'How much longer do I have?'
'How many more opportunities will I get?'
Things are looking up for Akshaye Khanna.
After staying away from the movies for four years, the actor is getting his career back on track with films like Mom and Ittefaq.
2019 has been interesting for him; he says he has dabbled with cinema he has never done before.
He will be seen in 2020 in the comedy Sab Kushal Mangal.
The film sees the debut of two star kids: Padmini Kolhapure's son Priyaank and Ravi Kisshan's daughter Riva.
"Whether the person standing in front of me is an actor working for 40 years or working in his first film doesn't really matter. My performance will not change," Akshaye tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh.
How do you look back at 2019?
2019, in my opinion, has been one of the best years for me.
I gave two high-quality films (The Accidental Prime Minister and Article 375). They were films I believed in and I was very invested in them.
Both films were cinema I had not done before -- one was a political film and the other was a courtroom drama -- and they gave me tremendous creative satisfaction.
So in terms of creative satisfaction, it has been a very interesting year for me.
Don't you think you should be seen more in movies?
Definitely. I would like to do more films.
In an ideal world, I would like to do two-three films in a year.
But sometimes, you don't get those subjects and you have to wait a little longer.
The universe doesn't give you those roles easily, so you have to be patient.
Patience is a big part of being in a creative field.
If the roles and the scripts that you want are not coming to you that frequently, you have to be patient.
There are actors who don't mind approaching film-makers when they learn of a certain film being made. Have you done that?
I have done that all my life.
If I hear there is something that interests me or something that I would like to do, I make that effort to see if I can fit in somewhere, if I can contribute somewhere.
That's important because the film industry is a very small place.
There are hardly a few hundreds of directors and producers. Few, very, very few.
So it's easy to connect with people.
How did Sab Khushal Mangal happen?
Like how any other film happens.
Out of the blue, I heard the script.
When I heard his (the director's) name, Karan Kashyap, I did not immediately recall who he was. But I had worked with him; he was an assistant on Dil Chahta Hai.
When I saw him, of course, I knew who he was.
I heard the script and loved it and it took off from there.
Priyaank Sharma and Riva Kishan are debutants working with you on this project. When you work with newcomers, does that your process as an actor easy or difficult?
My process remains the same.
It's the director's job to extract work out of them, to groom them, to get them into character.
So I cannot say easy or difficult; it does not make a difference.
Whether the person standing in front of me is an actor working for 40 years or working in his first film doesn't really matter.
My performance will not change.
Being a senior actor, did you give them any advice?
Seniority is never something I take seriously. It's not something I think about a lot or feel proud of.
I feel the same way Riva and Priyaank feel on the sets.
Every day is a new scene, a new dialogue, new actors, new director, a different moment and you just have to keep being in the moment.
Nobody cares how many years you worked or how many films you have done.
Are you doing a good job? That's what matters.
One of the most notable films of your career, Hungama, is getting a sequel. Did Director Priyadarshan approach you for any part?
No. I don't know what the script is exactly.
I am sure it's a totally different script.
It might have the same name and the same director, but I doubt it will be the same story.
If Priyadarshan is ever making a film and has a role for me, I am sure he will call me. If he didn't call me, he must not be having a role for me.
I wish them all the best and am looking forward to seeing it.
One of your most successful films Taal has completed two decades. Any memories you can share with us?
I remember how scared I was about working with Subhash Ghai because I don't think there are many directors in Indian cinema who have achieved not only success, but also the stature and respect that Subhash Ghai had.
So for someone who was just starting out -- I must have been one or two years into my career -- I don't know how to explain.
It's very difficult to go on set because as an actor, one does not want to disappoint the director.
My only fear, as far as my profession goes, is that I never want to see disappointment in my director's eyes.
I should be capable of delivering because that is my job. If I cannot, that is a big problem for me.
That fear is still there today. Very, very much.
Did that film help you grow as an actor?
All films have helped me, whether they are successful or not.
There are a lot of actors who are venturing into the digital space. Has anything been offered to you?
Yes, but nothing that I want to do right now, nothing that has caught my imagination.
It's an interesting format.
I would like to explore it when the time is right.
What is your take on Citizenship Amendment Act?
I have not had the time to read the whole thing or study it.
Because there is a disagreement within the public, within society, it is very important that I at least read it once before I give any kind of opinion or make any statement or say anything.
I would not like to comment till I read it. I just don't have time right now.
After spending more than two decades in the industry, how do you see your journey?
I have been very lucky. Lucky and blessed.
There are millions and millions of people who want these opportunities, but they don't get them.
When you started off, had you ever thought you would come so far?
I don't know.
At the back of your mind, the fear is always there: When is the party going to stop?
When is it going to be pack up?
How much longer do I have?
How much longer can I perform?
How many more opportunities will I get?
Mohnish Singh dabbled as a copywriter before making a transition into entertainment journalism. You can contact him at email@example.com