Akshay Kumar on playing a sikh warrior in Kesari: ‘Not many actors get to play such a courageous man’
'The action sequences in Kesari are completely out of this word,' says Akshay Kumar
Akshay Kumar is happiest when he is doing stunts, and with Kesari, where he plays a brave-heart soldier, he is returning to action after a long interval.
“I have had one of the best times doing the action sequences for Kesari because they were so raw. It was completely out of the world. The very premise of the film is something which swells my chest with pride and the climax where I had to fight hordes of men alone with the sword was just something else,” said Akshay excitedly. “Yes, action and stunts do give me a high, that is true. As they say "bandar kitna bhi budha ho jaye voh apni kalabaazi se baaj nahi aata" (laughs out loud). After doing every other genre, I come back to doing action,” he adds.
After having seen Akshay bring the achievements of real people alive on screen in the recent past with Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Padman and Gold , he will be seen in the role of a sikh warrior, Havildar Ishar Singh, who led the Sikh regiment against 10,000 Afghan invaders in a battle in 1897 that took place at Saragarhi.
Also read on Firstpost: Ahead of Akshay Kumar's Kesari release, all you need to know about 1897 Battle of Saragarhi
“I was so fascinated by the story, which is so impactful and real. When you do research you will find that out of five biggest battles fought, Saragarhi stands at number two and yet we have not made even a single film on the subject. My character is a brave man, he fights for his honour, he fights for the country and he fights for his guru. It’s a dream role. Not many actors in their lifetime get the chance to act in such a story of courage and valour where you plunge into a fight even as you know that death is certain. What fascinated me more was when I discovered that these people had the chance to escape and save their lives by fleeing their country but they didn’t do so. They knew that they were going to die and still they fought,” said Akshay.
It may be recalled that Salman Khan and Karan Johar had announced a collaboration in producing a film on the Battle of Saragarhi featuring Akshay, in 2017. However, due to reasons unknown, Salman made his exit from the project and Akshay stepped into the producer’s shoes. On the other hand, Ajay Devgn was also keen on bringing the story of the brave warriors on the big screen. He had shared the poster even, but eventually Devgn’s Sons of Sardaar: The Battle of Saragarhi was shelved. Even Randeep Hooda’s film on the battle, which he worked on for two to three years, never saw light of the day.
“Whoever comes out first (with the film) will obviously benefit and those coming later would have been at loss, what else can I say?” said Akshay, who remained the top choice for the role as Johar recently said, “When you write a narrative such as Kesari, when you have this man leading a band of 21 to combat an army of 10,000, there are few names that pop up in your head. Akshay Kumar was leading that list. He was our top-to-bottom choice. Had he declined, this film wouldn’t have been made.”
While Akshay has done several forms of action, it was his expertise in martial art that came in handy for the action sequences in Kesari that releases on 21 March. “This fight is very close to martial art, it is something like Kalaripayattu. But yes, I had to learn certain new techniques. In this fight you don’t worry about your wounds, you have to just concentrate on how to kill your opponent. The last 20 minutes of the film is most exciting. I have done many genres within action but this was something creative and it will remain a memorable one,” said Akshay.
The most challenging part, said the actor, was shooting in high altitude in Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh.
“This was one spot which completely matched the original location as the terrain was quite similar. For rest of the shoot, we had a set in Wai, which unfortunately caught fire. Spiti has low oxygen level and it takes at least three days to acclimatise. Then, after each shot you take a break for a re-take because you are catching up with your breath. Also, the turban I wore weighed over one kilogram and the sword was six to seven kilos but in reality they fought with swords that weighed 20 to 25 kilos. Those days they would eat food cooked in pure ghee but now people take pure steroids,” he added.
2019 is quite an eventful year for Akshay, who has consistently reinvented in his 28-year-old career. His recent announcement of entering the digital space (for Amazon Prime Video's action series, The End) bears testimony to that. While he has had four to five releases consecutively every year, the line-up this year is quite interesting. Besides the period war film, Kesari, Akshay has three other releases, including Mission Mangal (releasing on the Independence Day) that tells the story of India's first Mars Mission, then there is Good News opposite Kareena Kapoor Khan, and Housefull 4, the fourth film in the enormously successful Housefull franchise. What's more interesting is that each of the four films belong to different genres, and this is what keeps him motivated, says Akshay.
“It’s most important to not be bound by any image because then I get bored, I feel stagnated. If I am changing my image it is because I am enjoying it and not because I have to prove something. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. It is great to play different characters all the time. It's fun. I have been scarred because in the beginning of my career I was only doing action films for six to seven years. Nobody would give me any other role, say romance, comedy or tragedy or drama, it would never come to me. I will never forget those days when I would be standing in the lift, looking into the mirror and I would hate going to work thinking that the director will give me same instructions of giving one kick, one punch…It seemed as if I was capable of doing only that. When I bagged Hera Pheri it helped me break my image. It has been 18 years now that I have got the chance to keep on changing my image and I am enjoying my work,” said Akshay.
2020 will also be as exciting for superstar. Besides a horror comedy (Hindi adaptation of the 2011 Tamil horror comedy Kanchana:Muni 2), Akshay is all set to bring another cop story on the big screen on Eid 2020, in collaboration with Rohit Shetty. Sooryavanshi is the third film in Rohit’s cop franchise after Singham and Simmba. While Singham and Simmba featured Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh respectively, Sooryavanshi will feature Akshay in the role of a fierce ATS cop. While there were rumours that Akshay had called Salman before he blocked the date of release as it is almost customary now for Salman to release his films during Eid each year, Akshay denied the same. “No, nothing of that sort happened,” he said with a straight face.
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