He’s been super busy and out of reach. First at the no-network Malshej Ghat where he was on location for three weeks, shooting for Farah Khan’s Tees Maar Khan. And now in Vancouver where he is filming Anees Bazmee’s Thank You. After weeks of relentless pursuit, we pin down Bollywood’s highest tax payer, Akshay Kumar, for a quick q-and-a, long distance.
When most Indians are still trying to think of ways to evade the tax net, you have topped Bollywood’s list of highest tax-payers for the second consecutive year. What makes you such a responsible citizen?
India has given me so much.. And by paying my taxes on time and in the right amount, I am only repaying a part of my debt to society and the country. I have an efficient chartered accountant who ensures that I follow all the rules. I’ve never had a problem with the tax guys, ever. I’m what you’d call a happy citizen.
Yeah, you even feature in a recent IT department ad for service tax and to promote compliance.
That’s right. As one of the country’s highest tax payers, you could say I was the right choice. What’s more, I even got paid for the ad.
Given that you have paid a total of Rs 31 crore in taxes for 2008-2009, it would imply that this was a financially successful year for you despite the global slowdown, recent box-office failures and talks of a price cut?
I’ve not cut my price, I’ve made it zero. That is because I have started producing my own films now.And what I earn from them, I pay as taxes. But you haven’t cut down on your work. You’re still doing six films a year at a time when your contemporaries don’t have time for more than a couple at best. I do four-five films a year. And I’ve been doing this since the last 20 years. That’s how I have managed to complete 120 films in two decades. And I’d like to carry on this way since it ensures not just employment for myself but several industry workers too. Recently, a group of workers thanked me because they had been gainfully employed through two rough years. That was heartening to know. If my doing movies can help so many people, why not?
How important is money to you since you are always joking that you work only for money?
Other people joke about it, not me. I’m very serious about my profession. I work for passion, for the industry and myself. Period.
What do you invest your money in? Is it stocks and shares…
I’m very straight and conservative when it comes to investments, only banks and rock solid bonds. No playing the market for me.
And what do you spend on?
My family… And a little on property.
‘The ad has taken the just-launched brand straight to No 3’
You’re suddenly missing from the Micromax ad, we only hear your canned laughter as a heavyset lady chef of Thai or Chinese origin takes over the gaming action.I’ll be back soon. The ad currently on air will be followed by another ad featuring me. It’s been one of my most successful campaigns.Whose idea was the laugh?(Laughs) Mine, there was a laugh like that in Jaan-e-mann if you recall. I suggested we go with it.
The campaign has come in for some sharp criticism from ad gurus like Santosh Desai and Prahlad Kakkar.I think that’s more of a fight between agencies. On our part, I think we positioned it right. Whether it’s the laugh or the gaming concept, the ad has successfully grabbed eyeballs. Even you are talking about it in this interview.
Isn’t that the purpose of an advertising endeavour, to get a product noticed?
It doesn’t matter what people are saying about it. Good or bad, it has worked. The ad has taken the just-launched Micromax mobile straightaway to the No 3 position. And I’m happy to be a part of its phenomenal success. The company has signed me on as brand ambassador for another year.
How much do brand endorsements contribute to your earnings and the taxes you’ve just paid?
They contribute a significant part. Earlier, I didn’t do too many ads but now I have signed on to endorse three big brands —Dollar Club Vest, Micromax and LG. Then there’s Thumbs Up, Grasim and Levis.
RIGHT CHOICE: The CBEC on their brand ambassador Akshay Kumar
The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) roped in the actor to feature in a TV commercial urging people to pay taxes honestly and on time. Akshay Kumar was a natural choice given that he has been diligently paying his service tax in advance for the last four years.
Says the additionalcommissioner of CBEC,“In 2008-2009, after he emerged as the highest Bollywood tax payer, we approached Mr Kumar to feature in the advertisement since he was someone who could represent the message of paying one’s taxes on time, which is every citizen’s duty. He has great appeal and being a superstar he can really help encourage people to pay their taxes honestly.”The CBEC, which is responsible for collection of customs, central excise and service tax, released the ad on March 21, 2010.
‘I needed a break’
After two successful seasons why are you not hosting Khatron Ke Khiladi (KKK)3. Is it because with the show featuring 13 cricketers this time, there was the need for a pretty face with a perfect 10 figure?
I’m not doing the show because after two consecutive action series I needed a break from KKK.
Negotiations with Priyanka Chopra were on for barely a week but reportedly she is getting paid more than you?
If that’s true I’m happy for Priyanka.
Will you continue to watch the show?
Sure I’ll watch it, it’s a great show.
You’ve helped 26 women conquer their fears on the show. But what’s the one thing Akshay Kumar is still afraid of?
(Laughs) Your next question, I hope it’s an easy one.
