'I am zapped by what an incredible actor he is.'
'He does his work bindass, but he understands films better than anybody else.'
IMAGE: Radhika Apte and Akshay Kumar in PadMan.
After directing Ki & Ka in 2016 R Balki is back with PadMan, a film that delves into menstrual hygiene, starring Akshay Kumar.
"I took Radhika (Apte) and Sonam (Kapoor) in the film because they are stupendous actresses. Sonam is a cool chick!" Balki tells Rediff.com's Patcy N.
It requires lots of guts to make a film like PadMan. What were the challenges you faced?
I had to keep the film entertaining because it is very easy to get carried away.
Nobody receives a message unless it is entertaining, so unless you are entertaining people whatever noble thing you have to say is waste of time.
Therefore, my job was to first keep it entertaining, emotional, engaging and funny.
Was that the reason you thought about Akshay because he is a combination of all of these?
I didn't think of Akshay because he asked me whether I wanted to do a film on this topic and I thought about it because I was not sure I wanted to do a biopic.
Then I thought when I will get an opportunity to do a film on a topic like menstrual hygiene.
This is the first film in the world on something like this on a commercial level.
Akshay Kumar solves all the problems.
First of all, he is bang on character. He is a very simple man and very simplistic in his thinking, not intellectual.
He doesn't think and ponder and strategises things. He just comes to the point, does it and leaves.
If you see the film, nobody could play the role except Akshay.
Making a film like this is not risky as compared to the life that Muruga (Arunachalam Muruganantham) has led. He has sacrificed his whole life.
His life is entertaining and not preachy. He is a thriller by himself. Every moment of his life, some entertainment is happening.
I took Radhika (Apte) and Sonam (Kapoor) in the film because they are stupendous actresses. Sonam is a cool chick!
Apparently some people on the sets refused to hold the sanitary pad.
Everybody was very gung-ho about the project. There was one person who said he won't hold the pad and ran away.
When we are making a film we are always scared what will people say, but we are talking of people as they are today. We never ask what do they want to see.
If you ask a person if you want to see an ad on a pad (sanitary napkins) he will say no, but once you show it they may give suggestions even and they will start talking about the advertisement.
I feel for every change to happen, somebody must do it first.
Once the change happens, people become very comfortable talking about it.
You can never make a film about what people are already comfortable talking (about).
Make a change and start a conversation.
If they are not comfortable talking, then they need help and for that all you need is a film with a mainstream star which is entertaining, and which they can talk about.
I will give you a small example. I don't think anybody has said the word pad as many times as they have said in the last four to five months because of the film and its title.
Earlier, people would talk in whispers about pads, but when people are taking the name of the film they are not whispering, they are saying it loudly.
People will watch this film with their families. When people come out of the theatre chances are that next time a father sees the girl going through this, he may ask his daughter, 'Do you want a pad?'
In fact, we heard a story where the mother of this girl was travelling and she needed a pad.
When her father asked her what she was looking out for, she said she wanted a pad. He ran out in the night and got the pad.
He told us from that day his daughter and he have become so close that they speak about things that they never spoke about.
Till now daughters thought they could speak only about certain things to their fathers and all the other things to their mothers, but once fathers get involved things will change. It is a natural human thing.
Never say people will be scared. They are not scared.
People just want somebody else to talk first; it is not a ghastly topic.
IMAGE: Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor in PadMan.
You think without Akshay in the film, reaching out to the audience would have been slightly tough?
Without Akshay, there is no reach.
When you have a big star, automatically so many people are going to see the film.
Big stars doing certain kind of films delivers and changes things that are very important, but, of course, they should be entertaining.
I am not saying make a boring preachy art film that is a waste of time.
Akshay is doing terrific things by doing such kind of films.
Is that the reason when you have stories to tell, you always take big stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush and now Akshay?
I did not think like that.
Akshay called me to do this film and when you have an actor like Akshay why will you think of someone else?
I like Akshay, I like the way he is.
I am zapped by what an incredible actor he is, so effortless.
He doesn't talk about acting like other people do. He doesn't come across like as an intelligent actor.
He comes, he does his work bindass, but he understands films better than anybody else. He is spontaneous.
I did not take any big stars. I took Amitabh Bachchan. When I had the chance of making Cheeni Kum I did not think of a big star or superstar.
(Amitabh) Bachchan is a separate category, so I wrote that film for him.
When I wrote Paa, I wrote it for Bachchan. I wrote Shamitabh for Bachchan.
Tabu may not be as big as Deepika, but she is an incredible actress.
Vidya, before Paa's release, wasn't this big, but what an actor she is.
What are you talking about stars compared to these kind of actors?
I don't think I need a star as a heroine or a hero.
It is Bachchan and Tabu, and it is Bachchan and Vidya.
These are the people you love working with and people who you admire, the people you are fans of.
I like working with people who I am a fan of because I love to do films like that.
I don't like to do films so coldly that I forget the person I am working with.
Did you hear about Phullu...
There was no Phullu when we decided to make this film. There were two documentaries only by the BBC and Al Jazeera.
Arunachalam Muruganantham has not given the rights to anybody else to make the film.
After the first schedule we heard about Phullu. (I) still have not watched the film.
They claimed it was not based on Arunachalam's life, otherwise it would be illegal.
- Part 2 of the Balki Interview: 'A lot of men will be affected by PadMan'