Akshay Kumar on what keeps him on his toes: ‘Even now, there’s the same hunger, greed for good work and also a bit of insecurity’
In 2017 and 2018, he had three film releases. Although the number went up to four this year, what remained unchanged was Akshay Kumar’s hit ratio, as Kesari, Mission Mangal and Housefull 4 hit the bull’s eye even as Good Newwz opens on a very strong note. “I still feel nervous [before a new film’s release] and there’s a bit of anxiety too as to what is going to happen. So, there’s some stress as well and always a small prayer that everything goes well,” says Kumar, as he readies for Sooryavanshi, Laxmmi Bomb, Bachchan Pandey and Prithviraj.
Like the past few years, you had multiple hits in 2019 as well?
For me, personally, it [the year] was the same [like any other]. Sometimes, four out of four films work. And at other times, the numbers fluctuate as well. Bas darr lagta hai kahin chaar mein kabhi zero naa ho jaaye (laughs).
After having achieved so much success, fame and money, has your definition of success and failure changed?
For me, the meanings of both the things still remain the same as it always was. It hasn’t changed even one degree. Even now, there’s the same hunger, greed for good work and also a bit of insecurity. And it’s always revolving in my head and that’s what I guess keeps me on my toes all the time, ke badhiya kaam karna hai, mehnat karni hai.
Watch: Kiara Advani, Diljit Dosanjh, Karan Johar attend special screening of Good Newwz
In 2020 too, your filmography looks very diverse and dissimilar. Is there any method behind the madness?
There’s no method behind the madness or astute planning as such. There’s only heart involved in it and not the head. Dil se karta hoon jo bhi karta hoon. And by God’s grace, everything works out in a beautiful manner. Dil se jab aap kaam karte ho toh tukka kabhi sahi baith jaata hai aur kabhi nahi baithta. I have always – from the start – worked from my heart. I also gave 16 flops so at that time, tukka too didn’t work. But I didn’t stop, and kept following my heart.
Many feel that your career took a new turn with Special 26. Now, as we get ready to enter 2020, do you feel it’s time for a redefinition again?
According to me, the correct term isn’t ‘redefinition’. I want to keep deconstructing myself. Pehle banao phir todo, and that process should go on. The mantra is not to rely on the same construction. It’s just like the game [Building Blocks and Construction Sets] that kids play of constant construction and deconstruction.
Of late, most of your films seem to carry a message about some or the other issue…
Not really! What was the issue that we addressed in Housefull 4? There’s no ‘issue’ in Sooryavanshi. And which ‘issue’ are we addressing in Laxxmi Bomb. Aisa nahi hota; it’s not about the issue. It all depends on what’s the script like. If you like the script and screenplay, then you do it. Sometimes, you also encounter risky scripts. But if you are ready to take that leap of faith, then you should go ahead. My question is: ‘audience is ready, are you [as an actor?’ If you ready then you can convincingly make them also understand. Aap khud hi tayyar nahi ya darr rahe ho, then how will you do it?
In Good Newwz, you teamed up again with Kareena Kapoor Khan after many years. Do such castings help since you already know the other person?
I don’t know if it matters a lot because I have also worked with 18-19 new heroines. It all depends on how you make a co-star feel or how you make the person feel comfortable and easy. You should just be yourself and don’t get too attached to your stardom. I feel your stardom can be your own enemy as well. Maintain some distance from it and then, you can make everyone feel comfortable. That’s how you work with new directors and heroines as well.
Now, as you get great reviews for your outing in Good Newwz – after the success of Housefull 4 – you seem to be always ready to play around with your comic avatar…
I love comedies. Vis-à-vis Housefull 4, I was absolutely ready for a slapstick comedy. I know a lot of critics panned it but I believe in slapstick [comedy] also because I know it has a separate audience. Uske liye main bhi tayyar tha. I did that film, including the song, Bala with absolute conviction, even though I knew that it’s foolish comedy because aise thode hi hota hai. It’s senseless for sure, but at the same time, it is fun as well and also has a fan base. And you have to cater to everyone. Good Newwz, in comparison, has situational comedy because the incident has happened in real life. It has been taken from a real incident and that’s one of the reasons why I took it up.
Recently, you also said that big names work with you only as a producer and not director…
I said it in jest but actually, that’s the reality (laughs).
At this stage, do you ever feel the pressure of the fact that so many people in the movie business – from exhibitors/distributors to spot boys – also benefit from your films?
Main uss wajah se pressure nahi leta but pressure leta hoon ke bas film chal jaaye so that mera agla saal theek-thaak, acche se nikal jaayega. That’s the major pressure. See, film’s productions won’t stop. Logon ko kaam milna bandh nahi hona hai. If one Akshay Kumar goes away, there will still be 50 other films that would get made. On an average, 180 films are made every year in Hindi. If I am not there, only four less films will get made. Baaki 176 toh phir bhi banti rahengi.
For the past few years, you have steadily maintained your work pace. Doesn’t it take a lot of effort?
Effort? Not at all! Do you know how long do I take to complete a film? Good Newwz, for instance, was completed in 32 days. Even if I take 40 days and multiply it by four films, it works out to 160 days. Out of 365 days, take out 160 days, and you are still left with almost 200 days. What would I do in those 200 days? I can maybe, do four more films (laughs) and still, would be left with 40 days. I am only talking about myself and not commenting about how others are working. But even a director like Shankar made 2.0 with me in just 38 days.
Clearly, you have developed some sort of a working system over the years…
It’s not about system. It’s all about the fact that you shouldn’t waste any time. If you [the lead star] come on time, the entire unit will also be on time. When you come late, everyone is like, ‘kya faayda, woh toh late aayega.’ Then, you come late and then heroine too does the same and then other artistes also follow suit. Jahaan din mein teen scene shoot hone the, wahaan ek scene hota hai. Due to that, 40 din ka 120 din ho jaata hai. In Good Newwz, neither Kareena [Kapoor Khan] nor Kiara [Advani] worked for more than five to six hours. You don’t need more than 50 to 55 days for filmmaking, regardless of how big a film you are making. Tom Cruise took 55 days to complete Mission: Impossible. Usse bhi badi film bana rahe ho kya! It’s one of the most amazing action films ever. I feel if you do proper homework, then you can work very fast.
You work a lot with new directors, including the Good Newwz helmer, Raj Mehta. So, do you find experienced ones boring, or is there another reason?
No, I don’t find the experienced ones boring (smiles). I just feel that new directors bring in a fresh energy and plus, they have a lot of hunger, too. It’s a do-or-die situation for them. If I come across any good story/script from the experienced filmmakers and if they have the same hunger, I would readily work with them. If a good director – regardless of the experience – has great energy, why wouldn’t I work with him/her?
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