MUMBAI—He is gung-ho now about a clash of release dates: after all, he has nothing to lose if HIS film does well, as usually happens! “Garam Masala” (2005) won in Diwali against “Kyon Ki…” and “Shaadi No. 1,” “Welcome” was bigger than “Taare Zameen Par” in 2007, “Rustom” was a hit and rival release “Mohenjo-Daro” did not work in 2017, while “Gold” did well, even if “Satyameva Jayate” also worked as Independence Day 2018 releases.
This time, Akshay Kumar’s “Mission Mangal” clashes once again with good friend John Abraham’s “Batla House” and both actors, as is convention nowadays, are also co-producers. This is their second clash after last year same time. We start off our interview with this query.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: You have always said that clashes between big films are avoidable. You even pushed “Pad-Man” to give “Padmaavat” a free run in January 2018.
A: Yes, I have always believed that big films should never clash. But then, we have 210 films and just 52 Fridays, and I guess the release clashes are bound to happen and will increase now. Everyone wants the best possible release for their movie.
Q: “Mission Mangal” is again a real story, like most of your recent films. How true is the film to facts?
A: 80 to 90 percent of “Mision Mangal” is fact. But I do not want to make documentaries, so I add songs, drama, fun…when you eat chicken, won’t you prefer chicken masala to boiled, bland chicken? Commercial value is a must.
Q: So the five heroines were needed.
A: Yes, they were. And the five women also exhibit women-power today. We have been trained to think in a specific way. Our textbooks barely tell stories about Indian women, but for a Rani Laxmibai. Even in our films earlier, scientists, engineers, cops – no one thought that they could be women. But now things are changing.
Today, a woman who maybe once managed only the finances of her home and then was in a corporate company is now the country’s Finance Minister – that too, after having been the Defense Minister! I have always believed in women as a strong force, but now I have the money to become a producer and make such a film on them.
Q: Director Jagan Shakti was to make “Ikka” with you in place of this film, which is going to be made only now. Why did “Mission Mangal” get priority?
A: One day, while we were working on “Ikka,” Jagan casually mentioned that his sister was a scientist and told me a one-line idea of the story. I told him to work on it, and within 20 days, he came up with a brief story that he had co-written with Balki. We decided to go ahead with this story first.
Q: So that you could again plan an Independence Day release of a patriotic film?
A: No, all that happened naturally. Our film is about our Mars Mission and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), and we did not even know that on our release date it celebrates 50 years of coming into existence! We came to know that just a few weeks ago! I have never even visited ISRO. Now I am also proud that my company has produced the first-ever Hindi film on Space Research. Did you know that this year, 18 percent of the budget has been allocated for Space Research as against just two or three percent earlier? Chandrayaan 2 is just one example of how important Space Research has become now.
Q: You have kept doing a lot of films today that are nation-oriented. Don’t you miss the normal entertainers you are known for?
A: But I keep doing them! I am doing “Housefull 4” and “Ikka.” “Sooryavanshi” and “Bachchan Pandey” are also very entertaining. I must just like the character and the script. I did not have too long a role in many of my films, like “Khakee” or “OMG - Oh My God!” and had just a cameo in “Dishoom.” I like to balance my work.
There was a time, as I have been telling you guys over the years, that I was branded and did nothing but action, action and action. Then some truly good friends like Priyadarshan, Dharmesh Darshan and Tanuja Chandra made me do comedies, love stories and drama. I have enjoyed doing every kind of film.
Q: When you first started doing unconventional roles, were you warned by well-wishers against doing some of them?
A: Of course, I was advised against doing half my roles! “Dishoom,” the forthcoming “Laxmmi Bomb” and films like “Khakee” and “Hera Pheri” among others like “Toilet - Ek Prem Katha” and “Pad-Man.”
Q: When will see you in multi-hero films like “Sooryavanshi?”
A: In that film, Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh are likely to play cameos. Look, I really do not see why we all cannot do two-, three- or four-hero films. It’s all insecurity, I think. Why can’t we make “Amar Akbar Anthony” today? (He does not mean a remake but a three-hero film with big stars). If you see the films in my early years, I have worked with almost every star. I have even done a 7-hero film in “Jaani Dushman - Ek Anokhi Kahani.” And “Mission Mangal” has five heroines!
Q: How are you maximizing the appeal of “Mission Mangal?”
A: We have released the trailer also in Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi. We also hope to get Tax-Free status, but over here, that is usually declared in the second or third week, whereas it is the first week that is actually important!
Q: How does your family react to your films?
A: They watch all the trails and are happy. There is no dramatic excitement just because I am there!