He’s the quintessential Bollywood hero – self-made, good-looking, charming with a spate of hits to his credit, most of them a big hit with family audiences. Akshay Kumar has owned the last 25 years of the Hindi film industry and 2016 begins with perhaps one of the best roles of his career. Akshay Kumar essays the challenging role of Kuwait-based Indian businessman, Ranjit Katyal, who against all odds masterminded the entire rescue operation to save the lives of Indians in war torn Kuwait.
Manju Ramanan maps the man who balances several genres of cinemas and he refuses to age!
PROUD TO BE INDIAN
“Airlift will make you feel proud of India,” says Akshay Kumar. The film bases itself on the largest human evacuation in history, where over 170,000 Indians were airlifted using 488 Air India flights in just 59 days during the Gulf War in 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The evacuation has been featured in the Guinness World Book of Records.
THE MASTER OF ALL GENRES
I am comfortable with all genres of cinema. I am doing films that I want to do. Let me put it this way— whether I do 10 action films in a row or 1, whether I do 5 back to back comedies, it will be because I want to. Many people asked me to step away from my happy place and experiment, “Do drama Akshay” (so I did), “Do serious cinema” (so I did) and as much as I admired the films I did over the last couple of years, they were not going to rescue my producers at the end of the day. My number one rule is ‘to be a producer’s actor’. Every now and then I will surprise my audience with a different kind of me, like ‘Special 26’ and Airlift. People think I don’t step beyond my comfort zone of comedy films, but they have no idea how much I love just making films with people I admire and believe in. To me that’s what filmmaking is all about. It is not about awards, it is about characters, about people and ideas.
A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN
For me it is when you can look into a woman’s eyes and see the beauty of your un-born child gazing back at you, that is when I feel that a man steps back and says from the bottom of his heart how absolutely beautiful he finds her. To me, any other time a man thinks a woman is beautiful it is either pure attraction or admiration for that woman. But pure beauty comes from the purest of thoughts and for me that is when you realize a lifetime of happiness wrapped inside one look. I’m sorry to let you down, but she was an actress and she is now my wife – the most beautiful woman I’ve ever set my eyes on.
KEEPING YOURSELF TOGETHER
What really keeps my inner self-intact is my family. You see at the end of the day I can’t be successful at work every day, I can’t be famous forever, I won’t have fans that admire me like they do now for the rest of my life. But what I do have is a family that loves me unconditionally, whether my films work or not, whether I’m successful or not. So, when things aren’t going right for me at work, it only makes me want to run home to them quickly. I don’t need to do yoga or martial arts to control my inner self; I just need them – my family. Martial Arts has taught me many things – from discipline, to self-control, defense and agility. But what makes me tick as a man is happiness. I have enough discipline for half an army, but I can never get enough happiness without my family.
I can only make such films when I am presented with such material. I’m afraid I cannot multi-task — I can’t produce and release 4-5 films a year and still have the time to write my own romantic scripts. I know people call me a ‘jack of all trades’, but writing is not my thing, therefore I can only wait for one of India’s talented writers to offer me one instead.
SELF-MADE ACTORS HAVE MORE DRIVE
To be honest, yes! But that is not a standard in every case, but it’s true in most cases. It’s human nature to defend and strive for something more when you’ve been through hell and back working for it. For example, I had no godfather, no filmy background whatsoever. I didn’t even have two rupees to rub together when I first started out as an actor. But I haven’t taken a day or a person for granted even once in my life. I couldn’t afford to. I was a nobody from nowhere. My only goal was to strive to be better – and the passion to make things better got me where I am today. If I’d had a different beginning would I work as hard as I have? Who knows! All I do know is, when one remembers what a struggle life was, it makes you work 10 times harder so you never have to return to your earlier life