He’s the quintessential self-made superstar… no Godfathers, no silver spoon; only sheer talent and incredible staying power. Add to that hard work, self-belief and an unparalleled commitment to work, and that about sums up Akshay Kumar’s long and successful innings in the industry. What’s more, Kumar is a sheer pleasure to work with, for his extraordinary work ethic and the positive energy that he brings to the sets. Amazingly, Kumar has now opened a second inning, with his movies taking a decisive social turn. So, as the Golden Boy turns 50 today, it seems the best is yet to come. Here’s the Man of the Moment in conversation with Vajir Singh
Happy Birthday, Akshay bhai.
Thank you very much but there are four
days to go before my birthday.
I know, but this interview will be published in this issue on your birthday.
Achcha, badhiya hai. Everything is great. Life is good and I am feeling 21.
You mean you’re in a very happy zone.
Happy zone main toh humesha hi rehta hoon.. kabhi dukhi dekha hai tune? Kab dekha hai?
Never, kabhi nahi dekha. I’ve always seen you troubling others.
Troubling? I have never troubled anyone.
On the sets, with your co-actors and
(Smiles) It’s actually to entertain
everyone on the set so that everybody is enjoying themselves. It should not be a boring affair.
After spending so many years and achieving so much, do you ever sit back and think of your struggling days? Do you ever look back at when you began your
career and struggled to get work?
I have to think about this every two weeks. In fact, before the release of any of my films, actually, every month, I think. Every month, I visit the place where I used to stay, in Sion-Bandra (East), just to keep myself grounded, reminding myself of my previous whereabouts and what used to happen back then. I still have contacts with all my past friends. I do not have many friends in the industry. Abhi phone aaya tha ek dost ka. (Shows SMSes of his old friends and every message is about what he is doing on his birthday and how are they going to celebrate his birthday together).
Yes, I remember a few of your old friends being present on one of Kapil Sharma’s shows.
(Shows another SMS. It says, “Good morning, Sethji. Can we meet you before you leave for your birthday celebration?”)
Why do they call you Sethji?
Humara gang hua karta tha ‘Bloody gang’ (Shows another SMS. “Hey, Sethji, Bloody gang wants you for your 50th Birthday”).
How do you find the time to keep in touch with them despite your busy schedule?
Because I don’t have many friends in the industry. As I said, they are my only friends. So, kabhi Kapil ke show pe chale aate hai or they come and visit me when I’m shooting. They want to meet me once a month. And I call them home for lunch or dinner and we talk, discuss and remember the good old days. It’s all about making time. Today, as soon as you met me, the first thing you said was: ‘Akshay, bhai, why are you shooting today? Today is the final day of visarjan.’ But, you tell me, yeh toh gup waali baat hai toh tujhe bula liya, kaha rush rahega yaar. Where’s the rush? Mumbai police is taking care of everything for us. It’s going to be the same every day. We say but are we all busy forever. Earlier, people would ask me, why are you doing so many movies? Today, people shy away from doing more than one movie at a time. But I think doing four movies a year is the easiest thing to do. I belong to that era where I would shoot for two movies or more every day. So there’s no such things as ‘being busy’; you always make time for your own people, for your work. But, yes, I have slowed down a bit now and am making fewer movies.
What exactly comes to mind when you think of your struggling days?
Like, literally nahi sochta hoon lekin kabhi koi baath aa jati hain toh uss baton se batein nikal aati hain. There are so many producers and directors whom I’ve known for years and I’m in touch with most of them. Like Kishore Vyas, I don’t think you know him.
Also like Vimal Kumar. You know him?
Yes, I do.
(Laughs) Woh tere jaise hi lagte hain. I saw you and thought of him.
(Laughs) Today itself I met someone from Bangladesh and I remembered when I used to work there. Aise koi koi aa jaate hai toh yaad aa jaata hai.
Did you ever imagine that you would become such a big star one day?
Nahi aise kuch laga nahi tha. I don’t think so.
What was your dream and vision at that time?
My vision was to have one crore in my bank account. I wanted to earn ek crore. I always used to think that bas, ek crore mujhe mil jai na bas, toh kitni aamdani hoti thi. Bank main jama hoga ek crore.
What did it feel like when you finally did have one crore in your bank account?
Uss din dus crore chahiye tha (Laughs)
Bas yehi aadmi hai, chalta rehta hai. But now I have ended the whole thing of earning crores. Now it is all about films and the kind of films I’m concentrating on doing, which will give me mental satisfaction. Yes, main toh humesha bolta hoon ki main industry mein aaya tha paise kamane ke liye. But for 6 to 7 years, I have not paid any attention to this at all.
Why is that?
Aisa kyu hai matlab? You get to a point where you think let’s multiply money but do something to achieve more. You want to do something that will be worthwhile. Aadmi ka ek stage aa jata hai jab aadmi ko lagta hai ki bas itna kaafi hai. Ab paise ko multiply nahi, iss position ko kaise multiply karein.
Is that why you got into film production and launched your own banner?
No. I started my production house long ago, well before I realised what I wanted to do. I had made Singh Is Kinng and Namastey London.
Yeah, at the time, you would only do comedy movies but now you do three content driven movies and one comedy. Why do you maintain this balance now?
Abbey, tune hi ek interview mein pucha tha. Yes, I remember that you had asked me, why do you only do comedy movies these days? Why don’t you do sensible movies? Mujhe abhi bhi yaad hai.
You mean I am your inspiration?
(Laughs) Nahiiin. I still remember you had come to meet me at some studio.
Haan, Filmistan studio in Goregaon.
Today, when you look back, is there anything you regret?
Have you ever decided not to work on a particular movie and then thought you shouldn’t have let the opportunity go?
Kamal ki baat hai aisa kuch hua hi nahi… logo ne nikala hai kayee filmo se mujhe main nahi nikla. In fact, I used to tell them, you aren’t taking me for this film, it’s okay, but please do consider for me your next film.
Are you still in touch with those people?
Yeah, of course, I’ve done films with them.
Have you ever felt bad about not being considered for a particular role or because a producer/director opted for another actor?
Bilkul nahi. Isme nikal diya, no problem, agle film mein le lenge bhai. I’m not one of those who harbours grudges. Ego is the worst thing. You have to conquer all these things. If you want to carry on with your passion, with your profession, you have to set your ego aside and move forward.
Will you be making any resolutions on your 50th birthday?
Tu karta hai kya aisa, if somebody refuses to give you an interview, you say, koi baat nahi hai bete. Teri collection aayee hai 100. Ab dekh 70 hi bataunga” (Laughs). Tu rakhta hai kya ego?
No, I don’t.
Rakhna bhi nahi chahiye. Haan tu kya bol raha tha?
So, will you be making any resolutions on your 50th birthday?
I’ve never made any resolutions on New Year’s either. Resolution bas yehi hai ki earlier I used to climb 60 floors every day, now 65th or 70th floor pahuchanga.
Lastly, do you have any advice to aspiring actors, those who want to be as successful as Akshay Kumar is?
Be honest, do your job. Be honest to any profession, it doesn’t matter whether it’s acting or anything else. But pray to God. When your profession becomes your passion… Success is bound to happen, that is one thing, and always take care of your mother and father because success lies at their feet. These are the two things that are keys to being a successful man. I am saying this from 28 years of experience.