Meena Iyer (BOMBAY TIMES; November 28, 2012)
Akshay (Khiladi) Kumar jumps in the air with glee. He’s back to the phase when many of his films set records. In a relaxed mood, despite the media mayhem around him on a day when he’s promoting Khiladi 786, Akki jokes, laughs and sportingly takes digs at himself, and at others, too.
Twenty years as an actor and people will only remember you as a khiladi. Is that okay with you?
Ya, why not? Khiladi is my identity, what’s the harm in being remembered for it? With all due respect, it’s the eighth film in the franchise and that itself speaks for the popularity of the title.
Here I must share with you that 20 years ago, when Abbas-Mustan suggested the title Khiladi to producer Ratan Jain, he was not in favour of it. Those days, titles were long-winded… and Ratan felt that a short title won’t work. But Abbas and Mustan were stubborn. Khiladi (1992) worked and, after that, people started having single word titles like Baazigar (1993), etc. Ironically, Ratan, who didn’t fancy the word Khiladi, went on to produce the next Khiladi film called Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994). And, as they say, from then on, there has been no looking back.
To repeat the question, are you happy being Bollywood’s khiladi?
Yes, I am. The word khiladi means player in every sense of the term; it means athlete. It’s wonderful to be called an athlete. What’s wrong with being called an athlete and a player?
You’re a player just in the movies or otherwise too?
I’m an athletic actor. I’m known for my action, I’m a guy who does my own stunts on screen. And if you are trying to insinuate that player has any other meaning, then you are wrong. I stopped playing the field when I got married. I admit that before my marriage I was a player.
In 2000, you had decided to give up on action films, right?
I was going through a transitional phase as an actor and as a person and at that stage, I was suddenly not keen to do any more action films. But they say man proposes, the Almighty disposes. So here I am after 12 years, back again with a Khiladi film and doing plenty of stunts on screen.
Have you sobered down in real life?
As I said, I sobered down the day I got married. Now it is work and family, family and work.
Has the birth of your daughter sobered you down completely?
The birth of my daughter Nitara has made me happy and it has made my world complete. I have always believed that girls are Lady Luck personified. When I married Twinkle, I got all the luck from her. My mother and my sister have given me luck. I am not their benefactor; they benefit me. My daughter has also brought me tremendous luck. OMG Oh My God! was a runaway hit and I owe it to my little one.
Speaking of girls, you are one actor who has changed the fortune of so many girls. You gave Katrina a new lease of life by giving her the maximum number of movies post Boom (2003) when no one bothered with her…
I can only say that Katrina is a very beautiful girl who came to Hindi cinema without knowing a single word of Hindi. She is exceptionally beautiful and one of the most hard-working people I have met. I may have supported her, but she is on top of her game today only because of her own merit and total perseverance.
You have also given Asin two back-to-back movies — Housefull-2 and now Khiladi 786. No other hero has done that.
Again, Asin is a very deserving girl. She’s pretty, she is talented. I’m not giving her anything.
Salman and you are men of the masses. Your cinema is masala fare.
If you go through the box office statistics, you will see that only cinema for the masses creates records. Why pretend to be intellectual when you are here to entertain. Of course, sometimes there comes a script that cuts across masses and classes like OMG… and I’m happy to do that cinema too.
It was a pleasant surprise to see you at Yash Chopra’s premiere of Jab Tak Hai Jaan…
Why do you say that? I have done three movies — Yeh Dillagi (1994), Dil To Paagal Hai (a cameo, 1997) and Tashan (2008) with Yashji and Aditya.
Adi personally invited me to the premiere. Twinkle and I felt it was our duty to attend. Though I have not worked too much with Yashji, I would still have attended the premiere as a mark of respect to a legend. I also loved what Adi, who I respect and like, did for his father. It’s an amazing tribute from a son to a father.
But you agree that you are not part of the Chopra camp?
I do not believe in camps. In my head, I live in a palace and I have lots of space for everyone. I don’t need to belong to cramped camps.
You haven’t worked with Karan Johar either. It would be nice to see you in a KJo film.
Karan doesn’t take me in his films. He probably thinks I’m not good enough.
Khiladi 786, produced by Eros International, Hari Om Entertainment and HR Musik, releases December 7.