He’s back with a bang – not just to give us another blockbuster but bringing in another powerful story on celluloid. Yes, that’s Akshay Kumar for you, with ‘Kesari’ hitting the screens. He plays a real-life character yet again in an adrenaline-pumping tale brimming with patriotism. The actor looking fit and handsome as always, settles down for a chat at Yash Raj studios. We talk about this latest release and more…

What fascinated you about ‘Kesari’ and what was the most challenging thing for you as an actor?
We get fascinated with films like ‘300’ which Hollywood makes which is actually a fictitious story. ‘300’ facing 8000 Persians. Here it’s a true story – 21 sardars facing 10,000 invaders and they’re fighting. Who won’t get fascinated by a story which is so strong and real. If you google, which are the fight biggest battles fought – on number two it is Saragarhi and not many people know about it. As I went into it, I found so many things about it. My director who is also the writer of the film, told me what exactly had happened. It is unbelievable that these people had the chance to run away but they didn’t do it. They knew they were going to die. I consider myself lucky that I got this film. I knew I didn’t want to leave the opportunity to do this film. I would plead all the parents to take their children to watch this film to show them what their ancestors have done for this country. I have dedicated ‘Kesari’ to all the martyrs of all the countries of the world who’ve given their life to save their country.

In what way was the role difficult?
The kind of terrain on which we shot was difficult. We shot in ‘Spiti’ where the oxygen is less anyway. We shot in ‘Spiti’ because we wanted a location which would match 1897. There were hills, ice-clad mountains and that’s the kind of terrain we needed for the film and it matched. After every shot, if there’s a re-take then we have to take a ten-minute break atleast because we had to catch up with our breath. The turban I wore weighed one kilo, the sword I was fighting with weight 6-7 kilos. In reality, they fought with swords which weight 25kilos each. At that point, they could do it since they had desi ghee, and now people have steroids (laughs).

You love coming back to action despite taking different paths and roles again, don’t you?
Like they say in Hindi – ‘bandar kitna bhi boodha ho jaaya, gulaati maarna nahi bhoolta (laughs)’. So, I keep coming back to action and stunts. Then again do something else and come back to it.

Despite doing all kinds of action – ‘Kesari’ sees you performing an all-together new kind of action in the form of depicting a real battle. How exciting was that?
We had to portray 1897 and learn ‘Gatka’ which is the way of fighting in Sikhism. It was a different kind of fight and I had to learn its techniques. There they don’t worry about their wounds, but only worry about how to kill your opponent. That was the best part. So, the last twenty minutes of this film will show that completely. It was a new genre of fight for me, so this is something I will always remember. It was still close to martial arts, so I only had to adapt to few more things. The fight here was close to forms like ‘Kallaripayattu’. Since I have a martial arts background, I had to make only a little effort.

“I’m changing my image because I’m enjoying it. Not because it’s difficult to survive or for me to prove to the world”

How did you bring Anurag Singh on board to direct the film?
I know him since many years now. He was an assistant to Raj Kanwar when I was working with him so I knew him since then. Then I saw few of his films. He is a nation-award winner, a sorted director, and a writer as well. So, I told Karan about him and we got him on board.

You’ve been here and survived in the business for so many years. Is it difficult for an actor to survive for so long if he doesn’t keep re-inventing himself?
It is fun. I’m changing my image because I’m enjoying it. Not because it’s difficult to survive or for me to prove to the world. I just have to enjoy myself. It is great to do different characters all the time. When I started my career, I was only doing action films and nobody would give me any other role. If there was a romantic film or a comedy or tragedy, nobody would give me those films. I was only stuck with action films. So, one fine day I got ‘Heri Pheri’ and things changed. But I can never forget those days when I used to come down in the elevator to go to work, I would look in the mirror and get angry seeing my face – thinking that I would go and do the same thing again. I would get irritated by the fact that on set, I will be asked to jump off from somewhere or kick someone. I was just limited to that – I felt like there’s nothing else I could do. I’ve started enjoying my work more since the last twelve years now that I got the opportunity to do different things. So, it’s not tough.

How satisfied do you feel as a reel life hero, to be bringing so many real-life heroes on celluloid – be it with ‘Airlift’ or ‘Padman’ or ‘Kesari’?
It’s very satisfying. I get very happy when I get a chance to do something like this because there are so many people in real life who are heroes and who should be bought to the forefront. We might need at least ten lives to bring all those to cinema. ‘Kesari’ is like a dream role for me! To play Ishar Singh is a dream role because not many actors get to play such a courageous guy in their lifetime – where he fights despite knowing he is going to die. When I decided to do ‘Airlift’, there was just one article about it. And now if you google, there are so many articles on this subject. So, now even with ‘Kesari’, I hope many articles come in, and there’s awareness about this battle which happened on September 12, 1897.

What is it that keeps you motivated?

I get motivated by the kind of cinema I do, the work I get, the kind of roles I do. Trade Magazine