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Akshay: It's payback time!

Vivek Fernandes | May 27, 2004 14:53 IST

Akshay KumarHe steps out of his dressing van, a waxed, muscular arm outstretched in greeting, crooked teeth on display.

Akshay Kumar's smile lights up his eyes. And though there are flecks of grey showing at the temples and the first signs of wrinkles under the eyes, the charisma hasn't waned.

He has interrupted his meeting with director David Dhawan, on the sets of Suneel Darshan's latest film Mere Jeevan Saathi, to make introductions. "Please wait on the sets, I'll be there in a few minutes," he says politely. Of course, the wait lasts a good hour. But that is de riguer in Bollywood.

Escorted by the director and his entourage comprising makeup man and assistant, he arrives, smiling at the gathered fans. He beckons me to the collapsible chairs behind the monitor. But when we commence the interview, he is reticent, almost bashful. "He's a very private person, doesn't do too many interviews, no personal questions," the PRO has already warned me.

We begin with the martial arts series the actor is hosting for the National Geographic channel, Seven Deadly Arts with Akshay Kumar. "It was great to be presented with an opportunity to share my knowledge with people about martial arts and take them on this insightful journey. This is payback time and I am giving all I can to this art," he says. His hopes to open a martial arts school at some stage. "But land is just too expensive in Mumbai," he says.

Akshay's soon-to-be-released film Aan – Men At Work, directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, has him donning the cap of action hero again. "Like Chandni Bar and Satta, the film is stark, very realistic," says the actor. "But not the action scenes. They are really hi-funda. The fights are very different... lots of cable-work. You could compare it to the fight sequences of The Matrix. I had a Shaolin monk from China train me for the film. We used him in the film later too."

Akshay is paired opposite Lara Datta here, essaying the role of Hari Om Patnaik, an IPS officer from Orissa. The film will follow close at the heels of Rajkumar Santoshi's Khakee and Dilip Shukla's film, eight years in the making, Police Force —  An Inside Story, based on the book Carnage by Angels and co-starring Raveena Tandon.

Akshay's fitness routine:
I work out four times a week and for not more than an hour-and-a-half. I don't do weights though I swim and jog a lot. I have a very Indianised exercise routine... lots of uthak baithak (squats) and freehand exercises.

Akshay's diet regimen:
I'm more of a vegetarian, though it is not like I don't eat chicken. One thing about my diet is that I take my meals very early. Lunch is at 11.30am or by noon and dinner by 7.00pm. It is a habit.

Akshay's favourite holiday spots:

Ways to beat the summer heat:
Drink lots of water
Have cold milk with mangoes
Take plenty of dips in the pool

He's truly top of the cops in 2004. But Akshay says, "The roles are just a coincidence. Khakee offered me a different platform; it was a light-hearted role. I liked it, so I went ahead and did it."

Khakee went on to add a feather in Akshay's cap, winning him raves for his performance. "It's my favourite film too. I really like it," the actor gushes.

Also, the film gave Akshay a chance to team up once again with his screen idol Amitabh Bachchan. "It has always been a delight working with him," he says. "He is very professional. He goes through lots of rehearsals and shoots only one take. I think that is wonderful. With him around, you get into the habit and do the same."

The tag of Khiladi, the action hero, is one Akshay Kumar has long carried. "Well, it is one of those tags I have carried with me. But I have shifted consciously from there, trying to come out of that image. And it didn't begin with Aankhen. There was Jaanwar and Dhadkan, Ek Rishtaa and Hera Pheri. Ajnabee was another offbeat film too. Now there was Khakee. The list is pretty long."

Akshay reunites with Suneel Darshan for Mere Jeevan Saathi, where he plays Vicky, an upcoming rock star. "The film has Amisha and Karisma with me. It is a triangle story, and is quite a bold subject." Amisha Patel plays a traditional girl, his love interest. And the recently married Karisma essays the negative role of Natasha, a music company owner in love with Vicky.

Raveena Tandon and Akshay Kumar in Police ForceOn the personal front, the actor has settled down to fatherhood. He loves taking time off to spend with wife Twinkle and son Araav. "We take a family vacation every two-three months," he says. "We will be heading off to Goa shortly. I enjoy swimming with my son. As far as parenting goes, Twinkle and I share the duties. I think all parents need to co-operate."

The warmth of his smile reaches his eyes again.

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