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Mr ‘Nice Guy’

Actor Akshay Oberoi is slowly but steadily carving a niche for himself in the industry. Prior to the release of Bombairiya, he talks to Titas Chowdhury about the film and reveals all about his upcoming projects

You started your career as the main lead in 2010, with Isi Life Mein…! After that, we have seen you in a variety of films such as a horror flick like Pizza, a thriller like Gurgaon, a black comedy like Kaalakaandi and now Bombairiya. Do you deliberately choose films of diverse genres?

Yes, definitely. It has always been my endeavour to prove that I am a good actor and no one can take that away from me. Once you have proved that, that’s when you are in the game. I cannot predict which film will do well, what can make me a star and what will be a big box-office film. I came out of nowhere. I found my feet on my own, I made my own decisions and am doing the films I think I should do. So that was it. I was trying to prove to the media and the industry that I know my job so that I could keep getting work (Laughs).

At the trailer launch of the film, you had said that your character was not defined. So why did you say ‘yes’ to the film?

I want to clarify that it was not important for the role to be defined; the film made an impact with me and kept me hooked. My character is a righteous, good and sensible guy, but I wanted to get to the bottom of what he really is like in the scheme of things. One of the striking elements about him is that he is a superhero who is a crime-fighter. He has a day job but he thinks he can save the world.

That is how he bumps into Radhika’s (Apte) character and thinks he can save her. But she needs no saving (Laughs). What attracted me to the film is its script that it has so many good actors and I am fortunate to be working with them. This film has Radhika, Amit Sial and Siddhanth Kapoor. I have to say it was very special working with all of them.

You had also mentioned that Bombairiya has been the most collaborative experience for you. Can you shed some light on that?

A few weeks before we were to start our shoot, I got a panic attack as to how do I play such a nice guy? I had met people like this in my life. One such person I met while making the film is Sooraj Barjatya. He is such a good guy. That is a reminder that good and kind people do exist. But it was not enough for me to really get it.

I messaged Pia (Sukanya) on a whim and we talked about the crime-fighting thing. Michael (E Ward), the producer, who is also the writer, wrote the dialogue and rewrote scenes. If I did not have people who were willing to allow me to add my thoughts to my character, I don’t think it would have turned out the way it has. They liked what I had in my mind and they went with it. I think that is creatively very enriching.

You recently featured in Selection Day on Netflix, which is creating a positive buzz. How do you look at the digital space?

Well, it saves me (Laughs). I am a bit of a workaholic. I do only one film a year and during the breaks, I keep auditioning. But the web space allows me to consistently stay employed. For the last two years, I have literally not taken a break. I have this notion that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you can master it. That is what I am really chasing. I want to be in front of the camera for at least 10,000 hours. I am not a master actor but I want to keep working on improving myself as an actor. The more chances I get, the better it is.

The web space is a long space. You get to work on a character over four to six hours. With more seasons, you can keep developing the character. You can develop your character each day. It is very exciting to work in that space. More people are watching it, to be honest.

Laal Rang is one of my favourite films that I have done but not a lot of people have watched it. It is one of Randeep Hooda’s best performances. With the digital space, series like Abhishek Pathak’s Bar Code have been watched by 60-70 million people all across the country, which is huge. The same goes for Selection Day. Even a delivering guy who came to my building recently had watched it. Imagine the reach that digital platforms have in our country!

What about theatre? Any plans to go back to it?

Oh, I hope so! But I need a window for it. Right now, I am so hungry for the web and films that I do not really want to take a break to go and do plays. Plays take up a lot of your time. But I hope I get to do that when I need to hit the ‘reset’ button. That is what I think theatre is for… once you are done with chasing fame, popularity and money that often come in the way. I know this sounds a little idealistic. I will come back to theatre for sure. Right now, I am single-mindedly focusing to keep my work out there for people to watch.

You are trained in dance forms such as hip hop, ballet and jazz. Is a dance film around the corner?

I have done a little of dancing with my first film, Isi Life Mein…! To be honest, I am trained in dancing because I wanted to become a Bollywood actor. I did not know what kind of Bollywood actor I wanted to be at that time. I have chosen to do films which somehow do not have song-and-dance sequences. People keep telling me that it is something I should do. But they do not offer something like that (Laughs)!

We hope we get to see you do that on the big screen soon.

Thank you very much. I appreciate that (Chuckles). There is a film called Chhote Nawab that I am doing with Sa Re Ga Ma. There is a song-and-dance number in it. Usko kaafi promote karenge. It will have a little typical Bollywood masala and all.

Coming back to Bombairiya, what do you want people to take away from it?

I hope people like it. I am not saying I want the film to do ‘x’ number of crore rupees. It is a light-hearted, holiday, Christmas-time kind of film. There are so many good actors working in the film and it is worth your money.

Yes, it looks very fresh and like a total mess.

That is exactly what it is. It is a classic mess!

Akshay, what is next for you?

There are a bunch of releases coming up. There will be a second part to Selection Day in March. There is a web series called Law And Order with Neha Sharma and Piyush Mishra. There is Junglee with Vidyut Jammwal by Junglee Pictures. There is Chhote Nawab with Yoodlee (Films). I am starting a Siddharth Anand Production called Flesh with Danish Aslam. I have a great part in it. I am super-excited about that. I am playing the antagonist in that show.   


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