Suddenly, he's rocking and reeling in some of the most-discussed movie projects of Celluloid City. He’s now into a Yashraj film and is nixing and greenlighting A-grade projects galore. Laundering his much-gossiped-about Lady Slayer profile, the actor is on a re-invention spree. Akshay Kumar in a chatfest with Khalid Mohamed.
Just yesterday, he thought I was a snake. And I thought he was a porcupine. To comprehend what made him behave the way he did – tetchy suspicious – I sought to pub , his mind-set. Well what the hell, after much air-clearing, I found an actor who feels that much wrong has done to him by the pen scrawlers. To give the Kal ka Khiladi and today’s versatile performer his due, straight off, I asked him if he felt he can handle the arch-competition from the Khans, the Bachchans, plus the upcoming insta-fame kids on the block. To which he responded without hemming and hawing. So in the classic tradition, here are excerpts from our conversation.. conducted in a frigidly cold vanity van parked on the helipad of Film City.
Can you handle the competition?
It’s not a war out here. You know we make the highest number of films in the world, there are enough opportunities for every actor to show his skills..or `non-skills.’ I’m surprised that you’re asking me such a question... it’s more than obvious that every actor has his place, and with sustained work I have mine. I’m confident that whatever I do, it’s straight from my heart.
Right. Okay, what do you think of the new talent on the block like, let’s say, Upen Patel whom you’ve literally interacted with in Namastey London?
Upen’s okay. He’s working on his strengths and weaknesses, like all of us.
Which of the actors, in the young bracket, have that special something?
I loved Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2. I felt it was a tremendous performance; he made the impossible look possible. I’ve heard good things about Abhishek Bachchan in Guru, but I’ve been too caught up to see the film. In a few hours I leave for Sydney for a long spell of shooting.
Tell me, it seems Raj Kumar Santoshi offered you the role of Hanuman in his adaptation of the Ramayana.
Yes, I refused the part. If it was the central role of Lord Rama, I would have surely considered it.
Will you ever consider a film with Mr Santoshi? After all, he gave you a tremendous role in Khakee..
You’ve answered the question yourself. If he gives me a script that challenges me, there’s no reason why I would not consider it.
I believe you were very depressed when Jaan-e-Mann bombed?
It wasn’t exactly depression. But I would be lying if I were to say that I wasn’t affected at all. I’d worked hard. I was looking forward to the film’s release. When it didn’t click, I did have cramps in my stomach... then one has to get up and move ahead.
Personally I liked Jaan-e-Mann. But I was told some of my friends that the second half was a bit too long. Maybe I should have been its editor..(laughs) Who can be a better editor than me?
Didn’t the film suffer because of Salman Khan’s tantrums? Like him shaving himself bald, suddenly, which didn't gel with the continuity?
I didn’t find any continuity jerks. Yes, the film was supposed to take four to five months, it took eight to nine months. Every film has its problems. At times, the set catches fire, or an actor’s bones are broken because of a difficult stunt.
Wasn’t there tension between Salman Khan and you during the shoot?
Between him and me? Earlier, this was said when we were doing Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. There’s no problem between us.
But newspapers reported that there was major tension between Salman and you because of Katrina Kaif.
Let’s get this point clear. When any hero does two or three films with any heroine, rumours happen.
Meaning you treated Katrina Kaif like your bhabhi?
Bhabhi is too great a word. I can just say that I’m relieved that you didn’t call her my sister.
In Bhagam Bhag, did you improvise that dialogue that you edit other actors’ roles?
That wasn’t my line. Neeraj Vora wrote it as a joke because I’m always accused of cutting other actors’ roles. I went along with it for a laugh.
Has any actor ever cut your role? Yes or no?
Yes. A long time ago.
Who was it? Suneil Shetty?
Ha, ha, ha.
Didn’t Govinda end up playing second fiddle in Bhagam Bhag?
You’re saying this. I’m not.
What about the mixed reports on Bhagam Bhag?
Whatever the reports, it did well commercially and I’m a commercial hero. I really believe in commercialism.
What does Tina (wife Twinkle Khanna) have to say about your movies?
(Pause) Let me put it this way, she doesn’t say much.
In which films has she liked you?
Hera Pheri, part I. We don’t go into analysis about my work. I’m easy-going, theek hai if she likes my film, fine. If she doesn’t, that’s okay too.
Has your mother-in-law ever given you tips on acting?
Never. We never talk shop. And to think she’s such a superb artiste! Her performance in Rudaali was outstanding.
What about your father-in-law (Rajesh Khanna)?
He’s a great guy, we’re like buddies. Now why are we getting into family areas?
Just. Which films of his would be the best for re-makes?
So many! Aradhana, Safar, Amar Prem, Sacha Jhutha.
Hmm. What’s the Yashraj deal?
It’s finalised, yes. But it’s not right for me to talk about it... why don’t you ask them about it.
Thanks but.. How’s your famous love life?
What! It’s peaking, I go from one studio to another, that’s it. Sure, I’m attracted to women. If anyone makes a pass at me, I love it. But there’s no follow-up action.
You scared of Tina?
Listen, are you trying to be a home-breaker? Yes, I’m scared of Tina? Happy?
How do you look back at the beautiful women from your past – Pooja Batra, Raveena Tandon, Shilpa Shetty?
Stop. Are you grilling me? If I ever come across them, I say, “Hello” and that’s it. Everyone has a past, don’t you? Tell me about it.
...smart, smart! And uh, aren’t you reprising Manoj Kumar’s role in Purab Paschim in Namastey London?
Nope, Namastey London has nothing to do with that. It’s not a film, it’s an attitude. It’s about the Generation X overseas who aren’t comfortable in their own skin. The question is – why ape the west when the very basics of Indianness have so much to offer?
Wasn’t there a point when you wanted to settle in Canada yourself?
That may have been a passing thought when I was feeling low.. but today, I’ve understood that there’s no place like home. We should stop treating ghar ki murghi daal baraabar.