Akshay Kumar is gearing up for Mission Mangal, which is based on the scientists behind India’s Mars Mission. The film also stars Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Nithya Menen, Sonakshi Sinha and Kirti Kulhari.
While promoting his Independence Day release, Akshay spoke about his success ratio, the changes that the government is bringing in space science and the importance of women leads in Hindi films.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Q. You have become one of the most bankable stars in Bollywood. How do you react to this tag?
If you look at my career, I have been there thrice. Where my films worked, didn’t work and worked again. Right now it is working, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I go back to my films not working. I have no idea. The best way to cope with all this is that I keep on working.
I still remember the time when I had fourteen to fifteen flops. I remember how people spoke about me. I remember the voice ‘gaya, gaya, gaya, gaya’, and then ‘aa gaya, aa gaya, aa gaya’. This happens, and it is a part of life. It happens to every one of us. Some go through these phases in their careers, others in their personal life. It is just how after night comes a day, and after day comes a night. It is as scientific as it can get. You just have to accept it, be bold, face it and get ready for what is coming next. That’s it. There is no other way out. There is no guarantee for anything. There have been times when I have watched and loved a film. I thought it will break records and it doesn’t. At times, something else works out.
In the thirty years that I have worked, I have realised that nothing can replace hard work, but luck also plays an important part. I don’t know how many people agree with me on that, but luck also makes a lot of difference. I believe in 70 percent luck and 30 percent hard work.
Q. A lot of actors talk about how they prepare for their roles, but you have always maintained that you are a director’s actor.
Everybody has a different way of approaching things. Every actor is different and I think this is just my way of working. The directors’ vision is different as they know what they want from a character. I can look at it differently but it might come from my experience, which might not work for the character I am portraying. So, it is best, according to me, to follow the director’s vision.
Q. Jagan Shakti had come to you with a different script, and not Mission Mangal. Then how did you happen to do this film?
He had come to me with a different script. We are still working on it. But then he happened to tell me about his sister who is a scientist and how she was talking to him about ISRO and their Mars Orbiter Mission. I asked him why he was not working on that story, and suggested he should. He went back and wrote the story. He came back to me after twenty days to inform me that he is working on it. I told him how much I loved the idea. He wrote it along with R Balki and that’s how we rolled.
Q. We have had a lot of Indian scientists going to NASA to pursue their space science dreams. Do you think that is changing now and our young scientists are investing their energies and expertise in ISRO?
I was reading somewhere that the Indian government earlier would allot 2 to 3 percent budget to space science, and now they are allotting 18 percent. This government is going to concentrate a lot on space science, and that’s why we see so many space projects and missions taking place. We have had ISRO for the last fifty years, but we hardly used to talk about it, and now it has suddenly taken off.
Also, it is great to see how many women are taking up the profession of a scientist. Earlier if a girl said that she wanted to become a scientist or an engineer, people would say that it is a man’s job. But now things are changing. They need to change further. It doesn’t matter what kind of work it is, a woman can do it. She can become whatever she wants to be, an engineer, a scientist or a police officer. We have a woman Finance Minister today. She also handled the Defence Ministry. Things are changing in India.
Q. Do you also think things are changing with more women led stories in our Hindi film industry?
We have seen these mistakes from childhood. If you see our textbooks also, we never had a chapter where a woman is doing anything. Maximum we would have a chapter on Rani Laxmibai. Everything else was shown as if only men were at work and changing the world. So, the whole build-up has been like that. We are trained like that. But as I was telling you, things have to change, and you will see how more and more films will have women leads. Already there are so many movies that have been made where woman have the lead roles. Things are going to change further, so it is best to stand behind them and clap.
I thought about this change taking place a long back, but I didn’t have the money to make films. I was not a producer. But when I became a producer, I started doing films like that.
Q. With your film choices, you have shown that you pick your scripts responsibly.
No. I don’t want to be stuck in an image where people think I am doing responsible films. I am doing Housefull 4. I don’t want you to think ‘what kind of film he is doing?’ when you watch that. I want to do all kind of films as an actor and entertainer. Of course, I am responsible, but more than anything else I want to play different characters in different movies. I enjoy doing these kind of films also. I enjoy Housefull, Rowdy Rathore, Sooryavanshi and Bachchan Pandey too. I enjoy my work.