"When you don a turban, you feel a sense of responsibility": Akshay Kumar on 'Kesari'
Bollywood’s inimitable king of action Akshay Kumar is back with another high-octane flick, Kesari.
Bollywood’s inimitable king of action Akshay Kumar is back with another high-octane flick, Kesari. The actor plays the role of real-life hero, Havildar Ishar Singh, who was one of the sardars that fought the Battle of Saragarhi against Afghans in 1897.
Essaying the role of a historical character was a different experience for the 51-year-old. “For me the process of shooting is enjoyable; it’s not easy but I love being on the sets. Shooting for the film was a different experience because there was a lot of mud and sand around and we shot in the heat. A lot of sweat has gone into the making of the film,” he says.
On Battle of Saragarhi’s earlier adaption into a television series, Akshay says, “I am happy that it’s been made into a series. Such stories need to be told over and over again. We have not tried to make anything different as they are historical facts. Not many are aware about this war. It’s important that the youth know about our history. If you ask children about the Spartans war, they will know about it and that’s because a film has been made on this topic. The Battle of Saragarhi began on September 12, 1897, in the Northwest Province, where the British Indian Army comprising a handful of Sikhs were attacked by more than 10,000 Afghans. The fight started at 9.30 am and went on for the entire day where the Sikhs finally emerged victorious. I want this film to be shown to children in schools since this is one of the greatest battles fought in our country, and is a story of courage and valour.”
Akshay admits that he learned about the history of the battle in detail while shooting for the film. “I was aware of the battle but didn’t know the intricate details. I learned it while shooting for the film. I also came to know that the saffron colour (kesari) represents war,” he says.
The actor is no stranger to playing the role of a sardar on screen, but highlights that Kesari was a unique experience. "The turban [I wore] was so heavy. They used to wear turbans weighing one-and-a-half kgs in those days and carry swords of 30 kgs. Just imagine how they must have fought the battles. They consumed food prepared in pure ghee not steroids. So, when I wore a similar turban it was a different feeling. Even my daughter couldn’t recognise me in that attire. When you don a turban you feel a sense of responsibility. Your stance changes when you wear it. I don’t know if the film will do well at the box office or not but I am proud that we have made a film called Kesari which speaks about these valiant men.”
Director Rajkumar Santoshi had attempted a film titled 21: Battle of Saragarhi on the same topic. However, due to budget constraints, he had to shelve the project. Akshay rues the fact that Rajkumar couldn’t complete the film and says, “It’s sad that he could not go ahead with the film. No film should be left incomplete. I have made sure that I complete shooting for all the films I sign except for one which the producer wasn’t keen on releasing.”
Recently the actor made a fiery stunt during the grand annulment of his new show on Amazon Prime, In The End. However, he advises youngsters not to try such daring acts. “I have been doing action since I was young. I would advise youngsters not to try what we do in films or during promotions. I did promote my new series with fire billowing out of my body but I will advise youngsters not to try it at home. We take a lot of precautions. We do it very cautiously and there are a lot of people who administer it both scientifically and technically. Even when I did 'Fear Factor' I told people not to try it. My parents have always supported me in everything I have done. There is a risk in every field—even when you play sports there is risk. Many people have died while playing hockey and football. You have to be careful in everything you do. But you can’t stop what you are doing. I am a stuntman first and an actor later. I had no godfather when I came to the industry and I started doing stunts in films. I got work because I was a stuntman,” he elaborates.