Akshay Kumar on three consecutive hits in 2019 with Kesari, Mission Mangal, Housefull 4, and his hopes for Good Newwz
Akshay Kumar says he moves on swiftly from one role to another, like he did from a comedy, Housefull 4 to another, Good Newwz, within two months.
With three back-to-back hits this year (Kesari, Mission Mangal, and Housefull 4), Akshay Kumar is looking to end 2019 on a high, with his next, Good Newwz, a comedy that is based on an In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) goof-up.
“Why only this year? All the years gone by have been good for me. I make films fast, and in a very small budget. The budget for Good Newwz is just Rs 36 crore. It’s high on content and low on budget, like my other films. We earn half of the revenue from music and the other half from the overseas. So even if my film does Rs 120 crore, it still it is a hit. And if it earns Rs 200 crore then it is a change in fortune. I don’t think too much, I don’t carry the burden, and I am happy with the business my films do,” says the superstar who has successfully struck a fine balance between commercial and content-driven cinema.
While for most of his other films, Akshay says he follows his gut and instinct, for socially relevant subjects like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Padman, Mission Mangal, and now Good Newwz, he has his research in place. “Worldwide, there are over eight million successful IVF babies born and still counting. It is a very important subject to be talked about, especially for women, and families who can’t have children. In the interiors, women who can’t conceive are still called barren. You can get over that and start your family as research says that there is 92 percent success ratio in IVF. Women can now also enjoy their careers knowing that when they think the time is right for them to conceive, science can help them become mothers — if stress, fertility or time is a factor,” he says.
“And just like how we were careful while working on serious subjects like Toilet and Padman, similarly, we were cautious while shooting for Good Newwz so that we don’t hurt the sentiments of people. We have taken very good care since this one is a comedy. But I also believe that awareness begins with humour. That’s why satire is admired, and comedians help to generate awareness of almost all subjects. Though the movie is based on a goof-up, the moral behind it is that love conquers all, and it will for eternity. You will also get the message that we want to convey,” he adds.
Talking about comedies, Akshay, besides doing a variety of other genres, is also doing different genres within comedy. After Housefull 4 that released in October, Good Newwz is slated to release on 27 December. “But I am still not satisfied creatively. I am still looking for some good scripts. I am actually a very greedy man. There are different branches of comedy. Mr Bean is more on solo expression, then Charlie Chaplin is more physical as he makes you laugh with his action. Then, there is situational, slapstick comedy, and I am very happy that I get to do different kinds of comedy,” he says.
However, sounding a bit disappointed, and accusing the industry for ignoring the genre, he says, “Slapstick is the most difficult of all. To make people laugh at your own expense is not easy. If you are showing slipping on a banana peel, the fall has to be proper. But unfortunately, at lot of award nights these films never get 'Best Film' award. Somebody needs to ask why this discrimination (is there). If an actor has made people laugh then give him Best Actor or 'Best Hero' award. But the sad part is that actors who do comedy are not taken seriously as artists in the industry.” So has he stopped believing in awards? “No, no whenever I get an award, I go and take it,” he laughs.
Interestingly, Priyadarshan, Akshay’s director of hit films like Hera Pheri, Garam Masala, Bhool Bhulaiyaa and De Dana Dan, after a gap of six years, will direct him in another comedy. The director made this announcement at the IFFI (International Film Festival of India) awards in Goa, recently. But Akshay is tight-lipped. “At the moment, even Priyadarshan doesn’t know about the project. We are in the process. He is still writing.”
Debutant director Raj Mehta approached Akshay with Good Newwz while he was shooting for Kesari. Mehta happens to be the 21st debutant director the actor has worked with in his 30-year-old career. “This has happened because big directors never took me, and hence, I had to work with the new ones. When established people don’t cast you then you have to start your own journey. You can’t be sitting at home thinking that despite (you) being very capable, the seniors are not giving you work. But I like working with newcomers because the greed for good work in them is far more than the old directors. For newcomers, it is a do-or-die situation that now I have to make this work or else my career is gone,” says Akshay.
When further broached upon the topic whether the big names preferred working with the Khans and Kapoors, Akshay took a diplomatic stand, saying, “I don’t know who they went to but they didn’t approach me. I would just say that they went to the deserving actors, who got good breaks and projects. I presume I didn’t deserve but I got success in my own way.”
