One of the best interviews of the superstar we have read in ages. Akshay Kumar gets candid in this mid-day interview and talks about the success of Kambakht Ishq, on his movie beating Veer Zaara’s record in Pakistan, the critics who trashed the film (yeah, including us), his near death experience with Sharks while shooting for Blue, on his decision to work again with Nikhil Advani who directed Chandni Chowk to China, on why he doesn’t like late-night parties, in two or three years.. Shocking? Read on..
– The impressive opening of Kambakht Ishq and its collections at the box-office must have pleased you.
Akshay Kumar : I am very happy with the results. Nowadays, if the beginning is good, everything is good. And weíve come with 2030 screenings, which is huge. Someone was just telling me that it has beaten all records in Pakistan and it has already made over Rs 50 lakhs there. Until now, the biggest hit across the border was Veer Zara but Kambhakkt Ishq has already surpassed that. The filmís success reassured our faith in it.
– The critics trashed KI.
Akshay Kumar : Yes, the critics panned it. Sometimes I understand it.
– Were you expecting it?
Akshay Kumar : Yes, I was. Because it is not a critic-friendly film. Like critics all over the world gave The Transporter a one-star rating but they made 350 million dollars in the first week. Some films are critic-proof. They do good business despite what the reviews say. Thatís because such films always have an audience. Whether it is good or bad, itís the kind of film people want to go and watch.
– The Transporter is an action film your forte. Why arenít you doing those kind of films?
Akshay Kumar : I am not moving away from action. I did it in Chandi Chowk To China. I did kung-fu and everything that was needed.
– No, I mean a Transporter-meets-Bond kind of cool action.
Akshay Kumar : The problem with doing that is today, all English films release here at the same time as they do abroad, so the Indian audiences are already exposed to that. So thereís no point attempting a film like that here. Itís not like old times when very few English films released here. Now there are simultaneous worldwide releases. And I have just finished a good action film called Blue. Itís a different space that weíve gone to. Itís a different genre. There are rare underwater scenes with sharks.
– You had a near-death experience while swimming with sharks, didnít you?
Akshay Kumar : Yes, we were shooting in the deep sea and feeding sharks, when I hit my head on something and started bleeding. Iíve heard that sharks can smell a drop of blood from a mile, and they zoom in for the kill. But before I could even react, one of the guys just threw all the bait in the opposite direction, so the sharks would charge there, while the second diver put his hand on my wound and we rose to the surface in 20 seconds. I am fortunate to be alive after that incident. My wife Tina was on the ship above and was watching the scene on the monitor.
– Werenít you scared of going back into the water the next day?
Akshay Kumar : No, I possibly didnít realise the seriousness of it.
– Admit it, you love taking risks.
Akshay Kumar : Yes, to an extent. You know, there are some people who like to sit on all the rides in an amusement park, no matter how scary because it is fun. I am like that. I enjoy it. Also, in the park, you have to pay to get that kind of a thrill, but in films, they pay me to do experience those kinds of thrills. Whether it is underwater scenes or leaping from planes or buildingsÖ
– Coming back to Blue, is it true that Sanjay Dutt feels sidelined in the film?
Akshay Kumar : This Sanjay Dutt thing has been going on and on and on. Have you heard me ever talk about it? I donít have any problems with anyone. We have finished the whole film. Itís over and done with.
– Do you think other actors in Blue felt threatened as they know you will do better action?
Akshay Kumar : MaybeÖ There may be points like that. But I finish about 4-5 films a year. I donít have the time to get into all this.
– You were the first guy to leap from high-rises and planes but now everyone is doing it. Shouldnít you now be raising the bar?
Akshay Kumar : Now, everyone is doing stunt scenes because cable work has come in. I used to jump without cables. Safety has just come in five years ago. Iíve jumped on cardboard boxes; then came airbags, and finally cables. Even now, cables are done manually; very few people use the winch machine. I was telling Mr (Sylvester) Stallone about how back home, weíve jumped from ten-floor buildings without cables and he said, ďYou are crazy people over there.Ē And I said, ďYes, we are.Ē
– Jumping with cables sounds pretty easy.
Akshay Kumar : No, itís not easy. Once you are standing on the edge of the building, itís quite difficult to jump even when you know you are being held by cables. Also, you know that your life is in the hands of five people who are holding the cables.
– Your wife doesnít stop you from going ahead with this madness?
Akshay Kumar : Earlier, she used to tell me‚?¶ but now sheís okay. I donít know if sheís putting on a brave front for me or if she really believes it but she says, ďI know nothing will happen to you.Ē Maybe itís because I have done two-three films with her and she has seen me do that kind of action and has faith that I can do it.
