November 28, 2002 
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Akshay Kumar
The officer and the knight in shining armour
For Akshay Kumar, playing good cop in reel life and rescuing heroines from drowning in real life are all in a day's work

Subhash K Jha

Akshay Kumar landed in Mumbai Monday night after a three-week shooting schedule of producer Suneel Darshan's Talaash in South Africa.

Tuesday morning saw him ready for the mahurat of his pal Feroz Nadiadwala's thriller Police Force, to be directed by Madhur Bhandarkar.

Before that, there was important work to be taken care of: "I have to get my hair cut to a crewcut shape to suit my role of police officer. I have played a cop with long hair in almost a dozen films. In fact, I used to travel with a khaki uniform," Akshay jokes as his Pajero cruises quietly to the venue of the mahurat. "But now, I want to play a real cop instead of a filmi one."

Police Force, now called Aan, is not the only forthcoming film in which Akshay plays a law enforcer. In another long-standing producer friend Keshu Ramsay's Khaki, Akshay is back with the badge and the gun.

But Aan is special. Akshay's character is named Hari Om after his late father. "I play Hari Om Patnaik which sounds like a real professional instead of the Rohits and Rahuls, no?"

The urge to be realistic reveals a burning passion in the star to go beyond the precincts of makebelieve. "I'm playing a cop after four years in Aan, and in Raj Santoshi's Khaki. But the two roles are completely different."

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The South African trip was more adventurous than Akshay had bargained for. During the shooting of song on the rocks, Akshay's co-star Lara Dutta nearly fell and drowned in the swirling waters. Akshay grins grimly at the recollection. "We were to shoot the song on slippery rocks as the waves leapt all around us.

"When the camera started rolling, Lara told me she didn't know how to swim. Meri to haalat ekdum kharaab ho gayi [I became very nervous]. To our horror, the waves were bigger than anticipated. We both got blown away from the rocks. She was lucky. I managed to catch hold of her hand and got a grip over a rock with my other hand. So there I was, holding on to our dear lives as giant waves pounded us. She was very fortunate. She could have easily got blown away. She was shaken. But she didn't suffer a scratch."

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Akshay has rescued his leading lady from a watery grave. Two years ago, Mahima Chowdhry nearly went down under in a lake in Canada while shooting for Khiladi 420. It was Akshay again who towed both his heroine and the boat that carried them both to the shore.

Akshay says, "That was nothing compared with this incident. We were all shell shocked."


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