Friday Night Drinks with Akshay Kumar

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What is the perfect end to a balmy Friday evening in June? To wind down, drink in hand, with Akshay Kumar at a hotel in London and be one of the few people with the opportunity to get an exclusive glimpse of his upcoming film Khatta Meetha – all courtesy of Sterling Communication.

I had heard a lot about Akshay Kumar’s drink events through the grape vine, where he would invite a handful of media members for a very casual evening as a means to say thank you, so my curiosity was stirred.

Attending on behalf of BollySpice, a hum of excitement was an evident undercurrent as we waited for Akshay. The hum turned into a murmur which signalled this superstar’s arrival. Dressed in checked trousers and a white shirt, which I do know sounds like an interesting combination on paper, were pulled of with an effortless panache. I have to say here that after seeing Akshay in person, I now understand why designers get him to walk the ramp. He is quite capable of making a dustbin bag look glamorous. He has style, grace and presence.
He spoke individually to everyone who was present and brought a personal touch to the evening by communicating in Hindi, Punjabi and English. Settling down for the evening in a love seat, he spoke candidly about his upcoming release. Based on a true story from Bihar, Khatta Meetha is a satire which covers corruption with Kumar playing a Marathi construction contractor.

Asked about his recent spat of comedies he responded with honesty saying, “The business of comedy is bigger than any other genre. People prefer to watch films that can make then laugh, make them smile. Hollywood is the same. The recent Hollywood film Get Them To The Greek is a great example. That is why I do comedy.”

On his experience of working with Khatta Meetha director Priyadarshan he said the director’s one instruction always was to NOT watch the original version of the film. Meeting with the original cast was accepted but the viewing of the film was to be avoided. He did admit that it was difficult to work with Priyadarshan – a director who has directed 75 films of which 68 are hits, and 5 of those are with Akshay.

“He is insane. Working with him is fun. Not a single day has been dull. He works very fast. Dialogues are not sent to your room the night before. They are given to you on the spot. To work with him you have to work very fast. Khatta Meetha took only 41 days to complete.”

Imagine a film taking 41 days to complete in a day and age where you hear of some films taking up to and at times over a year…a duration that these days is practically unheard of.

When asked about his role as Sachin Tichkule and the general story of corruption, Akshay replied that the idea was to generally expose it. It was a reality across the world in different forms which is why he decided to play the role.

A question about his film history and his favourite film from the past decade bought back memories of Amitabh and Priyanka starrer Waqt. “It is a complete film. It impacted families and changed lives…”

Now it seems that Khatta Meetha holds a unique spot in Akshay’s heart, citing it to be his best comedy film. “It’s made on a small budget – but I love it. Comedy is a tough job. Situations can make people cry… mother dying, sister becoming a widow…. These can make people cry, but to make people laugh is challenging.”

Asked if direction of a film was on the horizon, he smiled and responded saying he used to say ‘never’ to production because he wanted to be happy, but he had become a producer. Unable to comment on his future, he did however say that direction was not something he was looking at at the moment. Similarly a move into politics was also ruled out as was a move to Hollywood, the reason for which was his apparent lack of fitness. I have to admit that I don’t quite believe this reason. It is common knowledge that Akshay is an actor who likes to perform his own stunts so his lack of fitness could not possibly be the issue – “I am happy here. There is so much love here. I do get offers – big, small – but I am happy here.” That sounded more believable.

With the conversation moving away from films Akshay touched on the subject of his dreams saying he never dreamt that he would build a house in Juhu, where all the film stars lived even though he saw construction going on whenever he stepped foot outside his four walls, and that if he could become an actor then anyone could.

A nine minute teaser for Khatta Meetha followed where Akshay pointed out his favourite scene, a comedy scene with Asrani, as well as allowing him to have the opportunity to quietly gauge the reaction of his audience, which was positive as indicated by the laughs and the applause that followed. The nine minutes showed a promising film for this summer, with the underlying message being the attitude of some throughout the world “Phele khudh toh ban jaon, phir badh main desh koh banaounga.” A typical Priyadarshan film – a social issue captured through comedy with a message being passed on to the audience.

Asked about his apparent love affair with London he responded candidly that every film that had been shot in London had been a hit, but beyond that he loved coming because of his son who enjoyed the open green spaced of Hyde Park to run around and cycle in with his father. Akshay did comment on the chances of Aarav following in his father’s footsteps. “At the moment he says he finds acting boring and he wants to become a painter.” Sounds like Kumar junior is going to follow in Mummy’s footsteps instead and become an interior designer perhaps.

Akshay also mentioned a tournament that he headed – The Akshay Kumar Karate Tournament. The first year saw 33,000 hopeful aspirants submit an application for one of the 3,000 spots available where the winner was sent to a tournament in Japan. So far only available to participants in India, Akshay had no idea when the tournament would be staged on an international platform, but he would keep us informed… I am not planning on becoming a future participant by any means unless an ambulance is kept on standby constantly….

Before leaving, Akshay was asked for the reason behind his success. “It lies in a parent’s blessing.”
This is something I have heard him say on numerous occasions with the same level of conviction in his eyes that he had on Friday evening. A simple statement that is pretty much like Akshay really. Simple and with both feet firmly planted on the ground.

Khatta Meetha is releasing in July – Keep checking the BollySpice website for all news regarding this summer comedy.

Photo credit: Amrita Tanna

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