One of the finest performances of 2019 came from Akshaye Khanna in “Section 375”. A nuanced court room drama, the Ajay Bahl film could not create too much buzz at the box office but Akshaye’s performance as the defence lawyer impressed critics.
Always a reliable actor, Akshaye hasn’t been challenged enough in the last few years. He will soon be seen in “Sab Kushal Mangal” where again he is playing an “author-backed” role. Meanwhile, after his father Vinod Khanna’s demise, the rumours of Akshaye jumping into the political arena keep surfacing.
Edited excerpts from a conversation:
You received widespread acclaim for your portrayal of a criminal lawyer in “Section 375”. What kind of a grind did you go through to deliver such a measured performance?
I will be very honest. Mine was never really a grind. I must tell you that as an actor I have been very fortunate most of the times. I have been extremely lucky to have excellent writing backing me.
Now, if you look at the other actors in “Section 375”, the writing backed them to a certain extent. But, for me, the writing backed me very strongly throughout. I had such beautiful lines to deliver. I had such beautiful moments to portray. So, it was really an author-backed role in so many ways.
And I feel the same for “Sab Kushal Mangal”. I feel that an actor is only as good as the writing. To be constantly backed by such good writing over a long period of time is not common. So often I get credited with things that I necessarily shouldn’t get credited for. A huge part of my performances has to do with great writing.
How do you look at your late father’s political legacy?
Frankly, I have absolutely no interest in politics or in public life for that matter. Because of the nature of my profession I am a public person but I don’t consider that to be public life. A public life is when you are accountable to your constituency, voters, ideology, and your party. You are answerable because you take a salary from people who pay taxes. You are being paid to do a job. That’s public life. I have never had an attraction for public life, especially politics because it doesn’t suit me.
It’s like spicy food. Some people cannot intake spicy food as their system can’t consume it. Similarly, my system doesn’t like public life or politics.
The quintessential prerequisite for political life is to be a people’s person. And I am not a people’s person. And I don’t consider it to be a legacy that I have to carry. One should never look at it like that. We are all here for a few decades on this planet and then we will go. So I don’t look at it that way at all.
What convinced you to take up “Sab Kushal Mangal”?
It’s the script that I really liked. As an actor it is something that I have never done before. As soon as I got the brief, I knew that it will give me a lot of scope to perform. And it would give me a certain angle of characterisation which has not written for me before. So I saw a great opportunity in terms of the character as well as the script and the story.
Tell us about your character in the film.
You see, Baba Bhandari is a combination of many opposites. He is a big shot in the world of politics and crime but he is also a very emotional kind of a character which is an unusual combination.
He is violent and yet very kind. So there are many contradictions to it which made it very interesting for me to play and also very entertaining from the audience point of view.
You are working with two newcomers in the film. Do you see any risk in working with newbies?
Well, it’s not a question of risk the way I see it. Here, it was the requirement of the script. It required two new faces. So as an actor one doesn’t look at it as a risk or reward. It’s more about what the script demands.
How do you generally choose for your roles? Tell us about your acting method.
It’s only the writing. There is nothing else except the fact that I need be sure whether I would be able to work with the director.
I like to spend a lot of time with the director before I agree to do a movie. It is an important part of the preparation for me. But in terms of what I am going to actually do I don’t usually know until I land up on the sets. While I usually have a basic understanding of maybe how I am going to do it, I don’t know what I am really going to do till I am actually doing it. Most of the times I like to leave it to very last minute as I don’t like to come with my own baggage.
I feel travelling light is good as an actor. There is so much that one absorbs when one is on sets with the rest of the cast and the crew. So, I like to be in the moment there as opposed to coming in with a lot of preparation.