After all the action

After all the action

Films seem to be like a part of Akshay Kumar’s fitness regimen. Just as he is very particular about his fitness and food, he is particular about doing three to four good films every year. The films, too, are getting better — and the box-office, fitter as well! Last year, his substantial films Airlift and Rustom did much better than Housefull 3 (which was an average success) and the actor agrees that people do not just want plain fairytales anymore.

“A raja-rani story is no longer value for money when the ticket costs Rs 250,” he smiles. “Now there should be a twist, like the rani having an affair!” In his new film, Jolly LLB 2, his wife, played by Huma Qureshi, dominates him at home even as she motivates him to take on injustice in his profession. “She is the kind of wife who makes sure that her husband serves her the peg of liquor she wants on time and presses her legs at night. Huma is a wonderful actor and perfect for the role,” says Akshay.

Do we see a pattern of late — that he is only working with non A-list heroines like Ileana D’Cruz, Nimrat Kaur, Taapsee Pannu, Amy Jackson, Jacqueline Fernandez, Huma, and now Bhumi Pednekar in Toilet-Ek Prem Katha? “That’s not intentional,” he says. “I think that it is the director’s call on which actor suits a character best.”

With no preparations
Akshay considers Jolly LLB  2 one of his happiest experiences in recent times. “The film has been shot quickly, and I hate films that take long. Even the best of characters that you are playing begin to bug me if they take too long. And I am playing a lawyer for the first time, a goofy but ambitious one.”

Akshay denies any extensive prep for his character. How correct is that when he gets to play diverse roles like a tycoon, a naval officer and so on? Clear about his stand, he declares, “I do not do any prep because a director prepares much more. I cannot compete with that as I am doing four films a year and he is doing only one.”
He elaborates, “It is common sense. Like in this case, my director Subhash Kapoor had all the information and data on court cases, files, the language used in a court, how a court looks like, and so on. My credo is not to try and be too smart, but to make sure that I excel in the role after he has given the inputs.”

Akshay, however, clearly expresses his gratitude to Arshad Warsi, who played Jolly LLB in the earlier film in the franchise. “You will have to ask the director why they wanted me this time, but Arshad showed me the way. He made the first film big, and now the pressure is on me to make this film big as well.”

Yes, his respect for the judiciary has spiralled after this film. “We all complain that cases take a decade to get over. But do you know that at any time there are four crore cases pending and only 21,000 judges? My colleague Saurabh Shuklaji was stressed out about the nuances of acting out his role as the judge. Imagine what a real judge has to go through — he has to wade through dozens of files and yet make sure that he does not make the wrong decision! I would say hats off to the judiciary.”

Does he think that a jury system, as shown in his last film Rustom, would work better? He ponders and says candidly, “I really would not know.”

Akshay had also recently tweeted an ingenious idea for a website or an app whereby the common man, who lives a secure life solely because of our armed forces, could financially give a sum of money to a martyr’s family. How did he get that idea? “It just came one morning,” he explains. “A friend had wanted to do this and had told me that there was no access for him, whereas a celebrity like me could easily get both information and the account numbers of such people. Just think, if just 15,000 people in a population of over 125 crore contribute just a 100 rupees each, a soldier would not worry anymore about what happens to his dependents if he dies on duty, for they would get Rs 15 lakh over and above what the government gives them.”

How does Akshay look back at 2016, where he has been, as always, sidelined in the awards, like for Airlift or Rustom? “Maybe I did not deserve them, or someone deserved them more,” he says casually. “I once told Kareena (Kapoor Khan) that the charm is in continuing to work and not worrying too much about awards. Nothing happens if you do not get one, you get your rewards through appreciation, and keep going.” He pauses and grins, “She repeated this as my advice to the media and I must have a word with her now, for it was something I wanted her to keep a secret.”

Content in his life
Is not this phase the most satisfying part of his career? “It is.” he says. “In the first eight to 10 years of my career, I was only doing action. I remember the mirror in my elevator at that time seeming to chide my reflection when I was leaving home for another day of three kicks, two punches and four falls. It got to me and I called up Priyadarshan for guidance. This genius, who has directed 74 films with less than 10 of them as flops, believed in me and cast me in a comic role in Hera Pheri. Rajkumar Santoshi and Neeraj Vora also encouraged me. For the last 17 years, I have enjoyed myself, and the thought of working the next day always being an exciting proposition.”

Says Akshay, “It is important for an actor that he does not have one single image — that is boring for everyone, and after a point, for the actor too. Today, I get bored, as I said, even if a film drags for more than four months.”

What does he feel about the film being produced by Salman Khan for him? Clearly, this is one big-star friendship that seems to be truly genuine. “Well, friendship does not mean meeting up every day,” he says. “Salman and I have not even gone yet to each other’s homes. This is the first time that a big actor has asked another big actor to do a film by putting his own money on him. Hats off to Salman for doing that! Such things have happened abroad, and if the film succeeds, it can set a welcome trend here as well.”

The year to come will be a memorable one, with Rajinikanth’s 2.0, Neeraj Pandey’s Toilet-Ek Prem Katha and Crack, and his wife Twinkle Khanna’s unique bio-pic on a sanitary napkin maker, Pad-Man,  as well. Or should we say, it will be another year of nutritious entertainment for us that will continue to augment Akshay Kumar’s fitness?

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