It’s a breeze. Reality shows are getting more bizarre by the day. We’ve seen contestants feast on snakes and scorpions, slap and hurl abuses at each other on camera and even get married on a public platform. Would you be open to another stint on TV and after action will it be dance, comedy or a talk show next?
I haven’t given the matter much thought. I need to complete the two-three films I have on the floors first, that’s top priority. May be after three-four months, I’ll think of it.
On why he hasn’t been seen on the IPL field
‘May be next year’
A number of actors have jumped onto the IPL bandwagon but despite your interest in the game, after the first season when we saw you rooting for the Delhi Daredevils, you have refused to come on as brand ambassador or even sit in the stands as a spectator. Why are you shying away from IPL?
I’m not shying away. I just haven’t had the time. I’ve been concentrating on my films and my schedule is really tight. That’s the reason I’m talking to you between shots from Vancouver, Canada, even as IPL 3 gears up for the semi-finals and grand finale. May be next year I’ll be there.
Will we see you bid for a team in the future given that you are a cash-rich actor?
I don’t think I know that much about cricket to buy myself a team.
On whether his working with Farah Khan has messed up her equation with Shah Rukh Khan
‘I don’t get invited to Mannat’
Farah Khan says that only you could play Tees Maar Khan. Do you see the connect too?
If Farah thinks I fit the role to the then I hope she’s right. And the audience thinks so too. It would help our film and my company that is co-producing Tees Maar Khan can go on making more movies.
Farah’s producer husband, Shirish Kunder, is set to announce a couple of more projects. Will you be collaborating on them?
It is being said that by opting for you for her first home production, Farah Khan has lost a good friend in Shah Rukh Khan. Seems she is no longer invited to parties at Mannat.
I wouldn’t know since I don’t get invited to parties at Mannat.
On his film, Housefull, that releases on April 30
‘It’s the story of a loser’
So is Housefull the story of Tiger Woods given that you have two ex-wives, a soon-to-be wife and a nanny you had wooed living with you under one roof in the film?
Housefull is the story of a loser. It’s about luck. When a woman you truly love and who loves you in return, steps into your life, your luck can change for the better. That’s the belief underlying the phrase ghar ki Lakshmi, you know. It’s about a mix-up and what happens next.
With all the bikini babes around, it looks like a cross between Kambakkht Ishq and Blue?
It’s got nothing to do with babes, bikini and Blue. Yes, it has a lot to do with ishq but the ishq is not kambakkht. Housefull is an entertaining family film.
On Kambakkht Ishq being adjudged worst film at the Kela Awards
‘At least I won some award’
Kambakkht Ishq was adjudged the worst film at the Kela Awards, the equivalent of the Golden Razzies, and Kareena Kapoor and you were voted the worst on-screen couple.
At least, I got some award.
Do you regret doing a film like this?
Absolutely not, it’s because of films like Kambakkht Ishq that I am Bollywood’s highest tax payer.
On winning a National Award
‘I’d like to make my wife and mother-in-law happy’
You’ve won the Padma Shri. Now your wife, Twinkle, and mother-in-law, Dimple, want you to win a National Award.
I hope I can, some day. It would certainly make my wife and mother-in-law very happy. But I do a lot of commercial Hindi movies and I’m not sure if they qualify for the National Awards.
They do, this year Arjun Ramphal bagged the National Award for Best Supporting Actor for Rock On!! which is most definitely a commercial Hindi film.
Then I guess I stand a chance too, may be I just haven’t been selecting the right films.
Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar and Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, too, saw their earnings rise this year. Sachin Tendulkar paid an advance tax of Rs 6.8 crore and Dhoni paid Rs 5 crore for this financial year.
BOLLYWOOD’S TOP 10 TAX PAYERS
AKSHAY KUMAR paid an advance tax of Rs 18 crore in FY10 as against Rs 31 crore for 2008-09.
AAMIR KHAN has paid Rs 12.7 crore in taxes this year.
SHAH RUKH KHAN has paid Rs 9.5 crore this year as compared to Rs 31 crore last year — a drop of 70 per cent.
SALMAN KHAN paid an advance tax of Rs 5.50 crore in the fiscal, down by 61 per cent from Rs 14 crore last year
SAIF ALI KHAN has paid Rs 4.48 crore this March, down 48 per cent from last year.
ABHISHEK BACHCHAN has paid advance tax of Rs 4.15 crore in 2010.
AMITABH BACHCHAN has paid advance tax of Rs 4 crore (up 220 per cent). He is among the few who bucked the trend and saw a rise in their income.
KAREENA KAPOOR has paid advance tax of Rs 3.65 crore (down 1.35 per cent).
RANBIR KAPOOR has paid advance tax of Rs 4.6 crore this March (up 155 per cent)
AISHWARYA RAI BACHCHAN has paid taxes amounting to Rs 4.6 crore.
(Advance tax is paid in four installments in June, September, December and March based on the tax payers’ projected income in a particular financial year)