“I will do shocking work and will still succeed” – Akshay Kumar

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Rajeev Bhatia, better known in Bollywood as Akshay Kumar, has proved beyond doubt that acting isn’t at all the key attribute to stardom in Hindi cinema. His success is the result of a combination of factors, but emoting wasn’t front of the camera isn’t one of them. His debut film was Raj Sippy’s Sangharsh in 1991, the film came and went neither did the hero generate any interest. But Abbas-Mustan’s Khiladi changed the very definition of the hero. Akshay Kumar has once again proved his hold at the box office with his last release Phir Hera Pheri getting an exceptional opening and the film took the 8th spot at the UK box office.

Also he is increasingly proving to be the star with the Midas touch with most of his films like Khakhee, Aitraaz, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi,Waqt-The Race Against Time, Garam Masala , proving to be winners for the producers. His Bewafaa might be a flop in India but is a bigger hit than the Aamir Khan starrer Lagaan in the UK.

Akshay’s films have pegged an average of £ 3 million as compared to Shah Rukh Khan £5,42,000, Aamir Khan £6,27,000, Salman Khan £1.5 million and Saif Ali Khan £1.25 million. Today Akshay Kumar is definitely the only superstar who can match the ‘Khan’ factor at the box office; with him racing ahead in the overseas market too Akshay will be the man to be watched by the Khans. Businessofcinema.com’s Johnny Vaz took the opportunity to meet this action hero.

Last year you were termed as the superhit hero of the year internationally. This year you have lived up to it again. Eight hits and one more (Jaaneman) lined up for release, your latest Firoz Nadiadwala’s Phir Hera Pheri has once again become the super grosser of the year how does it feel now?
Of course, I feel very happy, proud and confident for the way things have worked out for me. The year has been great for me because of number of releases. Phir Hera Pheri has been doing well at the box office, so I am really happy the way things have worked out for me. By the grace of God, with Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Aitraaz, Khakee, Bewafaa, Waqt, Garam Masala and Phir Hera Pheri I have been seeing constant success. I even stand by every film of mine that hasn’t worked. It’s all been a learning procedure for me. I think I am charting my own path and carving a distinct niche for myself. I have dabbled with action, romance, dance, emotion and now comedy. I think I’ve done well in all. It’s important to keep doing something different and reinvent oneself to avoid stagnation from creeping in. My audience and fans have faithfully stood by me and I thank them for appreciating my films and performance. My family has also been a great pillar of support. With every success, more and more responsibilities come on me; have to be more careful in selection of films. But I am extremely happy that I have proved a winner for my producers.

It has been heard that Phir Hera Pheri has now become an addition in the Oscar Library?
Yes, I heard about it. I feel proud of the fact that the film has been chosen by the Oscar Library. Yet at the same time it means a lot of responsibility on an actor’s shoulder.

How do you rate success now?
Success and failure at this point of time does not matter to me. I have been living up to my own expectations. I have to keep working hard to keep up the image and keep charging myself to do my best. Success keeps on changing every Friday to Friday. At times I feel I don’t deserve all the success and adulation that is given to me. I haven’t done a fraction of what I should have. It doesn’t give me a high. I am a part of the race that I have to run. I’ve just been luckily winning it. It is just that basically I got to work with the right kind of makers who made successful films. Yet I would like to add that I have been successful without any big producers backing me.

Tell us something about the Barcelona episode?
When I was Barcelona a man stole my wallet which contained all my credit cards and personal papers. I realized that I was losing something worthwhile so I ran after him. After some distance he realized that I was not going to leave him so he threw the wallet back at me. It was only later that I realized I had done a foolish thing by running on a crowded street. I could have been hit. But that moment was so crucial I could think of nothing else but my papers.

How different is Priyan’s Hera Pheri with Neeraj Vohra’s Phir Hera Pheri?
I missed Priyan a lot in this movie the films are completely different, Neeraj Vohra’s Phir Hera Pheri is full of punches with a thin story line and Priyan’s Hera Pheri has strong story line with few punches.

From action hero to comedy hero, what are you more comfortable with?
I am comfortable with emotional roles. I was labeled as an action hero by the audience, media as well as my fans. I was afraid so I took the challenge of removing the tag of action hero that was labeled on me. In my real life too I was very comic; I used to make my friends laugh. I have worked hard to change my image. It has taken the audience a long time to accept me as a comedy hero. I am thankful to them for having given me this position today.

What is easier to laugh or cry?
Crying is an easy process. I have just got to use glycerin. But making the audience laugh is the most difficult process. You have to be constantly alert at every time. Making the audience laugh for two and a half hours is not easy especially the little children. They are innocent but yet have they are bright and can catch you immediately.

It has been reported that Suniel Shetty’s role has been edited?
I have always been criticized with the fact (laughs). I had been on a holiday with my family. This time I will make sure that I take a course on editing the next time and hope to receive the editing award this time too.

Which are your forthcoming films this year?
There’s Sajid Nadiadwala’s Jaaneman, in which I am playing a geek, a emotional love story with little comedy, there’s Pritish Nandy Communications Rahgeer being directed by Rituporno Ghosh and Anees Bazmee’s Welcome which is romantic story with a touch of comedy.

What about the 10-crore project that you have signed with Madison?
I am with them and I am working with them. I will be endorsing for them. I can’t reveal much and rather not talk about it. Right now I am only endorsing the Thums Up ad.

Many actors today are veering towards Hollywood . What about you any offers from there?
No, I am happy working here in my own country. I have still to make a place of my own here. I have a lot of work here and am enjoying Bollywood at the moment.

Do you hope that you will see the same kind of success in the forthcoming year?
I am planning to do different things this year. I want to do risky work. I will do shocking work and still succeed. And if I still remain on the top it shall be my victory.

The ‘A’ factor seems to have made it to the top setting the Khans aside?
I don’t want to compare myself to anyone. You spoke about the Khans, They are great and huge. I’ll walk my own way and create my own path.

What about the Indo-Pak film that you have signed?
I am very excited about this project. The film is for the first time being jointly produced by Indian and the Pakistani Governments. I am proud that they have chosen me for the film and be a part of it. It’s a different kind of film. It tells us about our relationships which has been built for the past 100 years then came the 59 years of separation. Yet people dwell on the 59 years of partition why they have forgotten that we have been associated for the past 100 years. It’s all about that. There are a lot of Pakistan actors and Indian actors associated with it.

You are more than 100 films old now. How do you think you have evolved as an actor?
I have learnt a lot through my seniors and my directors. Evolving comes on its own plus hard work and good cinema helps. I have worked with different directors, producers and actors and this has definitely helped me a lot in my career. I am still learning as an actor. I have yet a long way ahead. I am always hungry and craving for something more.

Any plans to go into production?
No, I don’t want to. I am happy as an actor.

Many actors today are veering towards Hollywood . What about you any offers from there?
No, I am happy working here in my own country. I have still to make a place of my own here. I have a lot of work here and am enjoying Bollywood at the moment.

Lastly what is your reaction on to the health minister’s call to the stars to boycott cola advertisements.
I have just heard that the health minister has invited Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai to discuss about the matter. It is too early to talk about it. Let us see the results first.