– Youíve never been affected by what people say about you. But of late, youíve started saying things like ďLet sleeping dogs lie and some day I will talk against people who are my enemiesĒ and more.
Akshay Kumar : Still, I wonít take names. I am a human being and thereís a limit to my patience. One day, I will react. I am not reacting yet. I can take names and point fingers at people but you are right, that is not me. I want to go back to the kind of person I was. And ignore stuff.
– Also, if you take names, itís going to get uglierÖ
Akshay Kumar : Itís not going to get ugly or anything. No one can do anything to me. But like I said before, I am a human being and I can ignore some things some of the times; not all things all the time. Itís come to a point where it has started bothering me. But I have still controlled myself. I donít want to lose control. And I am glad that I have kept my anger in check.
– Why do you feel persecuted?
Akshay Kumar : You know, Lata Mangeshkar said somewhere, ďThe more fruits a tree bears the more people throw stones at it.Ē But if I am being constantly provoked, I have to react because Iím not a tree. And I did react a little bit, but to tell you the truth, I somewhere also regret it. I just do my work. I donít get involved in any politics or games. I have achieved whatever I have, due to my own hard work and no one can take that away from me. I have done 120 films and out of that, about 80-85 films were hits; the rest were average or flops or whatever. And in all those years, I have never said anything wrong about anyone. Iíve not wronged anyone. I feel very fortunate and proud that I have not rubbed anyone the wrong way in all my years here.
– Whatís after Blue?
Akshay Kumar : I have De Dhana Dhan directed by Priyadarshan, Action Replay directed by Vipul Shah and Patiala House directed by Nikhil Advani.
– You are working with Nikhil Advani again after Chandni Chowk‚?¶? You are very brave.
Akshay Kumar : What do you mean I am being brave? If the movie didnít work, itís not just because of him; itís because of me also.
– Thatís admirable, but how many actors work with a flop director?
Akshay Kumar : Itís very shameful if they donít. Itís not just the directorís fault if a film fails. Itís my fault too. Be man enough to take your share of the blame. Itís the fault of the whole team. Youíve gone into the project after reading the script, so if it doesnít work, you have to accept that you made a mistake too.
– It was alleged said that CC2C turned out to be totally different from the script because of your interference. True?
Akshay Kumar : No, itís just a figment of someoneís imagination. Allegations, controversies and scandals should not be taken seriously.
– It comes with the territory, so youíve got to take it.
Akshay Kumar : So I am taking it. This is not being said for the first time. The more people hit out at me, the stronger it makes me. I must be affecting some people and thatís why such allegations are made against me.
– Even with Kambhakkt Ishq, initially, certain sections of the industry said the collections were exagerrated. A trade analyst even said that the posters (highlighting the biggest opening) were put out one day after the release so they mustíve been printed in advance. How do you react to such accusations?
Akshay Kumar : Yes, the posters are printed and kept, so that if the film works, they can be plastered everywhere. But if the film doesnít take that kind of opening then those posters are junked. The whole idea behind keeping them ready is so that one is not caught unprepared. Sajid had kept similar posters ready for Jaan-E-Mann also, but the film didnít work, so those posters were never put up. Every producer does that. You have to be ready.
– You recently had a party to celebrate the success of KI. You said that the party was also for New York but only Katrina was present from that team. Why?
Akshay Kumar : I never said it was a party for New York. I said that because New York and KI have done well, we all need to celebrate. John couldnít make it because of his foot injury. Katrina was there, but I donít know Kabir Khan so I didnít call him. I only called people I know.
– Why was your good friend Aamir Khan missing from your party?
Akshay Kumar : I spoke to him. His wife isnít keeping well so he could not make it.
– Do you feel some stars didnít come because you donít go for other peopleís parties?
Akshay Kumar : I go for some parties. Twinkle is more social. What can I say? I donít enjoy parties.
– Did you enjoy your own party?
Akshay Kumar : To tell you honestly, I was there till about 2 am and then I wrapped up and went home.
– Thatís too early for a B-Town party!
Akshay Kumar : The party was going on. Everybody was there. I leftÖ
– How can you disappear from your own party?
Akshay Kumar : I donít know. Tina and I left together. I think it was a fair time to leave.
– A good party ends at 6 am!
Akshay Kumar : A good party must be ending at 6, but I had a morning shoot. I had a 9 am shoot for De Dhana Dhan, and I canít be looking pathetic in front of the camera.