And now, even with big banners like Karan Johar’s Dharma Production backing him, Akshay feels nothing much has changed over the years.
“I still don’t have big directors. They are producing films with me but they aren’t directing it. Ask Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra (owner of Yash Raj Films, which is bankrolling Akshay-starrer Prithviraj). But I always trust new directors. I don’t give any input, I am not any kind of guiding force. They come and do their own thing. More than them, I trust the script, the screenplay, and if that is good, then 60 percent of your work is done. Forty percent depends upon the director, and how he takes the film further,” he adds.
Many in the industry swear by Akshay’s discipline. Renowned choreographer Chinni Prakash, who worked with the actor early on in his career, recently mentioned what separated Akshay from the other superstars in those days was his willingness to learn and his discipline. “That is one of the main reasons where I am today. I had films even after 14 flops, and I remember producers saying that let’s take Akshay, at least he will come on time and work will get done fast. It doesn’t make much of a difference if you are professional. It doesn’t matter if you are a great actor or your films are not working. But if you have the right attitude then this industry will take you very far,” says Akshay.
Akshay and Kareena Kapoor Khan's crackling chemistry has been seen in quite a few films over the years, like Ajnabee, Aitraaz, and Kambakkht Ishq among many. The hit pair was last seen in Gabbar Is Back (2015), in which Kareena had played Akshay’s wife. “Working with Kareena is fantastic. I still remember when I was working with her sister, Karisma (Kapoor), Kareena used to come on sets. She was so young that I used to lift her up and play with her. I have that kind of memory of Kareena. I know fans have been waiting for us to reunite, and nothing could be more perfect than this film for both of us,” he says.
Katrina Kaif is yet another co-star with who Akshay enjoys a great working relationship. They will reunite a decade after they co-starred in Tees Maar Khan, in Rohit Shetty’s 2020 cop drama Sooryavanshi. “Even I am very excited to see how it is going to come out, and what will be the audience reaction. I have really enjoyed working with her,” he says.
Considered to be one of the most versatile actors, Akshay will continue playing diverse characters in his forthcoming films, like Sooryavanshi, and Laxmmi Bomb (transgender). "Then there is Prithviraj, spy-thriller Bell Bottom, and in between, Durgavati," he says. Durgawati is a thriller with Bhumi Pednekar in the lead, which Akshay will present along with T-Series honcho Bhushan Kumar. “I have also presented two Marathi films in the past, and those won National Awards. I had launched Kiara (Advani) in Fugly, which I had produced. It is not that I have cast Bhumi because of her recent successes. It is an IPS officer’s role, and I thought she would fit in very well,” says Akshay.
Akshay has often said he took very long to come out of the stereotypical image of an action hero (Khiladi). Hence, he consciously decides to do films of different genres, with each release in a year different from the other. But how long does it take to transform from one character to another since he has four to five releases every year? “I don’t take more than half a day in getting into a character. I can lie that I want to act, learn my dialogues, I want to isolate myself, and now, I will lock myself in a room, and that nobody should talk to me or disturb me because I want to become that character. I can’t do these things at all. At the end of the day, it is just acting, and this is my style. Just three days back, I completed Sooryavanshi. From an IPS officer, I am getting into a historical character, Prithviraj. I don’t want any kind of tag. I am very comfortable in all kinds of genre. Anything that is new, risky, fun, I just go for it,” he says.
Off late, Akshay and Salman Khan have been getting too close for comfort with their releases. If Dabangg 3 and Good Newwz are separated by a week, Salman’s next cop drama Radhe: India's Most Wanted will directly clash with Akshay’s Laxmmi Bomb (Hindi remake of Tamil film Kanchana 2) on Eid next year. Does that bother him? “No, there is one-week breathing space between Dabangg 3 and Good Newwz, and it is enough. I know Prabhu Dheva very well. He has made Rowdy Rathore with me, and his film (Dabangg 3) is going to be very commercial. He is not going to make a bad film. It is a huge franchise. Then Laxmmi Bomb was announced before Radhey. But why can’t two films come together on Eid?” he reasons.
Almost 30 years in the industry, when asked what change has surprised him the most in these three decades, he signs off with a laugh, saying, “I think the zeroes on my cheque."
All images from Twitter.
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