Aankhen, directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, which opens Friday, April 5, is in many ways a leap forward for the Khiladi actor.

His metamorphosis from a skywalker in Khiladiand Angaarayto a down-to-earth regular guy in Dhadkan and Ek Rishtaa: The Bond Of Love to the sneaky and slimy villain in Ajnabee has taken his detractors by surprise.

Akshay teams up again with Amitabh Bachchan after Ek Rishtaa. Subhash K Jha speaks to the actor:

So you have been teamed with Amitabh Bachchan again.

Yes. And believe me, shooting with him is like a picnic. He's so easygoing, disciplined and supportive on the sets, it doesn't take long to realise why he is who and what he is.

Only God knows how the film will fare. But I have really enjoyed working with Mr Bachchan the second time.

Was it easier interacting with Mr Bachchan this time?

Akshay Kumar Yes, definitely. When I worked with him for the first time in Ek Rishtaa, I didn’t know him well enough. An unnecessarily intimidating image has been created around Mr Bachchan. I discovered he is a cool guy.

Amitji, Paresh, Arjun and I had a lot of fun together. Amitji and the whole gang of Aankhen would constantly be up to something or the other on the sets.

Whether it was Gaurang Doshi [the producer] or someone else, we would always make someone the brunt of our masti. Even I was at the receiving end .

Was Amitabh Bachchan ever at the receiving end?

No, no. He was exempted.

I believe you and Arjun got along fabulously?

Akshay Kumar Yeah. He loves masti and fun when the camera is off. I was extremely comfortable working with Arjun. We look like a team in Aankhen because we felt like a team.

Except for the flashbacks we are together most of the time. The three of us -- Paresh, Arun and I -- are a team, while Amitji and Sushmita are on their own. Every character has a past and a reason to come together for the bank robbery.

Arjun and I have a lot in common. We’re both into physical fitness. Whenever there was time off we’d take off jogging. As for Paresh Rawal, I had worked with him in Hera Pheri. Man, what an actor!

To have so many charismatic stars together in one film is like winning the battle before the war begun.

You think so? I don't think a good film is about cramming in stars. Every star in Aankhen has been chosen because he or she belongs to the film and has a definite role to perform in the drama. It's wrong to sign stars for the heck of it. That's why so many big-budget films flop.

To me, Aankhen is important because the film is important. It doesn't matter how many other stars are in it or how many scenes I have. When director Vipul Shah came to me with the script, I was damn excited.

Did you do the role you were offered?

Akshay Kumar Actually, I had the choice of doing one of the three roles in Aankhen. But I chose the one I did. Earlier, too, I was offered both the hero and villain's role in Ajnabee. I chose to play villain.

In Aankhen I play a blind man with extrasensory perception. See, it is said whenever God takes away one sensory faculty, He gives you something normal people don't have.

I remember there was a guy with undeveloped hands. He used to write with his legs. I don’t think a normal person can do that. In Aankhen I'm a guy with a unique sixth sense.

You play a blind man for the first time. How was the experience?

What I got to know about physically challenged people is, they don't want your sympathy. When they walk on the road they do so as though they can see. They don't like anyone helping them cross the road. They don't want your pity or charity. If you can help them get work, they are okay with that. But they want to stand on their own feet.

I was able to understand the way the blind look at life.

Did you make any special preparations?

I followed Vipul Shah’s instructions closely. In the Gujarati play from which Aankhen is adapted, Vipul played my role. He asked me to not to blink too much. If a truck was passing by in front of me, I'd just visualise a blurry image without seeing what it really was.

It's not easy to explain what I did in the film. But Vipul made me do a lot of homework. He helped me a lot. He knew every character and situation in the play by heart. He translated the whole thing on screen perfectly.

In Aankhen you're cast opposite Bipasha Basu again after Ajnabee?

Not really. She has just one song with me. Like in Hera Pheri, I have no heroine opposite me.

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