I had to hold back from being a hero ~ Akshay
It all started with Baby in January 2015. Ever since then, Akshay Kumar has already scored three more releases in the form of Gabbar Is Back, Brothers and Singh Is Bliing. Now in a span of exactly 12 months, the man would have his fifth film – Airlift – hitting the screens. While his contemporaries are churning out one or at maximum two films in one year, Akshay Kumar is pretty much setting a record of sorts with as many as five releases to his name.
Tirelessly moving ahead and stepping into films as diverse as Housefull 3, Robot 2 and Rustom, Akshay gets into a conversation with Pandolin about his latest film, Airlift.
Airlift has you playing an influential businessman who finds himself in the middle of an impossible scenario. To enact such a part, did it require you to explore difference facets of your acting skills?
This film didn’t require me to explore an array of any skills, apart from being genuine. My character is based on an average man, just a very successful and influential one, like you said. Airlift is about bringing a true story, an extremely forceful haphazard experience to life, with no added fiction, no cinema-tonics, no exaggeration. I am portraying the gentleman that had the courage against many odds to bring so many of his own lost people back to safety; that was my job. I had to be the ‘Un-sung Hero’ of our times.
Seems like quite a character you are playing.
I am not playing a character per se, I am reliving an innocent man’s journey. If anything, I had to hold back from being a hero and from over-acting, and just be the old me before I was famous. I had to be the guy that no one really knew but walked the streets with only good in his heart.
In fact the film also reminds me of Schindler’s List which had a similar plot, that of a wealthy businessman saving countless Jews from the Nazis. Isn’t the similarity here too uncanny?
I know as an actor I am about to admit to a terrible sin, but the fact is that I haven’t seen Schindler’s List, so I can’t really comment. But what I can say is that the more such kind of true stories are brought to life, the better. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, because I believe that they restore faith in people that though there may be some men out there that insist on bringing war into our lives, but then not all men do that. Some would die trying to save their neighbor & neighbors’ neighbor, and in my eyes that’s one of the most dignified traits that an Indian has.
And the second reason?
Second is that this obviously isn’t the first heroic accomplishment made by man; there are silent heroes all over the world. Airlift is just one of those accomplishments that was sadly brushed into the sea by our mainstream media, instead of being thrust down our necks at school by the national curriculum where we could learn about how taking action is always far superior than surrendering even in the darkest of times. Airlift might be just another ‘heroic’ story to some, but it’s one to be proud of in India. It’s a record breaker in its own right.
You also return with Bhushan Kumar again after Baby. This time around, it appears to be a musical outing with him.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s an outing as we have kept it real rather than trying to capture your attention with songs. We wanted to touch you with melodies and montages instead. But I would agree that some of the music in this film is just beautiful in so many senses. Nikkhil Advani might not be a song producer, but he has got great taste in music.
The film’s leading lady is Nimrat Kaur who carries good perception of being a mature actress, as has been apparent in The Lunchbox and Homeland. Was it a comfortable on-screen pairing?
She most definitely is a mature actress, but I am quite proud to say I ‘Broke Her!’ (winks). No one walks onto one of my sets thinking that it’s going to be all serious and heavy, despite the tragic subject we are shooting. So from Day One I made Nimrat see a whole new side of making movies and she has laughed her way through her entire schedule with me. I can safely say that while she was wonderful before, now she has nailed the art of not taking anything too seriously, which is a great quality to have. We are making movies, we are not unfortunately curing cancer.
See, as humans, we perform everything in life far greater when we are happy; be it in a relationship, at work, in parliament, on the train, stuck in a traffic jam or attempting to be parents – we only succeed through all these things best when we are happy. When you can laugh at yourself and the fact that how bad your day was, you can laugh at anything. The gift I give to all my co-stars is – nothing is the end of the world, so chill, let it go, throw it away and remember a good prank breaks even the darkest of days.