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next up Akshay Kumar with Chitrangda Singh, in a still from ‘Desi Boyz’.

Akshay Kumar has had a lean run lately, with Housefull being his only saving grace. Even the films that had massive openings (Blue) or did well in terms of footfalls (Singh Is Kingg), lost money.Unexpected setbacks (Khatta Meetha, Tees Maar Khan, Action Replayy, Thank You, Patiala House) have dotted the Akshay-scape in the last few years. The Khiladi (he’s done seven unrelated films with that role and title, an eighth is on the way) is unaffected by the low phase despite having to share the losses of being co-producer in many of these films. This may primarily be because of his huge fan following. That could explain a lot of goodwill that is coming his way, and the fact that he has not yet lost his footing in the filmy market.
About 21 years after his first screen appearance (a cameo role in Mahesh Bhatt’s 1990 Aaj) and a full two decades after his flop debut as hero in Saugandh, Khiladi Kumar is set to revive his flagging box office picture with biggies like Desi Boyz, only to be followed by the eagerly awaited Rowdy Rathore and Housefull 2 (his first sequel), Joker, Once Upon A Time Again and Khiladi 786, his co-production with Himesh Reshammiya.

Road ahead

The promos of Desi Boyz give the vibe of a polished romantic comedy. The songs have also been placed high on the charts. What are his personal expectations from the film? Will there be a reinvention of his image, diverging from the Akshay Kumar we have known and loved in his six years worth of comedy? “I am very excited about Desi Boyz — its unique concept will take audiences by surprise, and I know they are going to love it,” he replies. “I can’t wait to see their reaction. I know this film will turn heads, if not for the lovely ladies and the adorable script, then for John (Abraham) and me.” This film, adds Akshay, has a lot of firsts — it has a first time director in Rohit Dhawan, and Akshay Kumar being cast as a fireman, opposite Chitrangda Singh. The surprise is in “the different treatment” of a very real problem facing societies in a global scale today —recession. Another positive in this film is the intelligent manner in which the humour has been handled. “Rohit Dhawan’s style of filmmaking in itself will make for an entirely different and new cinematic experience,” he raves.

Though his films target the masses, he also appeals to NRIs, dealing with subjects and stories based abroad ( Namastey London, Singh Is Kingg, Kambakkht Ishq, De Dana Dan, 8 X 10 Tasveer, Blue and Patiala House). Akshay has also co-produced the Hindi or Indian versions of foreign films like Jumbo and Speedy Singhs. He  encourages NRI or overseas musicians to contribute to his music, the most recent of them being RDB and Snoop Dogg.

How much of a desi is he in real life? “I was born in Punjab and raised as a Punjabi,” he says placidly. “I prefer home food, love Hindi films, and even prefer speaking in Hindi. I start my day by touching my parents’ feet, something that you can only find in Indian culture. My banner is named after my father. So, what do you think?” he asks.

Is he over-saturated and fed up of comedies? Does he plan to explore other mainstream genres (his aversion to niche cinema is well documented), especially action? “Oh, not at all.” he replies. “Comedy is my favourite genre and I cannot get tired of it. Besides, my audience enjoys watching me in comic roles. But, as an actor, it is important to explore different roles as the audience wants variety too. As you all know, action is another big genre for me. I love the physical challenge and the adrenaline rush that comes with stunt sequences. So, I am doing Rowdy Rathore and Once Upon… as well as Khiladi 786 — Made In Punjab. I promise you that 2012 will be the best year for me, at least with respect to action movies.”

What is his role in Joker? “I can reveal that only in a forthcoming interview with you, when Joker is about to release,” he quips. “All I can say is that it will be my third film, after Jaan-E-Mann, with a dear friend named Shirish Kunder. It will also be my first 3-D film.”

Akshay has always been clear that he will never do just one film a year. “That’s not how I work. I do three or four films a year, usually shooting one film at a time. If I have four films on the floor, a lot more people gain employment and can run their homes,” says the superstar who had middle class beginnings, his early years spent struggling and working hard. Is that the reason behind his staunch support of mainstream cinema? “I am a greedy man. I am greedy for more hits, better work, greater respect and admiration. I did work in an offbeat film called 8 X 10 Tasveer. Only eight or ten people were there in each show.
But yes, if I get a script that can win me a National Award for Best Actor, then I just might do the film!”

Remembrance

Which co-star, filmmaker and composer does he remember most affectionately and why? The actor offers diplomatic replies and says, “Clichéd as it may sound, each co-star, filmmaker and composer I have worked with has been special to me for very different reasons. Each film I have worked on is close to my heart in its own way. Each movie has been an intrinsic part of my career, and everyone involved in these films has been a part of that journey.”

If he says that he is greedy for success, does his recent spate of average films trouble him then? “Well, I have had at least four phases before when I have been down, and I remember a period when I gave more than 10 flops in a row. I must have had the maximum number of ups and downs in a hero’s career. If it didn’t disturb me then, why should such phases disturb me now? I have to keep working.”  

It would seem that it takes a lot to ruffle his feathers. “Oh, I have a simple routine of work, home, movies and work-outs. I do one hour of exercise daily, no matter what. I eat everything, provided it is home food, so I’m not even stressed about whether I am eating properly. My career is fine. I have got a great family starting with my mother and sister to my wife, who is famous in her own right, and my son Aarav. So, what is there to be stressed about?”

We can only agree with this desi boy.

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