MUMBAI — He’s the busiest superstar of them all — four films a year as a rule, compared to one, two or even less for the other A-listers. Akshay Kumar is also the most disciplined among the lot — he sleeps early, wakes up ditto, and keeps himself free from all negativity.
All set for his new thriller “Baby,” directed by Neeraj Pandey and opening Jan. 23, Akshay is also full of humor and wit when we meet at the Hotel Sea Princess for a chat. Excerpts from an interview:
Q: You are branching out to a different kind of movie of late with films like “OMG – Oh My God!,” “Special 26” and now two films on terrorism — “Holiday” and “Baby.”
A: Yes, but “Holiday” and “ Baby” are actually completely different, with terrorism as their only common point. “Holiday” was fictional and completely commercial, while “Baby” was born out of 15 to 20 real episodes strung together and has very real characters and treatment. A crack force of 25 highly trained professionals had been formed in India’s highest quarters to counter terrorism by hunting for and eliminating terrorists. The code name given was also “Baby” as the team was very new.
We have taken real incidents from their stories. Also, in “Baby,” the characters do not throw 15 to 20 people in the air at one go. They fight like actual officers.
Q: You have done so many larger-than-life films.
A: Yes, one has to do the so-called single-screen kind of cinema besides the so-called satellite kind. I have lots of fun doing films that purists say have no head or tail. But yes, I have begun to enjoy the “Baby” kind of movies more of late as well.
Q: Is this one of your — if we may use the term — ‘baby’ step towards fulfilling your wife Twinkle’s wish of getting a National Award, as you revealed way back in 2009 at a press conference?
A: Did I? (Grins) I don’t know. In fact, I do not know what to answer! But I hope I do get a lot of challenging roles and it does not remain just a wish!
Q: Your “Awara Pagal Deewana” was the first Indian film to use cables for action. This time there is the Optocopter Drone. How do you look at these?
A: Technology is always a boon to show great action. The drone is remote-controlled and can go to a great height and shoot what simple cameras and crones cannot, like a bird’s eye-view of a chase sequence.
Q: How much research and preparation went into your character?
A: My only research was Neeraj Pandey who told me not to research as he had already done whatever was needed! But I trained for some days with Cyril Raffaeli [“District 13,” “The Incredible Hulk”] on the action, and he was brilliant.
Q: Your directors now include Neeraj and Vipul Amrutlal Shah, and there is also Sajid Nadiadwala. You have had these distinct phases with different favorite filmmakers — Keshu Ramsay, Raj Sippy, Venus, Suneel Darshan, Feroz Nadiadwala, Priyadarshan and so on.
A: If you mean whether I like to be in camps, I hate them! Because I love bungalows! (Deadpan expression) But at any point such bonding happens, I think, when a filmmaker wants to make a certain kind of film and you want to act in the same kind of movie.
Q: You are not starring in either “Welcome Back” or “Hera Pheri 3” and John Abraham is doing both.
A: Yes, I could not do “Welcome Back” because of date problems. “Hera Pheri 3,” I think, did not have my character. But I was in the know all along and John and I spoke last only some minutes back. Yes, I will miss being in them. Right now I am doing two action-packed films: “Gabbar” and “Brothers,” the latter being really demanding. I will also be doing “Housefull 3.”
Q: There is some talk about a sequel to “OMG — Oh My God!”
A: Yes, if the right script is worked out, I will do it.
Q: People say that “PK” is inspired by that film.
A: I don’t agree. It’s like “Holiday” and “Baby” — the issue is the same. That’s all.
Q: How do you manage four films a year?
A: That’s not tough at all. One film needs a maximum of 60 days work. That still leaves me so much holiday time! (Grins) In fact, “Baby” was wrapped up in 45 days so I got 15 days of extra holiday!
Q: You play a lot of pranks on the sets.
A: Honestly, I don’t like doing my work seriously. I hate it! A film is a serious affair, but still we have to joke and enjoy at our workplace and look forward to going to work. So we have to laugh. Even if I am emotionally drained by my character, humor revitalizes me.
Q: Taapsee tells of a prank you played on her when she kept getting a fine spray of water on her from all around on the sets.
A: And did you know that it took her three hours to cotton on? In fact, one of my assistants even hollered, “Stop spitting from up there!” (Laughs)
Q: Discipline and fitness are buzzwords associated with you. The team of “Baby” and everyone else wants to adapt your health fundas. What is your big secret?
A: To be close to nature. Did you know that my icon is Danny Denzongpa, who is 70-plus but looks like a boy because he is close to nature? Today, boys want to develop eight- and ten-packs in a jiffy. That’s mentally and physically harmful. If we do bodybuilding, we should feel the joy of muscles growing! We must seriously ask ourselves why people are popping off under forty when our forefathers lived for 90 years. They never used artificial things or shortcuts.
Q: It was Danny who recently stated that “Actors will come and go but Akshay will go on forever.”
A: Did he? That was so kind of him, and I hope I can actually live up to that.
Q: A question I have asked others: the A-listers actors do not come together as co-stars nowadays because the economics will go haywire. What is the solution?
A: I think that the actual cause, as Aamir Khan said, is lack of unity in the industry. If that is solved, the economics will not matter.