I’m b bit wary when I meet up with Akshay Kumar on the sets of BOSS. It’s reportedly a remake of 2010 Malayalam hit POKKIRI RAJA. The original starred Mammootty and considering Mammootty’s formidable reputation, I wonder how Akshay would get into the skin of a Mammootty flick. But an action film is an action film in any language and I’m sure Akshay is heads and shoulders above Mammootty as far as action is concerned. There is a fun track blaring in the background as Akshay goes about beating up goons in his Chin tat a rumbustious style. Director Anthony D’souza (of Blue fame) sets up the next action shot and Akshay takes time off to shoot some breeze with poor moi who’s been willing in the sun all this while. We saunter over to his boy to bring some jiggery. He offers me some as well, ”Gur khao,sehat bano (Eat jiggery to remain fit).” A health fiend, the actor prefers nibbling on nutrients like cashews, almonds, apples and jiggery during breaks than the fried variety.”I snack every three hours. This is one of my fitness secrets,” he confides.
I give him the choice of nibbling over my questions as well and he gives his go ahead. He’s known to go mushy over his daughter Nitara (born on September 25) whom he has named Nitara Khanna Bhatia in loving memory of his exalted father-in-law, Rajesh Khanna. He beams at the mention of Nitara. I want to know whom she resembles, Twinkle or him but he shrugs that off saying she’s too young for such comparisons. A new baby usually alters the parents’ schedule, but Akshay’s routine is unaffected. “I’ve always worked only for eight hours a day. I sleep for eight hours and spend the rest of the day at home. I spend a lot of time with Nitara.”
Her birth has lifted the pall of grief over the Khanna-Bhatia family after the demise of Rajesh Khanna. Akshay has fond memories of the icon whom he had grown up idolising. He says Khanna’s memories will never fade away. “He was India’s first superstar. Throughout the day, we see him somewhere or the other. Turn on the TV, and you’ll see his songs or his movies on some channel or the other. We’ve put up a large portrait of him at home.”
His father-in-law was like a friend to him. And one trait that he hugely liked in the star was that he treated life like a party and didn’t need a reason to celebrate. “Someone told me,’BHAIYA, I guess you won’t be celebrating Diwali this year as your father-in-law has passed away.’ I replie , ‘We will definitely celebrated Diwali. My father-in-law’s entire life was one big celebration. He celebrated the smallest of things. He’d party for a friend’s birthday; he’d party for any good thing that may have happened during the day, Something good would happen every day, so he partied every day! So, yes we did celebrate Diwali in his memory.”
Incidentally, after Rajesh Khanna’s demise, his bungalow Aashirwad was renamed Vardaan Aashirwad. Akshay cuts off the conspiracy theories with a curt, “Because my mother-in-law (Dimple Kapadia) wished so,” and tells me to move on to the next question. Any attempt to question him on the recent development when Rajesh Khanna’s live-in companion Anita Advani filed a legal suit is met with a stony glance fron Akshay. Time to change the topic then, I’m curious to know as to why he’s returned to the Khiladi tag after donkey’s years. Last month, the eighth film in the Khiladi series, Khiladi 786, directed by Ashish R Mohan was released. The curiouser fact is that Akshay made the film in partnership with nasal wonder Himesh Reshammiya. He doesn’t see anything unusual in the relationship and says it was based on mutual trust and admiration. “The greatest ingredient in every Khiladi movie is fun. It must entertain and have great action and music. Himesh came uo with some zany tunes which were well received. He even suggested this title for the film, which symbolises a man blessed by God and I agreed.”
It may be recalled that the Khiladi blitzkrieg began with Khiladi in 1992 and was followed by Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Sabse Bada Khiladi, Khiladiyon Ka khiladi, Mr And Mrs Khiladi, International Khiladi and Khiladi 420. Akshay had never fathomed that one day the Khiladi franchise would be his. “When you’re at the beginning of your career, how can you predict the future course? Even your father can’t foretell it! What’s more, even a pandit (astrologer) can’t foresee what’s going to happen in his life two years down the line,” smiles Akshay.
It’s surprising that Akshay’s still glued to the action genre and doesn’t get tried of pulling punches after all this while. He reminds me that he did take a breather for some years after son Aarav was born. “I did the maximum number of action movies by 2000. In 2001, I got married (to Twinkle Khanna) and in 2002 my son Aarav was born. I took a sabbatical from action and focussed on comedy, emotions and drama and stopped performing risk-involving stunts.” He’s returned to action with Rowdy Rathore this year. It’s been a comeback year of sorts for the stars in more ways than one. He’s given back-to-back hits like Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore and Oh My God! and cemented a place in the 100 cr walk of fame. Akshay says he remains unperturbed by the expectation of turning every film into a 100 cr blockbuster. “I just do my job. I am under no such pressure or tension. I had come here with just five thousand in my pocket,” he waxes philosophical. “But yes, I am under pressure to reach the sets on time. I make sure that my producer isn’t under any duress. I am a producer’s actor, a director’s actor. Where success or failure is concerned, it all depends on the audience.”
Another remarkable thing is that Akshay has steered clear of camps and controversies. “I don’t live in a camp. I live in a home,” he jests adding, “The most important factor for success is hard work. Also, seek your parents’ blessings, God’s blessings and move ahead. There is nothing bigger than that in the world.” When quizzed whether relationships in the industry are really as fake as shown in films like Luck By Chance and Page 3 and more recently Heroine, Akshay turns defensive about the film fraternity, “Some relationships are sincere just as there are fake ones too, though the latter abound. Forget showbiz; take builders, doctors or people in any other profession, there are genuine and pretentious relationships everywhere. It’s wrong to point fingers only at the industry.” The talks veers back to parenthood and Akshay tells me about the bond he shared his dad, Hari Om Bhatia. “I enjoyed watching films with my dad. I’ve grown up watching commercial cinema- Dharmatma, Sholay, Naseb, Amar Akbar Anthony…” This explains his penchant for masala fare. He says he makes it a point to watch every commercial release. “Whether it’s a Yash Chopra or a Kanti Shah film, I make it a point to watch it in theaters The audiences’ live reactions tell you what they enjoy and what they don’t. I have a show booked on Friday or Saturday evening.” He cattily says he doesn’t like attending premieres. One reason is that he doesn’t like late nights. The other he says is because, “People just sit there, all dressed up, without giving genuine reactions. No one laughs or cry at such affairs. This is unfair to the film.”
The next shot is ready and Akshay is called to do what he does best- bash up the baddies. I watched the action for a while before taking my leave. Because, as he says, I’d rather watch him dishing it out to the goons in upcoming films Special Chhabbees, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Again and Boss in the comfort of the theatres with a special park of gur and chana for company. That’s certainly comfort food for thought.