Action man Akshay Kumar takes time off from a busy shoot to look back at his 20 year-old career in Hindi films. He tells Sunday MiD DAY that we'll see a vastly improved John Abraham in Desi Boyz, and why his family is his greatest success

This year, you complete 20 years in Bollywood. It's been a long journey from Saugandh (1991) to Desi Boyz (2011). I believe it will continue for years. When I look back at those golden years, I feel it was easier to bag films initially. It's tougher to maintain a position in the industry. In comparison, it is easy to make films but publicising and releasing films is very difficult.

Akshay Kumar in a still from the soon-to-be-released Desi Boyz,
co-starring John Abraham, Deepika Padukone and Chitrangda Singh

After two decades of stardom, do you feel you are still a desi boy? Or do you feel your roots have grown distant?
I am still completely the desi boy all my friends knew at school; I just have cooler sunglasses now, that's all (laughs). I carry my roots everywhere I go; my mother wouldn't have had it any other way. And I couldn't live with myself if my oldest friend told me, "Rajiv (Akshay), you've changed, man!"
You are paired with Chitrangda in Desi Boyz. Will this art-commerce blend be palatable?
Art and commerce have blended well. Whenever I see Chitrangda, I am reminded of Smita Patil, whose films I loved watching when I was young. Chitrangda is beautiful, and a great actress. Now, she has made a connect with commercial cinema, and will go a long way.
For five years after Garam Masala, John Abraham and you steered clear of each other. Suddenly you are doing two films (Desi Boyz and Housefull 2) together. What gives?
When we worked together in Garam Masala, I was not as friendly with John as I am now. Today, we chat and work together. We didn't take up films together simply because we didn't get a great script which would work for us.

Has John changed?
The John I saw in Garam Masala, and the John I see now are very different. Not only has his physique improved but his comic timing has bettered with time. 
You are the rare star who has five releases every year. How many days do you shoot in a month?
I do not work much but my films get finished in time because I report to set on time and leave at the designated hour. On Saturdays, I work from 7 am to 2 pm, after which I spend time the way I want to. I always take an off on Sunday. Every year in June, I take a family vacation because that's when my son has holidays. 
The Sanjay Bhansali-produced Rowdy Rathore's poster seems to point to your return to action.
The 'Faulad ki aulad' poster has created a lot of curiosity. Such posters were seen back in the 1970s. This film demands a poster like it, and dialogues like 'khoon bhari maang' and 'faulad ki aulad'. In my free time, I practice martial arts but it took a vanvaas from action on screen. Now, I am eager to do such films. Rowdy Rathore, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai 2 and Khiladi 786, are all packed with action.
Why did you choose to act in Himesh Reshammiya's Khiladi 786, considering his films have not done well?
I do not go by box office success reports. The script of Khiladi 786 offers an actor a lot of scope.
Isn't Himesh your co-star in the film too?
He has a small role; I play the title role.
So, it's action films and comedies coming up. When do we see you in a grand romance?
Once Upon A Time In Mumbai 2 is a very romantic and passionate film although action forms a backdrop. 
How integral is your personal life to your success?
Tina (Twinkle) is my greatest success! You can take away my films, my awards, my career, and I would survive, but I couldn't live a day without my wife and son. Tina has made me a home; one I can run to any minute. I want to share the rest of my life with her.