One of the most punctual actors in Bollywood, Akshay Kumar seldom keeps us waiting when an interview is scheduled. But when we met him for a group interaction for Mission Mangal, we waited a little longer than usual. Being the monsoons, the traffic on the road was slow-moving too and the actor was shooting for something which caused the delay. The actor soon arrived in a royal blue kurta, probably right from his shoot. He soon settled down and was at his candid best this time. From talking his career being a bumpy ride, to wanting actors to do more multi hero films, here’s everything he said in the interview.
You’ve had your set of struggles, but now you have delivered consecutive hit films. What is it like to have consecutive successes?
I have gone through it (ups and downs in the career) 3 times. I wouldn’t be surprised if I go down again. The best way is just to keep on working. I still remember when I had 14-15 flops, I used to remember this voice saying ‘Gaya, gaya, gaya, gaya. Aree aa gaya, aa gaya’. This happens and it is a part of life. It happens to everyone. Someone goes through this in their career whereas someone in their personal life. You just have to take it, be bold, face it and get ready for the next step. There’s no other way out.
The director, Jagan Shakti first came to you with another project, Ikka. So how did Mission Mangal happen?
We were working on Ikka also but then he narrated this (Mission Mangal) to me too. He narrated the one line to me and said that his sister is a scientist as ISRO. I told him to write something on this. He went back and wrote it, came back after 20 days to give me a one-liner of what he’s thought. I quite liked it and asked him to work on it. He, along with R. Balki ji, wrote it and that’s it.
Did you all make an effort to make Mission Mangal more commercial so more people come and watch it?
Yes. I have not made a documentary. I make commercial cinema where there is laughter, fun, emotions and songs. There are 2-3 small songs in Mission Mangal also. You have to tell the audience everything that you want to say but in a commercial way.
How much do you think things are changing in the industry? Because for the longest time this has been considered to be a patriarchal setup.
This is what I feel personally feel. We’ve seen these things since childhood. If we see our textbooks also, we never had chapters where a woman was doing anything. I am telling you there will be more and more films where the women are taking lead. A lot of films are already being made with the woman in the lead role. Things will change. So it is better to stand back and clap.
When did you think this change should have happened?
I had thought about this long back. But back then, I didn’t have the money to make films. I wasn’t a producer back then. When I became a producer, I started making things like that.
The audience looks up to their favourite stars and actors pick their scripts responsibly.
I must tell you that I am doing this film but also do films like Housefull. That time when you come and watch it, don’t say ‘Yeh kaisa hai’. I do all kind of films. I don’t want to get stuck to one image that you’re very responsible. I am responsible and I want to do this as well. I play only characters. I enjoyed doing Mission Mangal, Housefull, Rowdy Rathore or a Singh Is Kinng also.
Salman had said in an interview that the superstars should at least do 2 and a half films in a year. How important do you think it is for superstars to do more films? Because the industry needs revenue.
I don’t know about how important it is but I just do it because I can do it. I finish Mission Mangal in 28 days. If I calculate according to 32 or 35 days also, I can finish 4 films I 1 and a half year.
Do you think the industry has genuine friends? Are the friends in your life from the industry?
No, they are not from the industry. They are my school and college friends. There are people who are good friends in the industry too but (for me) vo match hi nahi hua. I like roaming around with my friends. I have a few of my school friends, we meet every month. They sometimes come to the shoot also.
You played a gay character in Dishoom. You’re going to play one who gets possessed by a transgender in Laxmmi Bomb and you’re also doing films where you are letting the women lead. Have you never been conscious of your image? And have you been advised not to do certain things?
I have been advised a lot of times not to do this and that. I was also advised not to do Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Pad Man. I have got them for big people from the industry. That is not right. It doesn’t matter how much my role is, I want to be a part of a great film. If it’s a great film and my role is small, I’m fine with it.
This kind of thinking is not there in Hollywood.
I will not name the actor but he is doing a two-hero subject and he told the producer to release his solo photo and release the photo of the two actors together. That thinking is about a poster- one solo poster should come. I was quite shocked to listen to this.
Is that also why we don’t see two superstars sharing screen?
There is no film like an Amar Akbar Anthony now. They used to be there before and I have done them too. I have done films with Suniel Shetty, Saif Ali Khan and more. I don’t know why we don’t do that anymore. Now, one actor just doesn’t want to work with the other.
Is it because of insecurity?
I don’t know why? Must be insecurity but I don’t know. I would request them to do a 2 hero subject 3 or 4 hero subject. If you like the script and role, just do it. I failed to understand why they don’t do it. I have done a film with 7 heroes, Jaani Dushman.
Do you think Hindi cinema has evolved?
It has evolved and so has the audience. A lot of maturity has come in and everyone is ready to take the risk. Things are moving in the right direction and it will keep on moving. We have started concentrating a lot of different scripts, taking risks, experimenting.
How difficult was it to drop the macho image and step into something else?
Earlier it was next to impossible for me but now it’s okay. Earlier I couldn’t come out of the image of being an action hero. But then I pushed hard and some people in my career helped me like Priyadarshan, Rajkumar Santoshi. I got all kind of romantic films. Things started changing. First I used to be offered only action films.