Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

Looks like Akshay Kumar has made it a habit to surprise us every time with his choice of movies or performances lately. His latest ‘Padman’ being a testament to that. Disciplined to the tee, we meet the actor for an early morning conversation at his office. Currently sporting a bald look, looking super stylish as always, Kumar walks in and we settle down to chat about his new release and more. Excerpts :

When you have a different sort of perspective which doesn’t go by the popular opinion– to go ahead and do a film like ‘Padman’ or ‘Toilet EkPrem Katha’; where does that really come from?
I always had that kind of a thought process but I couldn’t make such films in my initial years because I was working under other producers. I worked in the kind of films which were being made by them at that point. But just as time passed, and I became a producer, then I could make these kind of films. Most of my films as a producer have fallen into this sort of a meaningful cinema genre or something which is real. When people pay Rs. 300 or more for a ticket, I will give them entertainment, songs, dance, everything but at the same time I’d like to give a small message as well, which people can take back home. I still remember, before ‘Airlift’, nobody knew that 1,17,000 people were stuck and Air India pilots went and saved them. It’s there in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the biggest evacuation. But nobody really knew about it. Now they do, because of the film, despite the fact that it was written in history. Entertainment is a great way to make people understand something. So, when such films come to me, I do them because I like them. I’ve always had this kind of perspective.

So, certainly then these choices reflect your personality and experiences…
Yes, now this film ‘Padman’ is on menstrual hygiene. But to be honest, I didn’t know much at all. I had not ever taken a sanitary pad in my hand, because my family or anyone around never told me to go get sanitary pads. They don’t tell men when they should. Men should know what women are going through. I got to know now that 82 per cent of women in India do not have access to sanitary pads, they don’t use it. They use cloth, mud and what not and that leads to highest chances of cervical cancer. The rate of cervical cancer is more than breast cancer. And that line was stuck in my head that – ‘women strong, country strong.’ So, I had to do this film.

The film’s tagline goes – ‘Superhero hai yeh pagla’. So, now you’re doing these different superhero kind of films post the quintessential ones. Do you think it’s time that change came and that quintessential Hindi cinema hero mould was broken?
I enjoy everything. I enjoyed doing ‘2.0’, as a villain as well. That mould is breaking slowly. It’s not like that mould has seized to exist but now we do have these other types of films and characters too for actors. But my idea has never been to break those stereotypes. I might do ‘Housefull 4’ again and get into that category as well. If I get a good script for ‘Rowdy Rathore 2’ or ‘Khiladi’, I would do it. So, let me rephrase this. I don’t want to break any mould, I want to create new moulds. I want to fit into everything. I don’t want anyone to say that Akshay Kumar is just good in this genre, not in other genres. I’ve done comedy, romance, a lot of action, I’ve played villains three-four times. Now I want to further explore new things within these genres.

What was Balki’s brief to you?
We were both sitting on the script when he was writing it, so both of us knew from the beginning as to what we wanted from the film. We were both at the same wavelength. So, there wasn’t much to discuss. The first day’s shoot didn’t seem like the first day, we just walked through it.

How much do changing looks matter to feel like a character? For instance, we saw the first look of ‘Kesari’.
It comes naturally. I am not one of those actors who says that I spent ten days with many sardars so I will be able to play a Sardar. I can’t perform in that manner. Nor do I have that sort of an approach. There are very few people who are stuck with a character even after the film is over.

We’ve spoken earlier and you’ve said that you don’t like to look back or analyse your work. How have you managed to stay detached?
I have my own life also apart from acting. I have lots to do with my children, my friends, my business, my staff. I have a life besides just looking at myself. Even when I am working, I don’t look into the mirror more than once or twice. But when I see my earlier films, I have a feeling that I hope I continue to have the same energy which I had 20 years back. That’s what keeps me going. When I see my films, I am like, ‘oh look at that kick I did, I want to do something better than that.’ So, that’s what I keep trying.

“I have a life besides just looking at myself. Even when I am working, I don’t look into the mirror more than once or twice”

Can you pick out your most favourite or satisfying film experience?
I’ve actually done so much that it’s tough to choose. But I enjoy myself in films like ‘Housefull’, or ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’.

What do you want people to take back from ‘Padman’?
Awareness. I want people to talk about it. It’s not a taboo subject, and that has started changing ever since the promo has come out. I’m glad many youngsters are learning something from this, because they are going to get married, have children. So, things will change soon.

Has it been different to be a daughter’s father, and has that aspect also made you further vulnerable towards films or subjects that revolve around women?
Having a daughter is a completely different ballgame. The love you have for a daughter is completely different. And yes, you could be right. I’m not sure, I haven’t thought about it but yes, that could be the case!

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