Actors may take pride in tagging themselves a director’s actor, singing paeans about how a certain auteur managed to bring out their best. Superstar Akshay Kumar, however, begs to differ. He calls himself a producer’s actor, and credits this for his longevity in the film’s industry. Having spent over 30 years in the industry, he should know. As Akshay Kumar gets ready to release his ‘Holi pe Goli’ release, a gangster comedy Bachchhan Paandey, he sits down to talk about his process, finishing multiple films in a year, and how he refuses to do any film that requires him to shoot for more than 45-55 days.
“According to me, it is important that the budget of the film is a hit, only then the film is a hit. I believe in it firmly. I have made all my films in that manner, budget and time are of utmost importance to me. I don’t waste my time, I don’t waste my co-actors’ time, because everybody’s time needs to be respected.”
So has Akshay started doing films following a business model, or does he even look at the art of it? The actor answers, “It is both. I don’t do films only for business; I do films with social messages, comedy. I do films that do well at the box office, which are a win-win for all — the makers, the actors, everyone.”
At a time when other actors in Akshay’s league are struggling to stay relevant, the Khiladi Kumar seems to have cracked the right formula to churn out one hits after the other. But he emphasises that “there is no such formula” for his films’ success. He elaborates, “I can act like this big intellectual and tell you that this is how a certain film works, and that this is a hit formula, but no, there isn’t any. Everything’s got to do with luck, and I’ve been very lucky. Some films work, some work really well, some don’t work at all, I am the one who’s given 16 flops in one go, then nobody asked me what was my formula to fail. So basically there is no formula to success, it all depends of good luck and hard work. One thing that leads to success is hard work, never give up on it. In some people’s life, the night last longer, but that doesn’t stop the sun from rising the next day. It is the same thing with work and success. Of course there are trends, there are times that films with social messages work, sometimes masala films work, but other than that, there is nothing much to analyse.”
“I don’t apply too much emotion and thought behind signing films, I don’t intellectualise my movies as much. When I sign a film, I see what is different about the film and how it is offering something new. I also see what causes it highlights if it does that, and whether I have done something like this before. I also see why my friends and my co-stars have signed this film, and what they feel about it. Budget is the last thing I consider before signing a film,” he adds.
Akshay shares how he manages to shoot multiple films in a year. He says, “In my personal opinion, you can’t give a film more than 45 -55 days. If you control these aspects of the film, the budget will be controlled too. I can never work in films where you have to commit like 100-200 days. I am a small person, I do small films.”
Akshay has done multi-starrer films throughout his career, a choice his contemporaries shy away from. He says, “I don’t want to take names, but there are a lot of actors who won’t do a 2-hero or 3-hero project. I scratch my head, I don’t understand why they don’t want to do these films. I think it is wonderful if there are stories with more actors in it. Doesn’t it happen in Hollywood all the time? I do them because they are nice scripts. I want to be a part of hit films. If such films do well, it works well for everyone, what will I do with a single good character all for myself?! If it is a 3-hero subject, the story is fantastic and my character is just about okay, it works. If I do a film with a great single lead character but the film bombs, ‘achaar daalunga mein apne character ka?’ I don’t understand their math.”
With South India delivering pan-India hits, has competition come to Bollywood’s doorsteps? Akshay, who was among a handful of mainstream Hindi actors to work in a south blockbuster (Rajinikanth’s 2.0), says there will be more collaborations, but not competition, “We all want to come on the big screen, do good films, and make money out of films. We all want to make big big films. And why only south and Bollywood collaborations? We should go to the West, look at French films, it should just keep expanding.”