Tusshar Kapoor on turning producer with Laxmii, and reuniting with Akshay Kumar after 15 years
'There's always an outcome, and there's always a definite result. Even on a digital platform, you can't avoid the Friday test,' says Tusshar Kapoor.
Tusshar Kapoor kicked off his acting career in 2001 with box office hit Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai, opposite Kareena Kapoor Khan. This was followed by a string of forgettable films, barring a few multi-starrers and adult comedies. His career received a new lease of life with Golmaal — one of the highest grossing film franchises, and now, after 20 years in the acting business, Tusshar dons a new role of a producer with the horror-comedy, Laxmii.
Earlier titled Laxmmi Bomb, a remake of Tamil hit Kanchana, the film has been creating buzz ever since the first look and trailer dropped. The big Diwali release, frontlined by Akshay Kumar and co-starring Kiara Advani, will release directly on Disney+ Hotstar. We caught up with the actor-turned-producer on the new beginning, reuniting with Kumar, and the caveats of a direct-to-digital release.
Edited excerpts from the chat below:
You are making your debut as a producer with such a huge film, and that too a Diwali release. What is the emotion like?
It is a very good feeling. It is really exciting. I don’t have words to express myself. It has been a journey with its share of ups and downs. It is a big moment for me, for the director (Raghava Lawrence), for Shabina (Khan, co-producer). We are all very happy, and just going with the flow. Laxmii is an out-and-out commercial and entertaining film. I am quite excited to see how it pans out.
Is it not disappointing to not have your first film as producer open in theatres? Laxmii is undoubtedly the biggest Bollywood film, so far, to take the streaming route.
No, no, it isn't disappointing at all. Initially, I was slightly confused about what I should really feel but now I am not unclear at all.
I am looking at the digital platform as a newer opportunity. Maybe it is not a big screen but it is probably a bigger galaxy.
Let‘s look at it that way. It is not going to be in the theatres in that sense but it is not restricted like a theatre also. It is not that only so many people can watch at a certain time. It is going to be open to viewing, like the entire world can watch it wherever and whenever they want to, so I am looking at it as a bigger picture. Of course, given the situation in the lockdown, globally these are stressful times. So in this extraordinary situation, we had to move, and deciding to release it on OTT was more like a blessing.
Will there be less stress as a producer considering that otherwise there is constant review of box office collections and revenue that the film will generate during theatrical release?
There is always going to be some stress and some nervousness, whether it is box office collection or it is online views and subscriptions. There is always an outcome, and there is always a definitive result. You can’t avoid the Friday test, or the Monday test, or the next Friday test, whatever you call it. Of course, the OTT world for movies is new in India so we are still figuring out how to gauge what is true success. But with a film of this magnitude, one will definitely know by the word-of-mouth, and that is the biggest barometer.
What is it about the film and the subject that you decided to back it? Heard you had bought the rights of the Tamil film Kanchana, on which Laxmii is based, way back in 2013?
I watched the South film Kanchana, and really loved it and wanted to be part of it somehow. Then we just thought that let’s try and buy the rights, if at all we could produce it because Shabina had already made Rowdy Rathore. Fortunately, Mr Lawrence agreed to sell off the rights, and we started working on its pre-production and writing it again. It has been a long journey, and I didn’t mind spending time on it because I loved the film. I love horror films, and what I thought would really work with the audience here was the Indian context which is very important for a horror film to attract people. The dargah, the limbu and the puja part... everything comes with exorcism in the Indian context, and I really loved all that. Of course, actors also add a lot to it with their performance. And we don’t see horror comedies that often, except for Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Golmaal Again, Stree. It is relatively a new genre, new subject. There are novel moments, novel characters, and it is very entertaining in its entirety.
Was Kumar the first choice?
Yes, absolutely. Akshay is one of the best today in any genre, and as far as comedy is concerned, he is the king. The subject like Laxmii needed a superstar, and somebody who could pull off both horror and comedy. The fact that Akshay has a strong image of an action hero, then there are other facets to the personality of the character, which is again his image. It would be a refreshing change to millions of his fans to watch him do what he is best at, and at the same time, break some mould and do something different.
I think it’s very brave of Akshay to take up a role like this. He has a very strong image as a hero in the minds of the audience, and he’s really broken out of the box with this role.
You and Akshay go a long way back. You have worked with him in Khakee (2004), and now as a producer. What is the working relationship like?
Immediately after Khakee, I worked with him again in Insan (2005), and destiny got us together yet once again. I am producing a film with him, which is a new space for me because he has always been a senior co-star. It is a great new avenue, and a huge achievement for me and my production company. But Akshay and I have not been in touch because as an actor of his league, he has been constantly on the go. We would bump into each other at events and parties. I have seen him around only socially but otherwise we haven’t been in touch. He is one of the most inspiring actors around. His attitude towards his work and the output he generates every year is unbelievable. And he does everything with so much conviction, which is very admirable.
Your sister Ekta Kapoor has made a mark as producer, both in films and television. So one might assume that you could benefit from collaborating with her. Do you take advice from her?
No, not really. There are so many strong big names associated with this film, like Akshay, Shabina. They have a lot of experience, and all of us together have knowledge about the business. I have also grown up in this industry, so a lot of it I know from before but a lot was also learnt on the job. I believe that you can’t take advice from anybody. It is your own experience, and what you learn on the job is important. You have to be on the go. I worked and learned on the project as things came along, and, of course, my family is always there if we had to discuss something.
There is a lot of negativity these days pertaining to Bollywood movies/actors, and there was a systematic campaign to downgrade the film initially on social media with #BoycottLaxmmiBomb trending. Was it demoralising? Did it bother you?
No, no, I don’t get bogged down by the negativity. Has negativity ever pulled down good content? It can never pull down good content. Let all voices remain, and say whatever they want to say but people always connect with good content. Bollywood movies are part of our culture and nobody can cause any harm, no matter how much you scream or shout, nothing will work. One has to believe in their work, work hard, and you always get your due. So negativity is best ignored.
What do you have to say on the title change?
It has been done keeping in mind the feelings of everyone who had or didn’t have any issue with the earlier title, for peace and positivity that should be around any film. We are happy.
You have completed two decades in the business of acting. What is new on that front? Any plans of reinventing yourself as an actor considering that now there are so many avenues available?
Yes, yes, lots of ideas to work on as an actor, as a producer, and I am not doing that consciously. It is just that I am getting many different opportunities, and naturally, as you go along, you learn more, you start feeling confident about doing different things in life. My next film as an actor is a very different genre, and I will talk about it once Laxmii is out. I will announce that film soon. It is in a very different space, it is a dark thriller. And now, since I am also producing, you never know I might be doing both, acting and producing at the same time. Every subject that I work on, as an actor or as a producer, it has to be entertaining.
Laxmii starts streaming on Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex from 9 November.
All images from Twitter.
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