You don’t expect pop philosophy quotes when you talk to Akshay Kumar. But the man surprises you by saying if you work hard and work long enough, you will get your blood’s worth.
Twenty-three years ago, with little idea of how Planet Bollywood works, Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia, from Delhi’s Paranthe Wali Gali, had managed to walk into the industry in what can only be explained as luck by chance.
Once in, he earned such unflattering tags that a lesser man would have given up. Called a “carpenter’s shop” among other things, Akshay (name changed for mass acceptance), the trade pundits had predicted, wouldn’t last more than two years. Now, not only has the actor established himself as a formidable brand, he has successfully managed to launch two production companies. And with Baby, Bollywood’s eternal ‘Khiladi’ has won over his sworn enemies: the critics.
In an exclusive interview to MAIL TODAY, Akshay says, “Getting four-and-half to five stars for my film is not something that happens very often. I am still getting messages about how good it (Baby) was and I am feeling wonderful. But I wouldn’t want to take the credit for this. The entire credit should go to Neeraj Pandey. He is a solid director who knows what he wants, the kind of director you would want to believe in. He brings the best out of me.”
Action has been Akshay’s forte since the beginning of his career and somewhere along the way the industry discovered his comic timing. But the actor fell out of favour with critics. While the audience would lap up his acts in films such as Housefull and Rowdy Rathore, critical acclaim eluded him. After long, Baby has bridged that gap. But Akshay clarifies he wasn’t looking at this film as a means to prove a point. “I just wanted to be earnest; do my best, but do something different. The critics never gave me more than one star for my acting. But that was not the point. I wanted to challenge myself,” he explains. Akshay admits he earlier did movies only for the money, but then got bored and started concentrating on films that excited him. “I tried different things. I did Oh My God, Tasveer, Sangharsh etc. Some of them worked, some didn’t. But it’s my nature to persevere,” he points out, adding that he believes success is more than 60 per cent luck. “You could be the most talented person, but if you are not destined to be successful, you won’t be. On my part, I attempt to balance pure commercial cinema with cinema of substance.”Within two weeks of its release, Baby earned Rs.85 crore at the box office. But Akshay is not worried whether the film will make it to the coveted Rs.100-crore club. “This is a different film, with no song or elaborate action sequence. I am happy it’s doing well because of word-ofmouth publicity.”
After Holiday, this is his second film in recent years that focuses on national security.
Does he think with Narendra Modi as prime minister, India is now more secure? “With my hand on my heart, I believe 100 per cent that we are not only in safe hands, but being led by a man with a conscience as well as a necessary fighting spirit.”
After Baby, Akshay will be seen in two more films set against the backdrop of issues that plague the country. In Gabbar, which will see a May release, he plays a vigilante officer who fights corruption in his unique way. “We all are victims of corruption. It’s time we started doing something about it at our level,” he says. The other film, Airlift, talks about the time when the Army entered a war zone and evacuated more than one lakh Indians from Kuwait within six days of the Gulf War breaking out.
The son of a soldier, Akshay proudly speaks about the commitment of Army men. He, however, believes that the government could do much more for the armed forces. “Our Army needs better funding, training and, most importantly, family benefits.”