MUMBAI — He is the undisputed Numero Uno today, mixing the best with the maximum assignments among our superstars. Akshay Kumar, requesting an e-mail interview, answers 3 of the 5 questions that I sent him. The final two queries are not directly related to the film, which is probably the reason they were not forwarded to him!
India-West, however, supplements this interview with answers he gave to my questions after the press screening of “BellBottom” held in Surat, when an a-v session was held with the actor. He compliments producer Vashu Bhagnani for being a workaholic and reveals that his next film with him will be announced in a couple of days. It is an untitled thriller co-starring Rakul Preet Singh. “The man does not wait for anything. He just keeps working!” he says admiringly.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: How do you see your present position as the undisputed Numero Uno actor? As an actor and producer, how do you exploit or plan to exploit this position for the audience, the industry and yourself?
A: Honestly, I don’t think so much of it. We’re not horses, but actors and we have created our own slots and are happy doing our own thing.
As public figures, we need to always maintain a level of responsibility to audiences, to our producers and to cinema. I do respect the position I have earned, and I do my best to use it wisely, for instance, to highlight untold stories like what you see in “BellBottom” as they are worthy of the world knowing and appreciating them.
Q: “BellBottom” is a spy thriller about a hijack. Whose brainchild was this film, and did you change the setting to UK to facilitate the shoot only?
A: “BellBottom” is a story based on true events. It’s an original screenplay, set in 1984, inspired by true events, which made it extremely exciting for me. It thus takes us back to the 1980’s, an era infamous for several heinous airplane hijackings in India, with a focus on one such hijack. “BellBottom” is a code name for the RAW agent I play. He expertly sees through the plan and revokes the hijack by a callous gang and begins India’s first covert operation. When you get to know an extraordinary incident actually took place, the intrigue and thrill increases tenfold.
About shooting in the UK, it was actually a very spontaneous decision. Vashu-ji, who shuffles between the UK and India, was in the UK at the time and I still remember I was talking to him over the phone. It had been probably a month-and-a-half since we were in lockdown and the restlessness had started to set in.
It was probably the longest time I’d gone without facing the camera. And just like that, I suggested to him about shooting abroad in a bio-bubble and, I kid you not, within 30 seconds he said, ‘Yes, let’s do it!’ There were restrictions to film in so many countries worldwide, including in India and the UK, but the UK had relaxed some of them, which became a viable option for our film.
It had its fair challenges but our production team was so meticulous to ensure we observed every protocol, and the film was successfully shot within the stipulated time.
Q: Why did you all think of 3-D? Is it to avoid an OTT release possibility?
A: The idea of the film being in 3-D rests with the profile of the film. It’s a perfect mix of high-octane action, suspense and tension, lots of high-stakes moments, whether in the moments of combat or in the nail-biting scenes filmed in a single quiet room, and both are equally as gripping. It makes for a perfect 3-D experience.
What’s more, it’s the first Hindi film to release theatrically after a long gap, so we wanted to give our audiences the best cinematic experience possible, something they have missed for the last one and a half years.
At the right time “Bellbottom” will also be releasing on OTT, but we want to ensure we are capturing as many of our audiences as possible.
(After the screening)
Q: Why did you choose a film directed by Ranjit M. Tewari? Other stars prefer to give breaks to heroines but you opt for new directors who are either making their debuts, or need a breakthrough after an unsuccessful movie, like Tewari, and some others earlier?
A: Since you have watched the film, you can see the reason. I saw the hunger to do good work in Tewari when we interacted the first time. That is all that matters. Tewari is a talent that needed to prove himself.
Q: You work here with three heroines, of which Vaani Kapoor is cast with you, and the two heroines you worked with earlier—Lara Dutta and Huma Qureshi—do not have a romantic interest with you. And none of them share screen space with each other. That was interesting.
A (Grins): The script decided the roles.