Besides being celebrated Bollywood stars, Sonam Kapoor and Akshay Kumar are also true patriots. Earlier this year, they took their love for India a step ahead on the silver screen, by doing films such as Neerja (based on the late Pan Am flight attendant Neerja Bhanot, who saved the lives of 359 people after the plane was hijacked in 1986) and Airlift (based on the world’s biggest civil evacuation of Indians based in Kuwait during the Iraq-Kuwait war in 1990), respectively. In fact, Sonam bagged the Best Actress award for Neerja at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (Australia) on Saturday (August 13).
While Sonam feels that freedom “is a right as well as a privilege”, Akshay hopes to see India progress “like many western countries, while still holding on to our cultural values”. Despite being two of the busiest actors around, Akshay and Sonam readily agreed to pose exclusively for HT, and talk about their love for India as they celebrate its 70th Independence Day.
Akshay Kumar feels Independence isn’t only about living in a free country; it’s about the freedom of speech, and also being heard. (Aalok Soni/Hindustan Times)
What is your idea of independence?
Sonam: Nelson Mandela (the late ex-President of South Africa) had said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that enhances freedom of others.” I strongly believe that freedom is a right. But, at the same time, it is also a privilege that needs to be respected and used effectively for the betterment of our country.
Akshay: Independence, for me, isn’t only about living in a free country; it’s about the freedom of speech, and also being heard. It’s about knowing that my sister is treated with the same dignity and respect like me, and having equality between men, women and children. It’s also about having the luxury and the opportunity to be who I dare to be in this world, where nothing stands in my way. Independence is a powerful reality, but what I fear the most is how much people take it for granted. That’s why I feel we all should respect every inch of our country.
Where do you see India heading in the next decade or so?
Akshay: I hope to see it progress like many western countries, while still holding on to our cultural values. We are a force to be reckoned with, but only if we join all our energies into making India the country it deserves to become. I hope India becomes a nation that every individual in the country is proud of.
Sonam: As a proud Indian, I hope that we give up our apathetic nature and strive towards making our country more progressive and creative. I hope we enter the first world (smiles).
Is there anything that you want India to be free from?
Sonam: Yes, I sincerely hope our country gets rid of the tendency to label people. I hope there is absolute freedom and tolerance. There should be no sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and bigotry left in our nation.
Akshay: I hope India becomes free from gender inequality, cast and racial inequality, religious misconducts and child abuse, to name a few things. I hope to wake up one day and hear that every child has equal opportunities, and that every athlete gets a chance to represent India. I want our country to be free from problems such as poverty, malnutrition and unsanitary surroundings.
How do you spend Independence Day every year?
Akshay: My wife (Twinkle Khanna) and I always try to attend our children’s (son Aarav Bhatia and daughter Nitara Khanna Bhatia) flag hoisting ceremony at their school. Then we spend the day together as a family — a proud Indian family (smiles).
Sonam: In school (Arya Vidya Mandir, Juhu), when we used to hoist the flag and sing the National Anthem, it used to give me a sense of pride of being an Indian. I feel that even today when I hear or sing the National Anthem.