NEW YORK – Versatile and talented actor Akshay Kumar, 51, who has won several awards, including the National Film Award for Best Actor for his performance in Rustom (2016), never ceases to surprise with his choice and selection of films over a career spanning three decades, be it intense dramas, comedies, biopics or based on socially relevant themes.
What does stand out though is that Kumar turns out impeccable, noteworthy performances in each of the film he takes on, making him one of the safest bets in the Indian film industry, not only for producers and the box office, but also for audience.
Kumar stars in ‘Mission Mangal’, directed by Jagan Shakti, which is scheduled to hit theaters worldwide on August 15th. The film is loosely based on the story of scientists at Indian Space Research Organisation who contributed to the Mars Orbiter Mission, which marked India’s first interplanetary expedition. Kumar plays the character of Rakesh Dhawan, the mission director, in the film.
In an email interview to Desi Talk and News India Times, Kumar revealed that he has no interest in politics, at least for now. Excerpts from the interview:
What’s your experience been like working in ‘Mission Mangal’?
It has been an absolutely incredible experience, to say the least. Mission Mangal is inspired by the true story of India’s first space mission to Mars, made possible by the sheer hard work and determination of the wonderful team of scientists. After Jagan (director) narrated the script to me, I was instantly drawn towards it and felt so proud to be chosen to play a role of such magnitude and responsibility.
Playing Rakesh Dhawan, the mission director who is in-charge of leading the team that are behind the mission was one of the best roles I have played in my career. It allowed me to place myself in the shoes of a space scientist, investigate a completely different profession, and a small glimpse at how hard-working the people in this industry are.
It also fueled my fascination for space science and enhanced my respect for the scientists who worked day in and out to make India’s mission to mars a success. They are the real unsung heroes of our country and I strongly believe that their stories must be told.
India is proud of its space endeavors, including ‘Mangalyaan’ and ‘Chandrayaan-2’. Mission Mangal is being released on India’s Independence Day. Is it more of a patriotic film than one which depicts the lives of some of the key scientists behind the launch of ‘Mangalyaan’?
A team of incredible scientists battle personal and professional challenges to work together, using their intelligence, experience and revolutionary thought to give success to India’s first mission to Mars. The film is about how they overcome challenges and work together to achieve what was touted as an impossible feat. It is a story of thought empowerment- if you think you can, you surely will. Therefore, despite patriotic undertones this film is an exemplary story for the world to follow. This film will strike a chord with people across all ages and nationalities as it is a blend of inspiration and entertainment.
Some of your last few films have been devoted to social awareness causes and highlighting patriotism, like ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’, Pad Man, and ‘Kesari’. How difficult is it for you to change personas and do farcical comedy features too like ‘Housefull 4’, while devoting time to a film like ‘Mission Mangal’?
My job as an actor is to entertain people and I wish to do that in every way possible. I am glad that even after 150 films, I get offered such variety of roles. It shows that both the filmmakers and audiences have the confidence in me, and I shall endeavor to live up to that in every way possible. Honestly, I don’t find it difficult to switch between different genres. I go to my film-set do my job and come back home without carrying the baggage of the character I am playing. It has proved to be extremely rewarding for me and I enjoy the process.
Do you prefer doing dramatic action features and intense dramas over comedies?
As I mentioned, I do not have a preference. If the content is good, I follow my instincts and do it irrespective of the genre of the film. Especially if a film like Mission Mangal comes along which gives me the chance to work with such a talented cast and play a brilliant character I cannot refuse. I enjoy doing all kinds of films be it action, drama or comedy and I give my hundred percent to each one hoping that my fans and audiences enjoy the film.
You are one of the most recognized and popular individuals in India. Do you ever think of retirement and of a life after films? What about politics? Do you think you will ever want to serve the Indian public through the medium of politics?
I am so proud of India’s achievements—India is a country unlike any other, with a drive and compassion that in my mind, cannot be matched. As with any country, we will always have work to be done in order to better ourselves for our nation and the rest of the world. My role in India is to be a great story-teller, and my focus right now is solely on that. I am not planning to enter politics—that is not where I am directing my energy right now.