Akshay Kumar speaks on Prithviraj

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Akshay Kumar in and as Prithviraj. Photo: Yash Raj Films

Akshay Kumar has been in the film industry as a leading man since his debut film Saugandh in 1991, which was his first release. After some more films—Dancer, Mr. Bond and his breakthrough movie, Khiladi (1992), the first film he signed as a leading man—Deedar—released in 1992. And all these came after a cameo as a karate instructor in Aaj, the delayed Mahesh Bhatt film that finally opened in 1990!

In his 32-year career, Akshay has had severe crests and troughs, but from 2000, when he shifted to varied rather than predominantly action roles, he has been more or less consistently on a high. Comedy apart, he has made a name as a romantic hero (Dhadkan, Andaaz, Good Newzz) and also done an incredible variety of patriotic films, ranging from bio-pics (Kesari) and narration of real events (Airlift, Mission Mangal) to issue-based movies (Pad-Man, Toilet—Ek Prem Katha). Of his last 18 films, only two have flopped—an incredible feat!

And now Akshay Kumar tries his hand at a biopic-cum-historical on the legendary 12th century emperor, Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan, in Yash Raj Films’ Prithviraj, his fourth film for the banner after Yeh Dillagi, Dil To Pagal Hai and Tashan. Akshay seems clearly a shade physically down as he has recovered from his second bout with Covid, but his intensity remains the same, ditto his wry humor when newsindiatimes.com chats him up. Excerpts from an interview follow.

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What fascinated you about this film, which is your second historical after Kesari, in which you had played a real Sikh soldier? Here, it is a celebrated king.

Various aspects inspired me, the first being that my writer-director Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi had spent 18 long years researching Prithviraj! Who does such things? I am amazed at his dedication and knowledge. In history, all we had learnt was one paragraph, with a picture of a rather stout man. But Prithviraj became a king at the age of 11, died at 36 and fought 18 long battles until then. Doctor-saab thus explained that he had to someone athletic, and so he had come to me. The sword he had used alone weighed 15 to 20 kilos!

Prithviraj’s nature also inspired me. Nine centuries ago, he believed in the fact that women are equal to men and made his wife, Sanyogita, sit next to him on the throne, telling her that they would rule together!  He had a great respect even towards his enemies, and a great quality called forgiveness! This is a quality that I would like to develop! Who forgives easily nowadays?

What do you do when someone does or says something wrong to you?

I move on. Who can afford the time and energy to linger on negativity? But people like to keep grudges, and this is what Prithviraj teaches you not to do!

How much was your familiarity with him before the film?

As I told you, it was through my History books, and my mother, who passed away recently, would teach me the subject and tell me stories. I would also cram the dates, like we all have to do! I really regret that she did not see me in his role—she would have loved it!

Your director is also a part of your forthcoming film Ram Setu. What he is doing in that film?

Doctor-saab is, in fact, also a part of my OMG 2! He is the Creative Director in both films, which means that he is the general guide on religious matters. He will check on whether anything we are showing is off-track or incorrect.

You have recommended showing this film in every school.

Yes. My movies Toilet—Ek Prem Katha and Pad-Man are shown to schoolchildren for their social importance. But history is as important. A classic example I should mention is that we are going backward in technology despite the advances! Let me explain: I think that the Taj Mahal or the pyramids and their architectural perfection and design centuries ago are far superior to the standards of construction today.

But technology was needed to make this movie too.

Of course! But the base remains the storytelling, everything else only follows.

Did you provide inputs of any sort on the film?

Inputs after Doctor-saab studied Prithviraj for 18 years? No way! Things are best left to experts! Like my wife Twinkle knows the ins and outs of interiors. Should I then interfere in her work and insist on my viewpoint? (Smiles) But yes, doctor-saab and I did discuss a lot.

You completed the film just like any other contemporary movie.

Yes, thanks to the team and Doctor-saab’s perfect organization¸ it took just 42 days.

And what do you say about your leading lady, Manushi Chhillar?

She is a very hardworking girl. On sets, Manushi would not only know her own lines but everyone else’s. She has a bright future!

What do you have to comment about the current controversy on South versus Hindi films?

Like the British, the people who make and retaliate to such comments are trying to divide us! Though we speak different languages, at the end of the day, I firmly believe we are one industry and I pray that everyone’s films run. During my career span, film budgets have spiraled a hundred times. We have jointly made this progress!

32 years already in movies. What next?

(Grins) Another 32 years!

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