Akshay Kumar on Jolly LLB 2: 'Grateful to Arshad Warsi for showing me the way'
While stars like Shah Rukh and Salman Khan prefer to work in an average of two films per year, Akshay Kumar, with his meticulous planning and calculation, does no less than four films every calendar year.
He has his economics worked out, and like every year, Kumar has already announced his four films coming up for release in 2017. Belonging to four totally different genres, this year, Akshay’s releases include Jolly LLB 2 (February 10), Toilet – Ek Prem Katha (June 2), 2.0 with Rajinikanth (October 19) and Padman (starts rolling first week of March).
So here's a question everyone wants to ask him. How does he maintain this pace? “I have the stamina to balance three to four films as an actor and four as a producer. That keeps me occupied for the whole year,” says Kumar, who strictly believes that a film should not take more than 60-70 days to complete. He even managed to complete a multi-starrer like Housefull 3 in 38 days flat.
Talking about his experience of playing a lawyer for the first time in Jolly LLB 2 — a courtroom drama, where Kumar’s character questions the system — the actor says:
“Any film that you finish in three to four months, your experience is bound to be good because you are living that character for a little while. If a film's shoot extends more than that then you start getting bored even if you are portraying the best of characters. I prefer to complete my films in maximum three months and when the film gets extended by more than five to six months, I don’t enjoy working. As soon as I start a film I tell the makers that let’s finish it fast.”
Akshay Kumar believes in following his director rather than preparing for the role himself. He adds, "Working with Subhash Kapoor (director) was excellent. For the first time I was playing a lawyer and I enjoyed it because I am seen cracking quite a few interesting cases in the film. I remember I had started shooting for this film one day after the release of Rustom and today I am sitting here promoting the film.” The film also stars Huma Qureshi who plays the role of Kumar's wife, who “wants her peg and food on time”.
Actor Arshad Warsi had essayed the lead role in the 2013 film, Jolly LLB, which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. Arshad had earlier said he was supposed to feature in the second instalment too, but then the makers wanted a “bigger star”, which they found in Akshay Kumar.
From the looks of it, Jolly LLB 2 appears far more commercial obviously because of the presence of a bigger star. However, sounding modest, Kumar says, "I am very grateful to Arshad to show me the way of doing this film. It is not about commercial or non-commercial. I just followed Arshad’s path. On the contrary I hope that this film has the kind of success the first one saw. Arshad made the first film a success and thereby a big film and now the pressure is on me. When a star does a character-oriented or an author-backed role there is definitely some kind of pressure.”
Talking about the awards, after the nominations for this year's Filmfare Awards were announced, Twitter seemed to have been instantly enraged by the overlooking of Kumar for the Best Actor nod, despite acclaimed performances in Airlift and Rustom. #FilmfareAwardsOnSale trended furiously, buoyed by indignant tweets from Akshay Kumar's fan clubs.
So how does he deal with the situation when his work goes unrecognised?
“Maybe I didn’t deserve an award because there were many others who did a better job. Awards are good and because of these reasons I won’t stop believing or questioning awards,” says Akshay Kumar.
He appears a bit rattled when asked whether he had advised his co-star of many films, Kareena Kapoor Khan, recently to believe in rewards and not awards. “Did Kareena give that out? That was supposed to be a secret, I had told her in confidence. I told her that she should just keep working and not think too much."
While action remains his forte, in 26 years of his career, Kumar has tried quite a few genres.
“It’s only recently that I have started enjoying my work. Now, I am getting a lot of different offers so it feels good. I started as an action hero. For eight-10 years, I only did action every day. No one would consider me for any other role than action. That got to me. I learnt that you can’t stick to one image. You have to have different images. Not only will people say that to you but you yourself will start getting bored of it," he says.
“I still remember one day when I was going for shoot of an action film. I stayed on the 11th floor so I got into the lift and when I looked into the mirror, it talked to me and said, ‘So, you are going to do the same thing today as well? Give three kicks and two punches? Are you going to do the same thing all your life?’ That was a wake up call. Then I decided to do something different. I spoke to Priyadarshan sir and he believed I could do comedy. I didn’t have that belief in myself. I also learnt comedy from Rajkumar Santoshi and Neeraj Vora," adds Kumar.
He holds Priyadarshan in high regard. The actor-director duo gave hits like Hera Pheri, Garam Masala, Bhagam Bhag and Bhool Bhulaiyaa. While Kumar has no immediate plans to reunite with the director on a project, he only has heaps of praise for him. “I love Priyadarshan’s work. That man is a genius. No one makes comedies better Priyadarshan. He finishes a film in 30-40 days. He writes his own scripts, edits the film besides directing it. He is highly talented.”
Kumar might have chosen acting as his career just for money, but he says as time passed he started becoming an 'extremely passionate actor' - and this change was brought about by 1999 film Sangharsh. "When I assured myself of a decent bank balance, that's when I started taking risks. If I recollect, Sangharsh changed my perspective as an actor. I started to love what I do and now I am an extremely passionate actor," he adds.
He recently tweeted about Hrithik Roshan’s Kaabil calling it a good film, and strongly feels that social media helps in maintaining good relations between actors.
“Lot of times people write anything. Problems do occur between actors but media makes mountain out of a mole-hill with screaming headlines. It is all exaggerated. Now you can fix these problems with the help of social media. I was often accused of chopping my co-star’s role. Do I have the power to enter a director’s editing room, take him aside and cut another actor's role while the director keeps watching me do so? It happened with one of Priyadarshan’s film, and he got terribly angry with the journalist," shares Kumar.
Meanwhile, in the first kind of collaboration between two contemporary star/producers and a contemporary director/producer, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and filmmaker Karan Johar are coming together for a movie slated to release in 2018.
The yet untitled project will be produced by Salman and Karan, while Akshay will star in the lead role. The film will be directed by Anurag Singh, who has previously done Punjabi films. While Karan and Akshay have never worked together, Akshay and Salman have done Mujhse Shaadi Karoge and Jaaneman. However, Kumar remains tight-lipped about the project, merely saying, “Nothing has been finalised yet and if I tell you my agreement may get cancelled,” adding, "It is great that a huge star like Salman is asking another actor to do a film for him. It only happens in Hollywood, I have never seen it happen here.”
Incidentally, Salman is also a part of the Jolly LLB 2 trailer, in a dialogue related to his personal life.
In it, Kumar asks the question, “When will Salman Khan get married?" To this, he says, "Don’t worry, and don’t create controversies, Salman knows about it. After that only he signed me for his film.”