sister has stood in queues at Metro Cinema, and she has watched films with the rowdiest crowds. So, she understands what makes films click.
You are known as one of the fittest men in Bollywood. Is it difficult to maintain this physique, especially at this age?
This question is like a really nice compliment served on a very cold plate (smiles). Being fit and staying fit are two very different things. Anyone can become fit, but keeping a healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life is one of the biggest commitments you’ll ever make. I always choose my health over having a good time. One should never jeopardise one’s body for anyone or anything, not even for a film. If a movie required me to make drastic changes to my body, I would refuse it point blank. You’ve got only one body, if you don’t nurture it now, don’t expect it to support you later.