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Namaste London says Akshay Kumar

The Bollywood action hero speaks to Udita Jhunjhunwala about his forthcoming movie.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2006 19:09 IST

He’s had two days off between wrapping Priyadarshan’s Bhaagam Bhaag and starting Vipul Shah’s Namastey London. Which means that by the time I meet Akshay Kumar the eve of starting shooting for Shah’s film, he’s already spent one month in London and has another month-long schedule ahead of him.

He’s fast becoming a London pro. He’s got his regular driver in a rental Mercedes; he’s enlisted a gymnastics coach, the same bodyguard brushes off autograph hunters and he’s switched hotels a couple of times till he’s found one with the right gym set up. I’m almost sure he’s even picking up the London twang.
At least I’ve got two days off so I can try and get into character. Before I would have only the travel time to get into character,” says Kumar between test shots where director Shah is putting the make up artist through the ropes. Dressed trendily in a blue Superman T-shirt and blue jeans rolled up to the ankle teamed with red sneakers, Kumar guides me around the suburban London hotel’s parking lot to chat about Namastey London. “With each day I get more into character,” he continues.

Namastey London will help people understand the generation gap.

Bhaagam

Bhaag is a “murder mystery attached to comedy” he explains, but

Namastey London

is a romance, and Shah’s first attempt at this genre. Even though they have a successful working equation (and an amazingly relaxed personal and professional rapport) with

Aankhen

and

Waqt 

behind them, is Kumar apprehensive about this effort? “The thing with Vipul,” he says, “is that he never gets stuck in one image or one genre. He likes to take risks, just like me. His experience as a stage actor, and because he writes his own scripts and dialogues, helps. Anyone who can act knows how to direct actors well too. Not that I am saying I should be a director because I need to be a good actor first,” he quips.

Kumar can clearly wax eloquent on Shah for reams of notepaper so, changing the subject, I ask ‘didn’t the germ of the story for this film come from you?’ Kumar pauses, looks around the park, rubs his stubble, measures his words and replies, “I just told him the idea and he felt he could turn it into a script. Even though NRIs left India almost 50 years ago they still have India on their minds, and they want their children to have that too. But the second generation wants both. Schools and classrooms in the UK, USA and Canada are a mix of Whites, Chinese, Blacks and Indians and they are all talking about Mel Gibson’s latest film. What are the Indian children supposed to say? ‘Have you seen the new Amitabh Bachchan film?’ Enforcing ideas is not good, they should be allowed to understand things for themselves.”

Indian films, feels Kumar, go a long way towards teaching NRIs about India, its culture, fashion and, of course, language. Namastey London will help people understand the generation gap. Older people need to adjust and younger people need to be more understanding, then they can come to a common ground.” In Shah’s film, for instance, one of the tracks is of a Pakistani boy and an English girl, where opposition is obvious.

“Some people think Indian culture is not cool, but it’s rich and great. It’s funny how Indians are trying to catch up with the west and NRIs are trying to hold on to India,” muses Kumar. But before he can really heat up on the subject, he’s called for a touch up and make up test shot.