Akshay Kumar: Actors are like escorts
Akshay Kumar is back doing what he does best. The actor teams up with John Abraham in Desi Boyz -- the film directed by first-timer Rohit Dhawan -- and the two actors play male escorts.
In a candid conversation with Sonil Dedhia, Akshay spoke freely about working with the debutant director, his equation with John, his career so far, and his return to action films.
Was the role of a male escort a challenging one?
There is a misconception about male escorts. Escorts are like a companion and fulfil the costume fantasy of women. During the film you will see us wearing different costumes -- of cops, cricketers, fire fighters etc. It is the first time in a Hindi film that someone is playing the role of a male escort. So, yes, it was challenging.
John and you are seen pole dancing in the promos of the film...
(Smiles) Yes, we have done pole dancing but it is not a long sequence. In fact, the pole dance lasts for hardly 10 minutes. I had to learn pole dancing which took me about five or six days.
Image: John Abraham and Akshay Kumar
'I am a complete desi boy'
What do you personally think about male escorts?
There is not much difference between an actor and a male escort. Actors are like escorts. As actors, fulfil the fantasy of the audience and our fans and we also sell ourselves.
You are giving interviews in Hindi. Is this a promotion strategy for Desi Boyz?
I have always tried to speak in Hindi because in real life I am a real desi boy. All my life I have believed that the day should start with touching my parents' feet, that home cooked food is always better than outside food. According to me, desi boys are simple and very down to earth. They respect their parents and never forget their roots. I stay with my parents and I am a complete desi boy.
Before becoming an actor you did many odd jobs. Did that help you connect to the character in any way?
Yes, but I have never become a male escort in real life! (Laughs).
As you know, I have been a chef and and a travel agent. Not many people know about it but I was also selling artificial jewellery. It's been a tough but satisfying journey.
Image: A scene from Desi Boyz
'Rohit has played in my lap'
What tickles Akshay Kumar's funny bone?
My life and the people around me. I think you have to take things with a sense of humour and try to see the funny side to things in life, rather than letting them get you worked up or stressed out. It makes the journey that much more entertaining.
What do you have to say about director Rohit Dhawan?
I thought there would be a lot of similarities between father and son (Rohit Dhawan is the son of director David Dhawan) but apart from eating habits, nothing is the same (Laughs).
Jokes apart, David does not follow any rule book while Rohit is just the opposite. Both are right in their individual approaches. Rohit is clear and focused in what he wants and he is more serious in his approach. He is just 26 but he is very confident.
I remember the first day, when the whole cast and crew was present on the sets along with Sanjay Dutt, and Rohit didn't seem nervous and didn't look like he was going to direct his first shot. If this film works, all the credit will go to him.
Is it true that it took two years to convince you to do this film?
No, that's not true. Actually, David and I were discussing making the film Come On Pappu. It was the story of a chimpanzee and a guy, but it didn't work out.
I have known Rohit since his early days. He has played in my lap. I had a lot of fun doing this film. John and I play male escorts and when the role was narrated to me, I knew this was something I wanted to do. Rohit also told me that the film is based on the real-life incident of two people who had to take extreme paths to survive during a recession.
Image: Akshay Kumar and Rohit Dhawan
'I am learning comedy from John Abraham'
This is the first time you are acting with Chitrangada Singh.
I enjoyed working with Chitrangada Singh. When I look at her I think of Smita Patil. She is a focused and sorted person. She would rehearse her lines before coming onto the sets. She knows exactly how she is going to play her scene. She has proved herself in all the films that she has done so far. I think Desi Boyz is her first commercial film.
This is the second time John and you are coming together. How was it working with him this time round?
It's been six years since we worked together in Garam Masala. We were not very close at that time but the equation today is completely different.
I am surprised that all this time no one wanted to do a film with us together. Now we are doing not one but two films (Desi Boyz and Housefull-2). He's one of the best looking men in the industry and a great actor.
Do you see any changes in him in terms of his acting?
John has changed a lot. He is more focused and hard working than he was six years ago. He has fantastic comic timing. Jitney uske muscles bad gaye hai utni uski comic timing bhi bad gai hai (His comic timing has increased just as his muscles have).
In fact, I am learning comedy from John. His comedy is very laid back. The way he delivers the dialogue is so effortless. I think his comedy is somewhat similar to Mr Bean.
Image: A scene from Desi Boyz
'I want to do a negative character'
Is it a conscious decision to act only in light, entertaining films?
When I started doing comedy, people told me that I was a good comic actor and somewhere I feel I got carried away with comedies. I realised it a little late but next year you will see me doing two action films -- Rowdy Rathore and Once Upon A Time In Mumbai 2.
I also want do a negative role. The last time I played a negative role was in Ajnabee which was 10 years ago.
Has the recent success of films like Wanted, Dabangg, Singham etc made you want to come back to action films?
Yes, it is one of the reasons I am getting back to action films. Also, as I mentioned earlier, it's been a while since I've done an action film; I didn't do action films as my son was growing up. I am 45 today and I think I have around four or five years where I can still do an out-and-out action film without causing any physical damage to myself. This will probably be my last innings in the action genre.
Image: Movie poster of Desi Boyz
'I play the title role in Khiladi 786'
A lot of recent films have grossed more than Rs 100 crore at the box office. As an actor and a producer, are you looking at any particular numbers for your forthcoming films?
If it happens there is nothing like it. But the box office collection does not bother me. I have been in the industry for 21 years and I have seen how films have evolved. There are so many multiplexes opening every day in India. The day is not far when we will see films collecting Rs 200 crore.
You are doing a film, Khiladi 786, with Himesh Reshammiya...
There were rumours that I was doing a cameo in the film, which is not true. I am playing the title role in the film. It is an action comedy and Himesh is also a part of the film.
There was also another rumour that I was getting Rs 20 crore for the film, which is surprising as I am the producer of the film and I am only signing a cheque for myself worth Rs 20 crore (Laughs).
Image: Movie poster of Khiladi 786
'I spend the weekends with my family'
You are a busy actor who juggles three to four films at a time. How do you take time out for your family?
I have made a conscious decision to spend the weekends with my family. On Saturdays, I work only from 7 am to 2 pm and take a day off on Sundays. My son loves trekking and swimming so we do a lot of these activities.
You have spent more than two decades in films. Are you satisfied with what you have achieved?
It's been a good 21 years. I have grown in age and my bank balance has grown too (Smiles). I am 45 today, happily married and have a lovely son. I have got all that I wanted.
I have seen a lot in my life. My lows have been like my highs because I have enjoyed the days when I felt low too. I wanted to overcome those moments and the only way I could do so was by being happy.
Image: Twinkle Khanna, Aarav and Akshay Kumar
Photographs: Rediff Archive