After completing 25 years in Bollywood and right before the release of his 121st film 'Gabbar Is Back', Akshay Kumar talks about what keeps him ticking and more in an exclusive interview
Q. We have seen many films on corruption. How is 'Gabbar Is Back' different?
A. First, it is a collection of real life incidents that A R Murgadoss has weaved together and written into a story. Secondly, it is the story of a common man who gets terribly affected by corruption in his everyday life and when it starts impacting his family, he turns violent. Violence might be the right thing or wrong thing, but the fact is when you push a common man too far, and when he reaches that point where he doesn’t care about the consequences, he can get really dangerous. That’s the point where he has nothing to lose. Ninety five per cent of us have had to give up on our dreams because of the rampant corruption in our country.
Q. Do you think the subject is more relevant today, because politically too the common man is the focus?
A. Yes, we have just about realised the power of the common man is something that can not be underestimated.
A still from 'Baby'
Q. Have you ever bribed anyone or faced corruption?
A. We all have, haven’t we? I must tell you of an incident that took place before I joined the industry. I was travelling in an auto-rickshaw and holding on to the rod near the meter. When I pulled it, the meter suddenly came down to Rs 8 from Rs 28. I was thrilled and paid Rs 8 in spite of the driver’s protests. The next time I tried the same trick, the meter was at somewhere around Rs 40 and it went up to Rs 140 after I pulled it! I stopped the auto and fought with him saying his meter was faulty! So the moral of the story is that in this life if you try a smart trick, it always hits back at you.
Akshay Kumar in 'Singh Is King'
Q. You complete 25 years in the industry in two months. How do you look at your journey so far?
A. When I came into this industry, I had no choice but to be on my own. I had to build my shoulder strong enough for an entire movie to rest on. I did everything that came my way, including B-grade and C-grade films. I didn’t have much of a choice at that point of time. I remember an incident during the shoot of a C-grade film. I was wearing a white shirt and blue jeans. The director wanted me to wear shirts of different colours — orange, green, red etc — as it was a song sequence. The producer was not willing to spend money on shirts, so he asked the cinematographer to use a green gillette paper… and there I was looking green all over, and then red and yellow all over. I was highly amused.
A still from 'Special 26'
Q. Were you embarrassed doing C-grade films?
A. Not at all. I looked at it as work. What is the point of taking stress? One thing I have learnt is if you work hard, it will pay off. There have been many times when I slogged for a film and it didn’t work. But then I just waited till some film did well. There was a time when I delivered 14 flops in a row. I was down in the dumps, shattered and suddenly the 15th film worked and then there were 16 films which proved to box office hits. What I have understood with these many years in the industry is that one has to be a producer’s actor, work hard, not cheat, come on time and not try manipulating other people’s careers. Till date, none of my films is in the cans. I have made sure that I completed each of my film, even though some didn’t work for me at the shooting stage. Sometimes I have paid from my own pocket so that the producer could finish the film and release it.
'OMG Oh My God!'
Q. You also learnt your acting skills on the way…
A. I remember that at the start of my career I was at this book store and there was this guide to good acting or something like that. It cost about Rs 125 and I didn’t have the money to buy it. I just browsed through it and returned it. One line in that book struck me, ‘Acting is nothing but being a good human being.’ It is as simple as that.
Q. Were you, at any point of time, worried about success or failure changing your basic personality?
A. That’s something I have consciously tried to stay true to. I haven’t changed because I don’t take these things too seriously. I just let things flow, whatever is there is already fated. I only ask God to give me work and good health. Health is my topmost priority, even above family because only when you are healthy can you take care of your family. People take health for granted and I feel really sad about that. You don’t need to have too much money to protect health. You just need to know a few basic things, like eat your last meal before 6.30 pm. Just make a few changes in your lifestyle and see how your energy level goes up. We are all what we eat. Everything depends on our diet. I am happy to see a lot of people around me becoming health conscious, but some take it too far and enter the wrong phase of steroid dependency.
Q. Fourteen years of marriage to Twinkle Khanna. Have you felt the seven-year itch twice over?
A. (Laughing) You are jinxing it. When you have a wife with such a great sense of humour there is entertainment and laughter in the house. Why should I look elsewhere? She also has a great sense of interior decoration.
Q. Well, there have been many temptations around...
A. In such situations, all I have to think is what I am going to lose — my big family. Family has always been really important to me. There is a certain age for everything. I have my house overlooking the beach, my office right next to the house and all that have been earned with a lot of hard work. Now that makes me happy.
Flashback in pictures: Remember these images of Akshay Kumar?
As Akshay Kumar completes 25 years in Bollywood, we celebrate the occasion by looking at a collection of his pictures from the 90s, when he looked drastically different. (View photos)