Not just a jolly good fellow

MOVING AHEAD Akshay Kumar in New Delhi

MOVING AHEAD Akshay Kumar in New Delhi   | Photo Credit: Photo: Malvin Massey

As Akshay Kumar reinvents himself, the star says he is playing characters now

Not many would disagree that Akshay Kumar is going through a purple patch. In 2016, he played on three different pitches and managed to score on each one of them. Once described as an actor who knows only one meaning of action, Akshay is increasingly offering variety to his fans. Stunts and a strong sense of earthy humour have always been his strengths but now his film have a whiff of realism, a definite nationalistic angle and a touch of social responsibility.

Sitting attentive in his languid suite in The Imperial, his favourite spot, Akshay says this new version of him is not planned. The fact that he doesn’t belong to a camp, has put him in a situation where he could experiment with his script writers and directors more than many others. “I am going through a patch where I am getting good scripts. In this industry, scripts that compel you to do a film are rare. There is no big plan but I am glad that I have started a trend where stars are trying to fit themselves in subjects that are rooted to ground reality. It is not that everybody succeeds in it. I myself tried it before with films like Sunghursh and Tasveer but it didn’t work then. Now I try to strike a balance and do things which are away from reality as well.”

He says he and his staff read two to three scripts on a daily basis. “Out of 35-40 scripts, you find one worthy to explore. So it’s not a code that I have cracked. A lot still depends on luck. The good thing is that it is young writers who are coming up with much more interesting stuff than the seasoned ones.” And having coming through a generation where stars were signed before scripts were penned, Akshay finds its heartening that the industry has reached a stage where from screenplay to dialogues every thing is locked before shooting. “Now there are four-five narrations. The stars listens then his staff sits and sometimes even the family members are involved in the process.”

Many feel that Akshay is in a rush for when big names are eulogising the positives of doing one film a year, Akshay is doing three-four and is showing box office results as well. “I don’t believe in the expression that less is more. People say less visibility helps in maintaining one’s charisma. but the same people do 15 ads in a year. What happens to the charisma then. It is about an individual’s stamina. One can do maximum four films in a year.”

With Jolly LLB-2, he is trying to take his game to a new level. “I am playing characters now. I don’t want to be just Akshay in all my films. I was Akshay Kumar in Housefull and Holiday but at the same time I want to play a Rustom, a Ranjit Katyal.” He is not concerned that Arshad Warsi had already created the contours of the character. “I am thankful to him. He has created the structure of the character. I just had to walk into it.” This new space comes with its own challenges. “It takes me time to move from one character to another. Often, I have to reshoot the portions that are shot on the first two days,” admits Akshay. Here, he adds, director Subhash Kapoor was a great help. “He understands the court set up and legal universe so well that I just had to follow him. It is not a court room where you will get to hear haazir ho.”

Last year, he surprised with his racy effeminate turn in Dishoom, this time Jolly seems like a henpecked husband in Lucknow, which is again in contrast to Akshay’s out and out macho image. “Yes, the wife is bossy. He cooks for her, presses her feet and makes a peg for her. I found it interesting because in the court he is different, you know. In Hindi films, we don’t have such male characters often. It is always the wife or mother who are shown making food.” Does Pushpa have a reflection of his wife Twinkle Khanna, who loves to be politically incorrect? Akshay bursts into laughter. “Yes, she is blunt about what she has to say. You can call me diplomatic. I must say all these years my screen image has been quite different from real personality. At times, I have to hold her hand and say: tumhe bhagwan ka wasta hai, kuchh bolna mat.” It is Twinkle, perhaps, who is guiding him to even a newer version with films like Padman and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. Or is it a reflection of Akhay’s closeness to the ruling dispensation? “I am just doing my work by picking subjects that I like. I read the toilet story in newspapers and when I found that somebody has already written a script around it, I decided to go for it. As for Padman, it is Twinkle’s idea and she is producing it. I am not doing it for any honour. I never sit with people to discuss awards. I could not manage to do it in my own industry where I am rarely noticed for awards.” A film on the same subject has already been made by Amit Rai, an independent filmmaker. “Titanic was made four times. It depends on the interpretation of the character,” Akshay sums up with twinkle in his eyes.

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2.0: “It might surprise you, but I am not playing Akshay there as well. You will not be able to find me in that character. The idea is bigger than the characters in the film. It is not that I haven’t played negative characters before but playing a villain opposite Rajini sahib in a Tamil film gives a different high.”

Padman Based on Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore who invented the low-cost sanitary pad making machines.

Toilet: Ek Prem Katha Set in Mathura, Akshay is playing the character of a pay-&-use toilet owner who falls in love with a girl from the slum areas of the city

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 3:58:31 AM |

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