His never say 'No' attitude to work has kept him busy and experiment with new characters in every movie in his long career. Akshay Kumar's new flick Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty casts him as an intelligence agent in a world plagued by terrorism. His intention is to arouse feelings of patriotism and depict the real dangers of terrorism, he revealed.
What is the movie Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty all about?
Holiday is an intelligent thriller, based on the deadly notion of sleeper cells, which has plagued several nations and caused heinous terrorist crimes. I work as a DIA, Defence Intelligence Agent for the Indian Army. I come across a deadly terrorist plot to attack Mumbai. My character is skilful and patriotic, I've been protecting the boarders of India, but unfortunately when I return home on holiday, I get sucked into defeating the ring leader of the terror 'sleeper cell' to save the city I was born and raised in. It is a very relevant film, and it deals with an issue which very few people are aware of, however the impact of the film is very transient. With the terror issues going on left right and centre, the screen play to this film and its overall treatment has literally never been touched before in India. In that respect, this is something quite unprecedented.
What appealed to you about Holiday?
I said yes when I heard just the first half of the script from Vipul Amrutlal Shah. I was so captivated, I couldn't wait to find out what happens in the second half. I was impressed by the script and how true to life the issues it deals with are. I am proud to be part of a film which touches upon reality and the very issues we face today. This is real cinema, not fictional cinema, this is what makes this role very exciting for me. In fact, I've learnt about the field of intelligence whilst submerging myself into this role, especially given the unique concept and narrative. I've heard stories surrounding the notion of sleeper cells, the role they have played in terrorist attacks and the importance of cleaning them up to safeguard populations. This script is raw, gritty and real, and I became addicted to the plot.
What was it like working with director A.R. Murugadoss?
I was extremely honoured to work with A.R. Murugadoss. He is a very talented and skilled director. He very quickly learnt my acting style and guided me on how to give the best performance possible. I always joke that even though his height is quite short, his imagination and power is through the roof. He is a man of brains. This is a very special role for me to play as it has challenged me and has allowed me to portray a role I was very keen to get my teeth into. I truly hope that I have done the character justice for my fans.
So we hear that the action in Holiday is completely different from your past films?
Vipulji (Vipul Amrutlal Shah) is a firm believer that if you want something different then you have to go elsewhere to get it, so much so that we brought over one of the best stunt teams in the world from England, to choreograph most of the film's action sequences. Greg Powell and his team of stuntmen were, in my eyes, absolutely brilliant, from their discipline to their style, not to mention their incredible talents, it was beyond refreshing to work with them. One of my favourite sequences in the whole film is the gun fight that we shot in the old abandoned kitchens in Mumbai. There's no fancy trickery, no special effects, it's just me and the fighters, hand-to-hand combat in an enclosed environment. It was a fight like I've never shot before, hats off to the stunt team, it may not blow your mind with 'out of this world CGI', but it was never meant to, it was made to make you go 'wow!' that had to hurt, it's raw, it's real, it's how it would have been done back in the real days.
We understand your dad was in the army. Do you have memories of him?
I don't really have many memories of my dad being in the army, as he gave up the army by the time I was born. However, I would say he definitely brought me up with military discipline; he would wake me up at 5am and take me jogging with him, after that I was always early to bed and early to rise. Because those moments with him were precious, I never messed around when it came to my father; he was a great man and the army knew they were blessed to have him. I appreciated his every word and every movement.
How was it working with Ghajini famed Murugadoss?
For a little guy he has an imagination that could scare the crap out of 'the Incredible Hulk'… He's absolutely fascinating once you get to know him. At first we were both very quiet with each other, but it didn't take long for our personalities to shine on set. He's a very intelligent director, he has a certain way of how he perceives things and nothing stands in his way. One minute he'll be sitting there not saying a word, then he'll jump out of his box with sheer excitement for his shot, or scream for a gun if he's not happy, he literally wears his heart on his sleeve, his emotions vary in seconds. He's amazing to work with.
How supportive is your wife, Twinkle of your career?
Tina is a breath of fresh air when it comes to working in this industry. She has the sharpest, wittiest tongue, but I always know where I stand and what she truly thinks of my films. Her taste is very different to most, but her love and support over the years has kept me standing strong, for there is always a strong woman standing behind any successful man. She's been through everything with me, my fans should really thank her more than me!
What was your relationship like with you father-in-law, legendary Bollywood actor, Rajesh Khanna?
I knew Kakaji even before I met his daughter. He was a producer and in my struggling days, I had visited his office 5-6 times to look for work. On one of my visits, he told me that he was making a film with Chunky Pandey, post which I should come to him. He would often say to me, 'Buddy what are you doing?' He was a very chilled out man. One of my favourite memories was when we all went to Goa for a family holiday, it was unforgettable. Even though he was very sick, we insisted he came to enjoy himself, and why not! What I liked most about him was that he was very lion-hearted, and he was a yaaron ka yaar. Jo bol diya soh kar diya. He liked the fact that I was taking good care of his daughter and he loved my son Aarav a lot.
You've done action and comedy. What kind of role would you like to do now?
I would love to play a negative character. It is the negative characters that rule the screen in those two-and-a-half hours. It is only in the last five minutes that the hero takes over. I have no problem being beaten to pulp in those last few minutes as long as I have had a large share of the pie. I enjoyed playing the villain in Ajnabee. It's nice to get your hands dirty once in a while and be really mean and obnoxious on screen. You should make the audience hate you, mix it up a little bit!