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The Rediff Interview/Akshay Kumar

'Whenever critics like a film, it fails'

Subhash K Jha | June 03, 2003

Akshay Kumar is hurt.

Akshay KumarHis latest release, Raj Kanwar's Andaaz, may well become 2003's first blockbuster. Yet, the Hindi film industry refuses to acknowledge it! The film, which also stars former Miss Universe Lara Dutta and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra, was released almost two weeks ago.

Soon after his return from a long shooting schedule for Dharmesh Darshan's Bewafaa in Canada, Akshay rushed to Nasik to join the unit of Rajkumar Santoshi's Khakee.

Incidentally, on April 2, Akshay had helped co-star Aishwarya Rai when she had met with an accident on the sets of Khakee. The actress suffered a minor fracture in her left foot when a jeep backed into her. Remind him about it, however, and Akshay shrugs it off.

The actor talks to Subhash K Jha about the criticisms that surround Andaaz and about his future projects. Excerpts:

Tell us how you rescued Aishwarya.

Let me clarify. I did not 'save' Aishwarya Rai's life. That sounds very dramatic. I just happened to be there when she was in a distressed situation. So I did the most logical thing: I drove her to a hospital. That is it. I would do the same for anyone.

You saved Lara Dutta's life in South Africa during the shooting of Andaaz.

Yes, that is true. [While shooting for a song on a rocky shore in Cape Town, the duo were pulled under the waves. Akshay helped bring Lara ashore.] But Aishwarya? No. Now, people say I saved her, but did not help Tusshar [Kapoor, who was with Rai at the time of the accident]. That is ridiculous.

Andaaz is a hit, but the film industry isn't willing to accept it.

I wonder why! Everyone grumbles about the famine of hits. Why can't we feel happy when a film finally does well? Instead, people ask, "Film giri ki nahin?" Why wait for Andaaz or any other film to fall? Why not pray for everyone's success? I am very hurt by the way Andaaz has been dismissed by my colleagues.

Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta in AndaazHas the film's success taken you by surprise?

It has. I am delighted! I was hoping the film would succeed because it's nice. But I never thought it would do so well.

My profession is quite strange. Sometimes, the films we work really hard on do not succeed and the ones we just sleepwalk through become hits. But I believe hard work always pays. In any case, success was long due for the film industry.

Will this success affect your career in any way?

No, it will not change anything for me. I have never altered my price or working method with regard to my hits or flops. I don't intend to do so now. I have six films on hand -- Rajkumar Santoshi's Khakee, Madhur Bhandarkar's Aan, Dharamesh Darshan's Bewafaa, Vipul Shah's Waqt: Race Against Time, and a film each with Anil Sharma and Abbas-Mustan.

The films are well spaced out. Aan and Bewafaa are nearly complete. Khakee is 30 per cent complete. So I have only three films on the floors. I am still trying to follow my principle of one film at a time. Lekin kya karen? This industry cannot function the way I want to.

How far is the Lara Dutta-Priyanka Chopra combination responsible for the film's success?

It is responsible to a large extent because both of them have done a great job. They are very professional, hardworking, organised, and talented. The film could not be what it is without them. We shared wonderful times together. We miss not meeting up nowadays. At least I miss the camaraderie during Andaaz. The shooting was over in just three months! We did not even realise when it started and when it ended. This is the fastest film Suneel Darshan has ever produced.

There have been many comments on the skin show in Andaaz.

The two girls did whatever the role demanded. Priyanka played a brash character, so she could not be seen in a sari all the time, could she? I don't think there's too much of a skin show in Andaaz. It's more of a social drama and that's what is attracting audiences. They love the last 35 minutes of Andaaz when the heroines turn out to be sisters-in-law. They have never seen anything like this before.

The Mumbai critics have trashed the film and your performance.

I was hoping they would. Whenever they like a film, it fails. These things do not matter.

Even awards do not matter. There have been times when I have been approached to perform at award functions and, in return, been promised an award. Film criticism and recognition are about being in the good books of those who control these matters. Right now, I am very happy about Andaaz. The industry needs hits.

Lara Dutta, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra in AndaazYou performed in the IIFA in Johannesburg and Bollywood Awards in New York recently...

Yes, I sang Punjabi songs at the Bollywood awards. [Model] Tiara Banks gave me an award and I gave her one. I had never met an international model before. So I was doubly happy.

For IIFA, I flew all the way from Canada to South Africa. I rehearsed my item in just four hours. It came out well only because of [choreographer] Shiamak Davar's faith in me.

I am back in Mumbai working eight hours a day. I make sure I have lots of time to spend with my son [Aarav] and wife [Twinkle Khanna]. They came with me to Canada for my Bewafaa schedule. Even in Mumbai, after pack-up, all my time belongs to my son and wife.

Tell us about your cop films, Aan and Khakee.

The two films are very different from each other. Of course they are about the police force. But do you think I would be foolish enough to do two identical films simultaneously? It would be as impractical as doing two Bhagat Singh films together! If I'm Bhagat Singh in Aan, in Khakee I'm Sukhdev. In fact, in Aan, I am from the crime branch so I don't even wear a uniform. My role in Khakee is far more lighthearted.

I've just returned from a very satisfying schedule of Bewafaa, where I play a wannabe Canadian musician. We've seen many poor-rich love stories. But Bewafaa is different.

Your Bewafaa co-star Kareena Kapoor speaks very highly of you.

It is a pleasure working with her. I like her upfront attitude. If she likes you, she makes it very clear. And if she dislikes you, you have had it [laughs]! She is transparent about her feelings. It is hard to find a person like her in showbiz.

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