EXCLUSIVE – Khiladi of Bollywood ‘Akshay Kumar’ Interview

On his birthday, read his exclusive interview. He talks about his last movie Mission Mangal, National Award, Current Choice of Movies and future films.

“I was their resident dabbawalla,” says Akshay Kumar of his girl gang in Mission Mangal. He’s been unstoppable for the past few decades – constantly reinventing himself, the films he chooses to produce and the roles that he essays onscreen. Decorated with the National award last year, interviewing the Prime Minister of India and on the threshold of releasing the much awaited Mission Mangal where he is surrounded by a bevy of well-known Indian actresses, what goes on in the mind of Akshay Kumar , the actor, producer, artiste and disciplinarian. Manju Ramanan explores.

 Does the National award motivate you to dig deep into India’s achievements when it comes to subject matter for good Indian cinema?
Absolutely not, if you’ve followed my career, you know it’s the rewards that interest me and not the awards (chuckles). But obviously, if I can manage to get both, then I’m more than happy, after all who doesn’t like appreciation. But on a more serious note, I don’t go looking for such scripts per say, it’s scripts which genuinely amaze me and make me say wow, entertain me and pique my interest are the ones I take on. And I follow the same process for all my films be it a Mission Mangal or a Housefull 4.

How does Mission Mangal add to the list of biopics and films based on facts that Bollywood is currently moving towards?
Mission Mangal is not a biopic, it is a story based on true events with an element of fiction. The characters and their personal lives are fictionalized to some extent but the Mars mission draws inspiration from the actual Mangalyaan mission, their trials and tribulations. This film is an ode to India’s amazing minds, our scientists at ISRO who achieved the unachievable when all the odds were against them and made the most powerful nations of the world look up and take notice.

You worked with an army of strong women actors in MM, tell us how a day in the life of Akshay Kumar shooting with such spunky women?
If I were to answer this honestly I was their in-house dabbawala, everyday getting them food on demand, and getting reprimanded in case their food demands were not met. But it was all good fun, as soon as the camera rolled we all got into the character as we all wanted to tell this amazing story with as much earnestness and sincerity.

Describe each of your female co-star in Mission Mangal in one line? What is that one quality that inspires you about them?
Vidya – National award material, her presence in the frame just demands it.
Sonakshi – absolutely Dabangg, she has no qualms whatsoever.
Taapsee – Just like her name, she’s very active (Taapsee means active)…always gunning for more.
Kirti – beauty with brains..she’ll be finally happy I got her name right.
Nithya – chota packet, bada dhamaka…watch out for her in Mission Mangal

You have worked with Vidya Balan before, how was the experience this time?
Vidya is absolutely the same she was during Heyy Babyy.  You might find it hard to believe seeing her onscreen persona but Vidya is a total prankster off camera but as soon as the camera rolls, she transforms into the powerhouse actor that she is.

You have been the epitome of fitness in the industry and outside, how do you see discipline achieve bigger and greater things in life such as Mission Mangal and the Chandrayan 2 that was launched yesterday?
I attribute a lot of my discipline in fitness, health and life in general to martial arts. It is a way of life for me and it seems to be working well, touchwood. But I can only talk for myself here as I’m in no position to comment on the geniuses at ISRO. I’m sure they have extensive research and their own mechanisms in place for such important missions.

Do you see Indian cinema content raise its bar with your current choice of movies – Padman, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, Airlift, Rustom and now Mission Mangal?
Definitely, it’s not just my films but so many others as well. And a lot of credit for this change goes to the movie-going audience. You must give the audience what they demand, the economics of cinema is no different. Over the years, the audiences have matured a great deal which gives us actors and filmmakers the courage to try newer things, just like how I say in the film, there’s no science without experiment 🙂

What motivates you today when you choose a script or accept a role?
I think I’ve already answered this earlier…it has to pique my interest and excite me.  By the grace of God, I am fortunate enough now that I don’t do films solely for money. I’m always up for trying new things, case in point being, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, the script of which was doing the rounds for over four years till I got my hands on it. So if a script comes by and it makes me feel like I haven’t done this before, I’m game.

Tell us about your future film roles?
I’m not really at liberty to talk about the characters yet, we can get to them subsequently in the next couple of interviews closer to the film in question’s release. But I’m dabbling with a whole bunch of genres…there’s an out an out comedy, Housefull 4 in Diwali, then there’s a  dramedy…Good News just before the year ends which reunites me with Bebo after a decade, 2020 for me begins with hardcore action ala Rohit Shetty style in Sooryavanshi and then there’s a horror-comedy one of my favourite genres called Laxmmi Bomb which I’m presently shooting , It will be out mid-next year. So, we have at least four more interviews already scheduled (smiles)

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