God Is Calling - Akshay Kumar
He is shooting for Hi! with one ear firmly cocked, waiting for the phone to ring. Wife Twinkle Khanna is about to deliver their bundle of joy and Akshay Kumar - an adoring, admiring husband - is determined to rush to her side at the first signs of labour. He looks relaxed and happy — baby number 2 is going to arrive soon. And by the time this interview is over, the second child of the Kumars has made her way into the world.
He’s in a transitional stage in his life—and about time too. Stringing out super-hits to mindless scripts has jaded him and he is ready to take on the new world that demands more intelligent oeuvres from the stars. If you want to stun him into silence and mortification, mention Joker. A deathly silence stretches across the room. He’d probably like to forget that the movie ever existed. The movie was also a warning sign to break away from the past and forge a fresh story in his professional life.
Which probably explains the aggro pushing of his latest project OMG—Oh My God! He’d seen Paresh Rawal act in the play (titled Krishan vs Kanhaiya), was struck by the script and in an un-Akki moment, decided a provocative subject like that required his attention.
Does this movie about man suing God signal the coming of the new Akshay Kumar? He chortles, “I love this attitude. For years people have hounded me to do meaningful cinema and the minute I do, people ask me ‘why?’. In all honesty, I have never put myself in a specific box, other people have. Every now and then, I have enjoyed stepping out of my commercial space. I can imagine a lot of people being intrigued by me playing such a provocative role, but really one should never be afraid to create something one believes in. We watch films based on all kinds of weird and wonderful subjects, why not about a man suing God?!”
Or is he going with the trend that now demands scripts that make the audience think? “I’m still the Akshay Kumar you all know so well. I’m just making something from my heart because I want to, rather than because I need to, or because someone has asked me to, that’s all. The thought behind making this film is as pure as the film itself.”
His adoration of his father is legendary. So when you ask him how he prays to God, he gets misty-eyed. “My most important God to me is my father. I always pray to him first before anything or anyone. I give him thanks the second I wake up. I have my Dad’s photo on my business phone, which is the first thing I check when I open my eyes in the morning.”
His religious upbringing was eclectic. “My parents read many religious books to me as a child. They taught me about the many gods our good country has. But they allowed me to make my own religious decisions in life. Which I believe is the most peaceful way to make a righteous man. One should lead a man to God, not force God upon a man. Over the centuries, too many wars have been about religion; it’s painful to think that something as pure as believing can create such injustice. But at the same time, on a good day, religion can also bring millions together!”
Right now, his most magical moment has been at the hospital where his daughter was born. “Words cannot describe the joy I am feeling right now—to have two healthy children in their arms is every parent’s dream. I’m so proud of Twinkle. I don’t think men can ever give enough to their wives for carrying our beloved children for nine months solo! My only fear with my daughter is that my grip is too hard; I don’t want to squeeze her too tight, but she’s so adorable I can’t help it.”
Little Aarav is also excited, according to his father. “Nine months is a long time for a kid to wait for a little brother or sister to come along. Aarav has been eagerly waiting for his mommy to deliver so he can dress his little sister in all the new baby clothes he’s bought her. My son has been pampering his mother constantly throughout her pregnancy. He’s absolutely thrilled at being able to be a big brother to his precious tiny sister, but I think he’s even more happy about being able to hug his mother properly again as he obviously had to be so gentle with her the last four months.”
He feels fatherhood was never an issue with him; he had a simple ambition to be a father just like his dad was to him. “I had the best role model in my Dad. With Aarav being the epitome of my Dad’s personality anyway, it came quite easily to me.”
He has reached his mid-40s but is still fighting fit and all sinew. “My body is my temple. I treat my body with the same respect as I do when I’m inside a house of worship. I want to use my body to its fullest advantage. I want to live a young man’s life even when I’m old. I want to climb mountains with my son, swim endlessly with my wife, play basketball with my daughter, fly off buildings in every movie... I have one life, I don’t want to spend it dieting or lounging on a sofa feeling tired and overweight.”
Does he still push the button with his crazy stunts? In the past, the Hi! team themselves had been witness to that bit of madness in him when he once hung perilously off a cliff with nothing but jagged rocks about 100 feet below. The screaming from the team only seemed to egg him on as he stretched even further out in provocation. He smiles wryly, acknowledging that mad adrenaline streak in him. “The Gayatri Mantra is always on my lips before any major or even minor stunt that I’ve ever done. I have survived many dangerous stunts, chases, fights, even stage performances by the skin of my teeth. After what I’ve done in the past, I’m lucky to have walked away unhurt. I am still alive with minor injuries and that’s a blessing.” Now with a family tucked away, he admits there were stunts he should not have done. “The time I stood on top of a flying plane with only one foot strapped, then threw myself on top of a hot air balloon with no harness, no safety to cushion me—that was just my adrenaline driving me. Now that I have a family of my own, if you ask me to do the same stunt, would I? Hell, no!!! I got away with it once, I don’t need to test God’s support again. In fact, I don’t dare.”
It’s been a momentous time for Rajesh Khanna’s son-in-law. He stood by the ailing legend in his last few years when the industry had forgotten him, helping him forge a bond with his estranged wife and children as well. In the opinion of some, the son-in-law helped resurrect the magic of the ‘phenomenon’ with his untiring attention. Akshay demurs, “He didn’t need me to resurrect him. Rajesh Khanna swept the nation off its feet in his time; people didn’t need me to remind them of that. I wouldn’t say he had been ignored, rather that he had been allowed to live the private life he so much wanted to after years of superstardom.”
We wonder whether Twinkle or his son have any characteristics of the legend? “Tina and her sister Rinke (Khanna) are both mirror images of their mother (Dimple Kapadia) when it comes to character. But if you see some photos of my son, you will be shocked at the resemblance he sometimes has with my father-in-law. But only time will tell if he has picked up any of his famous mannerisms.”
Akshay, who launched his new production banner Grazing Goat last Christmas, muses over his new professional priorities. “I’ve become even more business minded. Till now I only thought about being the best I could be onscreen; now my time is fully occupied with scripting, confirmations, deadlines, money, money, money… It is a crazy side to the cinema world, but it’s something I’ve wanted to dip my hands into for a while now, so I’m not complaining.”
This article first appeared in October 2012 issue of Hi! BLITZ magazine