Akshaye Khanna on The Accidental Prime Minister: Being the largest democracy, we must make political films

Seema Sinha

Jan 08, 2019 08:41:15 IST

Akshaye Khanna doesn’t conform to norms. He has never played by the rules. A self-confessed oddball, he had earlier attributed his four year hiatus (2012 to 2016) to personal issues. Now, he wonders what the fuss is all about regarding his forthcoming film The Accidental Prime Minister (centered around the former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his journey with the Congress party) when he has already done a film on the “biggest politician” of the country, Mahatma Gandhi. While veteran actor Anupam Kher plays Dr Manmohan Singh, Akshaye essays Sanjaya Baru, who worked as a media adviser of the former prime minister from 2004 to 2008, and later wrote a memoir of his experiences working at the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) in a book of the same name, released in 2014.

Akshaye Khanna in The Accidental Prime Minister. Image via Twitter/@KomalNahta

Akshaye Khanna in The Accidental Prime Minister. Image via Twitter/@KomalNahta

“I have acted in every genre of movies. I have done war films, drama, comedy, romance, and this is not my first political film. I did Gandhi, My Father over a decade ago. There is no bigger politician than Gandhi, nobody…in this naksha of India (laughs out loud), and I have made a film on him also,” he says with a lopsided grin. “Then, films have been made on the Holocaust and the two world wars. Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi showed Hindus and Muslims killing each other during the partition,” he further said.

Considering that he’s a very choosy actor, what was it that caught his fancy to do the film? “It is a beautiful story; it has beautiful characters; it has the biggest people and it is a very beautiful world. We have shown nothing new in the film, everything is in the public domain. There is no revelation, only the perspective has changed. People should not come with that expectation. You have seen all this from the outside and now you will see it from the inside. My experience as an actor was very happy and joyful. Mazaa aa gaya…and that shows in the film, you can sense it."

The movie promises to take us inside the PMO and give us insights on what happens behind the scenes. Just the trailer of the movie made a lot of waves on social media as it features actors playing prominent political figures who belong to the Indian National Congress, like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi among others. The movie has courted controversy with many Congress leaders demanding that it be shown to them before the release. “We must make such good, authentic political films, after all we are the largest democracy in the world. We have never seen a film about the office of the prime minister of India and I was convinced that people would be interested in an inside peek into this world. Are people scared? Well, after The Accidental Prime Minister, makers will not be scared any longer to make political films. 11 January (release day) is a very, very important day not just for us but for the whole country. People will remember this day, history must recognise this day. We love politics. We love to talk about politics, but I'm not interested in politics. I am an actor,” he says with great emphasis.

“And”, he further adds, “What people are calling a controversy, I call it a debate. I have the right to make this film, you have the right to comment on it. You have all the freedom; everybody has an equal right. I am too closely associated with this film, so I don’t want to be part of any debate. Actually I am already part of the debate since I have chosen to be part of this film. I am only the storyteller. The debate must go on and we should let society decide.”

When Akshaye was told to play Baru without copying anybody, he found it liberating. “The director (Vijay Gutte) did not want me to do any research, or watch his interviews, or talk like him, dress like him, nothing. That was very liberating. I was even given strict instructions to not to meet the author. I have just changed the physicality; everything else is from the book. We could change Sanjaya Baru’s physicality but not Dr Manmohan Singh’s. All the other characters are real. This is the only fellow (Baru) people relatively don’t know much about so we could play with his look,” said the actor.

Akshaye further revealed that since it’s not a screenplay-friendly book, adapting it into a movie and a linear story was difficult. “That is exactly what I told Raju Hirani when I heard the narration of Sanju. You have to write a screenplay on Sanjay Dutt’s life, you have got his whole life in front of you, now you choose what you want to take. He chose exactly what he needed to make for an engaging script. Here too, the way Mayank (Tewari, co-writer) and Vijay have cracked the screenplay is superb,” said Akshaye.

Akshaye was supposed to step into Sunil Dutt’s shoes in Sanju. He opted out of the film, and when you ask him if there was any film he regretted turning down in the recent past, or in those four years when he took a break, he thinks hard: “Now I can’t remember. But we are humans, we make lot of mistakes,” he says sounding a bit impatient. His next is the Manish Gupta-directed, Section 375: Marzi Ya Zabardasti, his first courtroom drama opposite Richa Chadda which he will start shooting for this year.

“I need gaps between films. I can’t do four films in a year. I love rest. I can’t work in a company where I have to go to work every day. I like comfort, aaram …” he says with a grin. He is also excited about the various avenues that have opened up for actors. “It is a great time and I would love to go digital, get on to an OTT platform. I also don’t mind doing romantic films but I don’t know what the writers are going to write for me. I love to act, that’s it.”

Updated Date: Jan 08, 2019 08:41:50 IST