I don’t need to compete with Salman Khan: Akshay Kumar
The inimitable Akshay Kumar shares anecdotes, talks about doing a Khiladi film with asin, and why you shouldn’t ask him to shoot at night
Is there any pressure regarding Khiladi 786, given that it’s part of a successful franchise?
Akshay: I never feel any pressure about a film. What is meant to happen will happen. I have seen failure as well as success several times.
Akshay: Main action chhod chuka tha (I’d left action). I was focusing more on comedy and romance. Then, after Rowdy Rathore, I said I should return to action films.
You started with action. Is there any pressure returning to the genre?
Akshay: There’s no pressure. As a child, I loved climbing trees and jumping around. I enjoy the risk of bungee-jumping. I used to pay money to do it. Now, it’s the opposite. I get paid to do action.
How much does age matter?
Akshay: It hasn’t yet; maybe after five-six years it will. When my first Khiladi film came out (in 1992), she (Asin) was in the first standard! So, do you think age matters?
Asin, have you seen any of the previous Khiladi films?
Asin: I was little, so I don’t remember much about it. I do remember the songs and dance movements.The film seems to be very colourful. Tell us about it.
Asin: It is a vibrant, fun movie. Akshay plays a very colourful Punjabi character. I play a Maharashtrian girl.
Akshay: She plays the peach, I play the brinjal!
Asin: If you think we are dressed colourfully, you should look at his family in the film. That’s colourful.
Akshay: (In the film) my dadi is from Africa. My chachi is from China. My mother is from London. Humara choron ka khandaan hai (it’s a family of thieves).
What’s the story behind the title Khiladi?
Akshay: The Khiladi title was given by Abbas-Mustan. It was my first hit film. And then, the media and audiences gave me the tag of Khiladi. The title stayed with me, and I quite enjoy it.
In the beginning, did you think of Khiladi as a franchise?
Akshay: I didn’t know what the word ‘franchise’ meant. I was doing films right, left and centre. At that point, I didn’t know it would become so big.
Akshay: Yes, when your son is small, you don’t want any kind of harm to happen to you. Now he (Aarav) is 10 years old and I’m fit enough to do some more years of action.
What does Aarav feel about you doing action films again?
Akshay: He is very proud that I do all my stunts on my own. He doesn’t like coming for a shoot if it’s just dialogues or a song sequence. He finds that boring, but if it is action, he likes to watch it.
Are you conscious about your choice of films, picking only what your own kid can watch?
Akshay: I make sure that my film is satellite-friendly. I’m happy that Khiladi 786 has got a U-certificate from the censor board.
Asin, what’s Akshay like on the sets. Is he very serious?
Asin: Serious and Akshay? During the promotions of Housefull 2, he stuffed stale parathas and fruits into my bag, and at a security check, I kept saying that I’m not carrying any food. Now that promotions have started for this, my antennae are on alert.
Akshay speaks Marathi very well. Did he help you prepare for your character?
Asin: I didn’t know that he spoke Marathi fluently until after the film was completed.
You speak a lot of languages.
Asin: About six-seven.
And you, Akshay?
Akshay: Sindhi, Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi, English...Asin, you are associated with a lot of blockbusters. How seriously do you take numbers?
Asin: It means that that people have watched the movie and liked your work. Numbers are burdens for producers and makers of the film.
You joined the Rs 100-crore club with Aamir Khan (Ghajini; 2008).
Asin: Founding member... keep donating to my membership! Jokes apart, I don’t take it seriously. The industry is growing, and in near future, the mark could be 200 or 300 crore.
Akshay, has the action in your films become more over-the-top?
Akshay: Rowdy Rathore was completely hand-to-hand combat. It had nothing to do with cables. But yes, technology has changed action quite a lot. It helps an actor do over-the-top things. This film (Khiladi 786) required action like that.
Akshay, you started working in the industry when film promotions were not that big a deal. How big a difference do they make?
Akshay: It’s very different now. There are so many more channels and newspapers now. And, thanks to piracy, we need to tell people to go to the theatre and watch the film.
Asin, you on the other hand saw promotions from the beginning.
Asin: Yes, Ghajini started the trend of crazy promotions and strategies. But it was new to me too. I was not used to this kind of stuff in the south Indian film industry. It was my first Bollywood experience, so I thought that’s how things work here. Now it’s become the norm. It’s even started in the south.
Have you bid farewell to the south Indian film industry?
Asin: I can never say goodbye to my parent industry. Because I was new to the Hindi film industry, I needed to focus a bit more. I’d definitely love to do a south film, but I need something exciting and different.
Are you doing any action in Khiladi?
Asin: I do have car chases. Being in a Khiladi film, you can’t escape doing that. But I’m not required to do as much action as the hero.
Akshay, are you competing with Salman Khan on the number of action films?
Akshay: I don’t need to do that. Waise bhi, meri saal mein paanch filme aa jaati hain (I have five releases in a year).
And now you’re producing films too.
Akshay: Yes, so I’m producing another five films. I’m a parallel film industry!
How involved do you get as a producer, in your films?
Akshay: I get very involved. I take a lot of interest in a film because it will come from my banner and I have some kind of social responsibility.
Do you specifically look to produce U-certificate films?
Akshay: It’s important for the films to be satellite-friendly. People should not have to shy away and change the channel.
You are working with a lot of newcomers – both directors and actors.
Akshay: I’ve been working with new directors since I came into this industry. Because the old directors didn’t want to take me.
You were quoted saying that Karan Johar does not want to cast you.
Akshay: I just said it masti mein (I said it in jest). But I did say it.
What do you do to keep fit?
Akshay: I start my day early, at around 4.30 am. I sleep by 9 pm. I eat my food on time, before sunset.
Asin: There is no equipment in his gym, just rings, parallel bars and mountain-climbing setups. He literally monkeys around.
Akshay: Human beings are made like that. We were more agile when we were young, when used to climb our neighbour’s trees. As we grow old, we forget that. I came back to my old routine.
Akshay: No, it’s the simplest thing. People make it sound complicated. It’s just four films in a year. One film takes 60 days. So, there’s around 125 days to relax. I don’t work on Sundays. I work from 7 am to 2 pm on Saturdays. I work for eight hours a day, after which, whether it’s my film or someone else’s, I go home.
How do you do night shoots then?
Akshay: I try to avoid them. If anyone tells me a story that goes ‘Picture shuru hoti hai raat me (the film starts at night)’, I say ‘Chal, baad mein (we’ll see later)’. My father would say, ‘Sirf ullu jaagte hain raat mein (only owls are up at night)’.
— Transcribed by Vishal Manve
Tell us about the shoes you are wearing.
Akshay: It’s a 12-number shoe... the size of a one-bedroom apartment in Mumbai (laughs). Footballers and cricketers have spikes on their soles. We came up with the idea of having spikes on top. We got them made in New York and they cost about R2.5 lakh.
Who designed it?
Asin: Christian Louboutin.