– You are perceived more as a money-making machine rather than a serious actor. Comment.
Akshay Kumar : I canít help perceptions, but I deliver. See, if today, a producer comes to sign me, he is not doing it just to waste his money. A lot of times, I have been accused of Ďrobbingí producers but anyone who doesnít want to sign me, wonít do so. If a producer believes that he will get his money back, only then will he sign me.
– So charging Rs 45 crores per film is justified?
Akshay Kumar : I have a very different way of working it out. I take a very minimal amount, and I have a stake in the film. If the film does well, I make money, and so does the producer. And if it doesnít, then we both get a very small amount. So even if my movie doesnít do well, the producer will always repeat me because of the simple strategy. I remember there was a time when I had 14 flops in a row this was five-six years ago. But I was still being approached by the same guys over and over again. I have a simple strategy. Just work with the producer. Be a producerís man and go ahead. Any actor can do it. Thatís why Nikhil and I are coming together again, because somewhere or the other, CC2C didnít lose money. It was a very safe proposition.
– Why arenít you producing more?
Akshay Kumar : I did Singh Is Kinng and Namastey London. I am also producing Patiala House and another film with me and John in it.
– We hear one of your conditions before signing a film is that it should be shot abroad.
Akshay Kumar : No, I mustíve told this to some producer as a joke. De Dhana Dhan was shot in the city; Action Replay was shot on the outskirts of the city, at ND Studios. It is in Karjat, two hours from the city. You came on the set, didnít you?
– No, I was planning to, but it was too far away.
Akshay Kumar : (Smiles) See?
– Okay, I get it. You donít like distractions on the set. If you are in the city, other filmmakers, family and friends keep dropping by. And actors want to wrap early and run home or other commitments, right?
Akshay Kumar : I finished the film in 35 days. And thatís because there is no disturbance. Also, when you are in the city, half the time you are sitting in traffic. Now I am doing another film for Priyadarshan, and we will shoot that entirely in Satara. If we finish the film in one schedule, the producer, distributor and exhibitor make money. No matter what happens, the film has to be an average or a hit film. And it works because it was finished quickly.
– Your contemporaries like SRK and Aamir are brilliant at marketing their films, but you donít get involved in the process. Why?
Akshay Kumar : This is not you talking; itís your husband talking.
– Rubbish. Itís a fact!
Akshay Kumar : I promote my films whatever way I can.
– Okay, tell me how much do you really interfere in the selection of the leading ladies for your films.
Akshay Kumar : (Laughs) I love to interfere in every department of filmmaking. They donít let me.
– Any favourite heroines?
Akshay Kumar : Kareena (Kapoor) and Katrina (Kaif)
– Youíve given more hits with Kat.
Akshay Kumar : YesÖ 3.
– Is she in your home productions?
Akshay Kumar : I donít knowÖ the scripts are still being finalised. The directors will sit and decide.
– Talking about looks, a lot of actors are going in for hair transplants (not that you need it) and Botox. Would you consider it?
Akshay Kumar : Till now, I am completely against it and I donít need it. I donít want it. Look (points to his eyes), itís all good. The trick is to have no late parties (grins).
– Do you worry about getting old and looking bad in front of the camera?
Akshay Kumar : (Long silence) Well, I am 42 and I donít want to be working in this line throughoutÖ If I do it also, maybe Iíll do character roles. Or maybe I will just leave it all and go away.
– How can you do that? You are a total workaholic!
Akshay Kumar : I am a workaholic but I have done enough work, and I am financially secure enough to stop working when I feel like.
– Itís not about money. Itís about keeping yourself occupied.
Akshay Kumar : Itís not like if I am not working, I will get withdrawal symptoms or anything. For me, work is important, and I get a fair amount of work. And I work more than any other actor but sometimes I just feel like I should leave now.
Akshay Kumar : (Ponders) Maybe not now but in two-three yearsÖ
– Thatís not too far away.
Akshay Kumar : I donít know but I feel that way sometimes. I am not saying I will quit acting. But I want to give a lot of time to my son.
– Not planning another kid?
Akshay Kumar : Not yet. My sister also lives with me and her daughter is like my own daughter.
– Whatís the one thing you are afraid of?
Akshay Kumar : Heights.
– But you are leaping off from any and every place you can!
Akshay Kumar : (Laughs) Yeah, I know. When I am standing on the edge, just before I jump, thatís the scariest moment, but then I go ahead and jump. I donít know how to explain it. Itís thrilling.
– Will you ever direct a film?
Akshay Kumar : No. Iím too scared to even consider that.