Akshaye Khanna on The Accidental Prime Minister: Don't care about reactions, I did my job
Akshaye Khanna on how he is undeterred by controversies around the film 'The Accidental Prime Minister', Anupam Kher's performance as Dr Manmohan Singh and his next Article 375: Marzi Ya Jabardasti
Did you anticipate a backlash at the unveiling of The Accidental Prime Minister's trailer?
I don't think anyone can predict what is going to happen in the future. Considering it was a powerful trailer, a strong reaction was expected, but I am sure all controversies will be laid to rest once the film releases. While it is a political film, we have made it an entertaining one. We haven't deviated from what has already been documented in the book. The Accidental Prime Minister is not a biopic. It tracks a decade of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's reign in office. I am sure people will enjoy it once they see it.
There is chatter that the film is deliberately being released before the elections to run down Congress. Comment?
Like I mentioned earlier, if you make an authentic political film, reactions are expected. Frankly, I am not focussed on people's reactions; they can think whatever they want to. I have done my job as an actor and now I am going to promote my film with a proud heart. I genuinely love the film and I am sure people will appreciate it.
A still from The Accidental Prime Minister
Did you meet Sanjaya Baru to prepare for your role?
No, I didn't need to. I read the book twice and watched his interviews to gauge the kind of person he is. I learnt that he is a colourful character and spoke with conviction; moreover, I was never trying to imitate him. Vijay Gutte [the director] had done all the research for me, all he requested me to do was follow his direction and I did just that.
How would you judge Anupam Kher's portrayal of Dr Manmohan Singh and how was it to work with him?
Manmohan Singh is a man of big stature and to interpret him is a great feather in Anupam's cap. It is an actor's interpretation of a person, who has been in public life, for more than five decades. I believe he has given an interesting performance and I am proud to be associated with it. As for working with Anupam, I enjoy his company and had a blast working with him. He kept me entertained with his stories. We even share a good chemistry in the film.
It's common occurrence in the West to make films or shows on political leaders or government institutions. Why do you think Indian directors shy away from replicating the same here?
The fact that filmmakers haven't already made films on the prominent historical figures, especially politicians, is testament to the fact that they don't want to rock the boat or cause a stir in the society. But I feel it must change. Being the largest democracy in the world, I have no inhibitions on being part of authentic political films. I am sure in the future we will see films on Narendra Modi or Amit Shah also. A film on Bal Thackeray is already in the works. The Accidental Prime Minister is based on a book [with the same name], which is written by a political commentator; and if one can write a book, why can't a film be made? Every other form of media has the liberty to criticise governments, politicians, but you cannot make a film? People have a right to opinions and they can be different. My only concern is why should anything be banned even before viewing it? In the end, the political class will have to give in and not snub this kind of creativity.
The Thackeray biopic is being produced by a member of Shiv Sena. What happens when a film like Padmaavat faces issues? Do you feel that filmmakers have no freedom of expression?
I am not a political commentator so, I do not want to talk about other people's films. I think there should be discussion or an open forum on why when it comes to films, the freedom of expression is curbed. The public need to decide and somewhere I feel the decision is made. The interest that this film has generated, shows that people want to watch films in this genre.
Akshaye Khanna, who has been quite choosy about his projects off late, has a courtroom drama in the pipeline. He said, "I am working on a film titled Article 375: Marzi Ya Jabardasti. It is interesting as I am playing a lawyer for the first time."
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