Akshay Kumar: Who knew Vidya Balan would become a sex icon?
With his new film Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara (OUATIM 2) set to hit theatres just a week after Shah Rukh Khan’s monster hit Chennai Express, Akshay Kumar unwittingly finds himself facing the behemoth task of matching SRK’s success, if not topping it.
While we wait for the action to unfold on August 15, Kumar discusses his new film, his hatred for cigarettes, working with a female producer (Ekta Kapoor), and being pitted against a much younger actor (Imran Khan) in his new film.
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Image: Akshay Kumar in Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara
'Cigarettes are the worst thing that man has ever created'
How was it playing Shoaib in OUATIM 2?
It was like a breath of fresh air to portray a character of this kind and stature. Just attempting to stand in the shoes of such a name inspired me to get out of bed each morning and go on the sets.
Having said that, it was also painful to play a man with life-threatening vices.
Well, the hardest thing I've ever had to do is smoke on screen. For me, cigarettes are the worst thing that man has ever created.
Throw me off a burning building, scald my skin with over-heated exhaust pipes or beat me senseless -- all these things are a walk in the park for me as compared to having to smoke throughout my scenes.
The film's promo has pretty much established that it is an out-and-out gangster affair with a love story at its core. Is that a calculated gamble?
No, it had nothing to do with calculation or numbers for that matter.
It was purely a passionate decision and one that has never been attempted in India before.
Look at it this way -- you have witnessed countless gangsters and villains in general destroying lives for money, drugs and power but never for true love.
Image: Akshay Kumar in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara!
'Imran Khan is a man to be reckoned with'
This is where Shoaib's passion come into play?
This is one villain who is determined to go to the ends of earth for the woman he lives. Ironically, she is the only woman he was unable to fully own. The woman he chose to be his true queen turns him down for his own adopted protégé (Imran Khan).
You play a reigning don in the film while Imran plays your protege in the film. How does this disparity manifest on screen, especially since you are a senior than him in the industry as well?
My being a senior to him has nothing to do with his performance.
Imran is an actor and a very talented and dedicated one at that. This disparity so many are talking about is probably the highlight of the film. People shouldn’t be so quick to judge; not only does Milan (Luthria, director of OUATIM 2) know who is right for his characters, he is, in fact, known for giving the audience surprise performances.
Take The Dirty Picture for example.
Who in the whole of India would have known that Vidya Balan was going to become Bollywood’s biggest sex icon?
Believe me, when I shot Heyy Babyy with her, it was because we all saw her as a young mother with an innocent heart. But it was Milan who brought out the Goddess in her.
This goes for Imran too, he is not an innocent boy either, he is a man to be reckoned with.
Image: Sonakshi Sinha and Imran Khan in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara!
'Sonakshi has been a reliable and loyal costar from the beginning'
How about Sonakshi? She recently said that you were a friend on whom she can rely on.
You make it sound like I am not used to people saying such nice things about me (smiles).
Of course it's lovely knowing that someone as wonderful as Sonakshi considers me a good friend she can turn to! She has been a very reliable and loyal costar from the beginning. I feel happy that she trusts me.
You also trusted Ekta Kapoor and now have teamed up with her for the first time ever. To have a female for a producer, was there any difference in the approach that you saw towards the film being made?
The difference between working with Ekta and working for another male producer is that she is as innocent as a flower. Yet, she is a flower that can crush any insect that tries to touch the petals she has so preciously grown. That's what I love about her (smiles).
Image: Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara!
'I wouldn't change my path for the world'
A glimpse at your career over the last decade reveals that you have been charting your own path while your contemporaries played safe by working with only established filmmakers. Was this move instinctive, planned or incidental?
To be honest, I didn’t have a choice.
Of course I wanted to work with the big guns, but they couldn’t see themselves working with the likes of me. I auditioned, I gave test shots and I eventually gave up. Instead, I found another fork in the road and made myself happy with the people who wanted me. Truly, I wouldn’t change my path for the world.
I will share an anecdote with you.
You know the man who gave me my first film was Mr Pramod Chakravaty? He pushed me to shoot another film that would release before his own Deedar (that I was doing).
He genuinely pushed me out there to experience my career on my own. I had his wings to shelter me, but he never once tried to clip them. Not even once did he make me feel like I owed him for his faith in me. These are the memories I carry.
Image: Movie poster of Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara!