Akshay Kumar: I’m not the kind of guy that follows what others do

The Entertainment actor talks about life, films and his personal and professional relationships

Akshay Kumar is hitting the big screen again this week. The only actor who has four releases every year, it is safe to call him a workaholic. He is also the least controversial actor. He is one of those rare actors who has never belonged to any camp. Nor does he have a coterie around him. He is never seen at parties, he sleeps at 10 pm and wakes up at 4 am to exercise. Call him boring, he doesn’t mind it. He loves his life. His producers love him because he is on the set even before them. He has tried everything from action to comedy and for the first time in his career he will be playing second fiddle to a dog! In his next release Entertainment, the dog gets the top billing. Here, AK chats with After Hrs about the film, why he doesn’t own a festival for his releases and why he’s happy in his own space…

Tell us about Entertainment…

Entertainment is a dog-loving, fun-filled, comedy array of ‘distress and torture’ on my behalf, while the dog’s life is ‘rich, pampered and in utter danger,’ now, thanks to me!! There is a lot of love vs hate in this film, but when there’s Entertainment around, love conquers all. This film will leave you with a feeling of ‘Would your children have a fuller home life with someone like Entertainment around?’ The answer is YES, this film can and will change peoples lives, it’s already changed Tamannaah Bhatia’s (the lead actress) life. She adopted two puppies within a week of packing up this film, that’s how much this whole Entertainment experience can affect you, and thanks to this film, she’s never been happier.

It’s a film revolving around a dog vs man which few actors may take up. What convinced you to do it?

It’s not what convinced me ‘to’ do it — you had to convince me ‘not’ to do it, for I was on board from the word ‘Woof’! I have a lot of faith in my directors Sajid and Farhad. They are family-oriented cinema creators and they have hearts of gold. They have always been in complete tune with what the masses of India come to the cinema for. I couldn’t imagine turning down such a wonderful comedy of firsts, about a man and a dog, (who, inevitably, is more like a brother to me in the end, than anyone else.) But the story has untold events that you wouldn’t believe possible, until you experience it. It’s what I love about cinema and about this film, you think you’ve seen it all, and then Entertainment comes along.

All festivals are owned now by other stars — Shah Rukh releases his films on Diwali, Salman on Eid and Aamir on Christmas. Why haven’t you owned any festival till now?

I have never felt the need to own anything or anyone, and I’m not the kind of guy that follows what others do either. I’m a man of my own will. That’s how I’ve always been. My fellow actors only make about one film a year, so why would they not choose the biggest and best day to release it. I make so many a year, that if I waited for festivals every time I wanted to release a film, they’d be backed up in a queue. In my eyes Entertainment is needed everyday, every week, I would never make my audience wait or my directors for that matter. Life goes on outside festivals, now that could be my downfall or it could be my rise, we’ll never know, because I’m happy the way things are, honest and unpredictable.

Why aren’t you working with actresses like Katrina Kaif and Kareena Kapoor who have given so many hits with you?

Kareena and Katrina are doing what they want to do, like I’m doing. When the time is right, and the film requires, I’m sure there’ll be a role that brings us all together again. Until then, we’re all busy doing the same thing, making the most of every minute we still have left in this industry…

You did films with Deepika Padukone when nobody else was. Why haven’t you done a film with her again in recent times now that she’s known as the No 1 actress??

Because when you are one of the top actresses, you also end up with a two-year waiting list of movies. So yes, I worked with her at the start of her career, but because of how I shoot, and my schedules, and the amount of films I make, my films can’t wait so long for co-stars schedules to open up… It’s sad but true. At the same time, it opens many more doors for others to shine, so all in all, everything happens for a reason!

Salman and you are seen praising each other wherever you go. What is behind this new-found love between you two?

You make it sound like it’s a bad thing. Is it possible that just for once, there is nothing ‘behind’ Salman and my respect for each other, and that two actors who have worked in, and for, the same industry for over 20 years, just might have something positive to say about the other. There’s no game, no agenda, no ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine,’ it’s just pure admiration, and it would be nice if people didn’t make us feel guilty about that. We have always supported each other’s career and talents from afar, every now and then we speak our hearts, and we get on with our work. There’s nothing to scrutinise, nothing to read into. People wonder why actors keep to themselves, because no matter whether it’s good, bad or ugly, people have an opinion about everything we do. So for the sake of peace, just be happy that we are happy.

How have you managed to survive despite not belonging to any camp?

When one’s work is as honest as their nature, sky’s the limit. I believe with the kind of hard work and dedication that I have put into my career and my family over the years, nothing can stop you… being part of a camp is like saying, ‘Here’s a soft pillow to fall on when stuff gets tough. If you’re in a camp, someone always has your back. To be honest, I never minded how hard I hit the floor. As long as I got back up, I never needed anyone.

On TV, Amitabh Bachchan is synonymous with KBC, Salman with Bigg Boss. Why didn’t you do that with Khatron Ke Khiladi and MasterChef and own the show?

First and foremost, I am an actor. TV shows are a refreshing, inspiring movement I do when I can, depending on time, location, schedules and quality. When one makes as many films as I do in a year, it becomes very difficult to commit to TV dates as well. When it comes to slots and episodes, there is no room for movement. So, if I’m jumping off rooftops for Neeraj Pandey, I can’t be hanging from a helicopters for KKK or whipping up a curry on MasterChef. Again, I don’t feel the need to own anything. I start these shows, they do extremely well, but inevitably, they need to carry on without me, as I’m gratefully crammed as it is with everything else I do. But it’s so nice to still see my shows on TV, it means my motion gave good opportunity for others and for me that’s a great thing, whether I’m a part of that now or not.

Who do you feel is the most promising among the young boys — Arjun Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan, Aditya Roy Kapur and Sushant Singh Rajput?

Speaking from experience, I would not want to judge any new boys’ careers before they are at least five-eight films old. I think they are all as passionate about their films and their work as we all once were. I can only wish them the best, and thank them for giving us seniors a run for our money.

After you saw Barfi! on a flight, you wrote Ranbir Kapoor a letter praising his performance…

I did! I think he’s very good, a genuinely refreshing actor and he knows it. He’s what this generation needs and enjoys, and I think he’s here to stay. I’m glad my son is around in his time. I think Ranbir is not only good at what he does, he’s a good human also. I wish him the best, and I also thank him for giving us the pleasure of a film like Barfi! He’s headstrong at what he wants. He doesn’t follow crowds, he leads them!

Who, in the current lot, do you think will make a good action star and why?

That’s easy! Tiger Shroff already reminds me so much of myself when I was his age. The way he speaks in interviews, he’s respectful and humble and shy about the fact he has so much talent, yet only speaks well of others. He’s a hard- working boy who deserves to go far and be appreciated for the new level of commitment he has shown to being a new- age hero!

What do you think about your wife Twinkle’s column in dna? Are you very happy that people compliment you on her columns???

I am proud to say I have a very talented wife. She reads all her columns out to Aarav and before they go to print. We love hearing how she puts our weeks together in her words, and how she sees life. It’s no surprise she’s the funnier one of the two of us, has superb wit and I have perfect timing. Together we are a match made in hilarious heaven!