Akshay Kumar is at the top and no questions asked. He has reportedly signed a three-film contract with a company for the heart-stopping figure of Rs. 41 crores. His looks are smashing, he is versatile to slip into action, suspense, comedy, drama, thrills, the works like no actor among his peers can. And that is a fact. But what clinches his stakes in this competitive market is the economic viability of his films. He has been delivering thumping hits without a break with producers and financiers laughing all the way to the bank. In this rat-race where no one spares even Shahrukh Khan for a flop, Akshay Kumar has performed a hat-trick of hits in a continuous series - NAMASTEY LONDON, HEYY BABYY and BHOOL BHULAIYAN. His film WELCOME has just released and is still counting the gate money... Shoma A Chatterji pins him down for a conversation
Are you happy with the string of successes over the past two years? Absolutely. It is always great to know that the audience has put both its money and its faith on a film I have chosen to work in. As I have never wearied of repeating - hits and misses always matter and a good Friday keeps the home fires going.
Tell us something about your new film MADE IN CHINA, directed by Nikhil Advani. It marks the Hindi film debut of Warner Bros and that is exciting enough for me. In the film, my role is that of a lowly Mumbai cook who is mistaken for a martial arts hero - close to my life story because I began as a cook in Bangkok and became a martial arts expert. I have Deepika Padukone opposite me. The film will give me a platform to showcase my expertise in Parkour - a physical activity that focuses on efficient movement of the body in getting across obstacles in one’s path. I first did this in a Thums Up ad last year. I am really excited about action flicks because I have returned to action after a long time.
But you had almost given up action, hadn’t you? That’s right. But that is mainly because people thought I could do only action till I did YEH DILLAGI and DHADKAN with dramatic roles followed by a comedy like HERA PHERI. It is like reinventing yourself each time. That is precisely what the audience is looking for. It wants you to keep offering interesting and varied stuff, which can only happen with a bit of planning and a lot of hard work. I want to be someone to look up to and make oneself believe that - if he can do it, so can I.
Did it ever occur to you to become a sportsman? To be very frank, not really. I grew up in a large family in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk and though I excelled in sports in school, I always wanted to be an actor. I am lucky to have been able to convert some of my dreams to reality. It was difficult. After doing my stint in Bangkok, I did several things before getting a break as a model. My first film SAUGANDH (1991) failed miserably. But I did not have to wait very long because the very next year, KHILADI was a big hit and set the chain of Khiladi films one after another.
Your portfolio is spilling over with some exciting films lined up this year. I recently completed a grueling schedule with Saif Ali Khan for Yashraj Films’ TASHAN. We then flew away to the Australian Gold Coast to shoot for Vipul Shah’s home production SINGH IS KING being directed by Anees Bazmee. This month, we are about to begin the shoot for MADE IN CHINA. Then there is Sajid Nadiadwala’s KAMBAKHT ISHQ, Nagesh Kukunoor’s EIGHT BY TEN, Feroz Nadiadwala’s INTERNATIONAL HERA PHERI with Priyadarshan, one David Dhawan film and one more Yashraj film directed by Shaad Ali.
They say you have been insisting on casting Katrina Kaif with every film. Is this true? This is news to me. I am more amused than angry. How then do you explain the fact that almost all my under-production films do not feature Katrina at all? I am working with different actresses in these films. So, how these rumours have got to you God alone knows. Just because we happened to act together in several films and all of them were hits, does not mean that I will become insecure about acting with other actresses.
When and how do you ever relax if at all you do? I love spending time with my family. Twinkle and I have a very good comfort level as she has worked in the industry as well. So we understand each other well. I began to understand what fatherhood is all about only after Aarav was born. I also work out in my Parkour gym. That gives me the time and space to introspect, reflect on how it is going, what needs to be done and what needs to be changed. I keep out of discussions that debate on whether I am counted with other superstars and all that stuff. It takes you away from focusing on more necessary things like finding out ways that will not bore my audience.