Thursday, August 2, 2007

Akshaye's interview

Another interview of Akshaye. Thanks for Pratim who posted it on his blog:

He cried. At a private show of Gandhi My Father, with father Vinod Khanna, Akshaye Khanna cried. A decade after he debuted with Himalay Putra, the son has risen. He was romantic in Taal, endearing in Border, engaging in Dil Chahta Hai and sinister in Humraaz... and yet, as Anil Kapoor puts it, “totally underutilised”.Gandhi My Father was what the good doctor had ordered for Akshaye.

As director Feroz Abbas Khan says, the role of Harilal — estranged son of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi — needed an actor and not a star. “And while Akshaye is definitely a star, we wanted the actor in him to come out,” says Feroz. “Right from the auditions to the sets, we realised that the lesser the star Akshaye became, his character became stronger and stronger.”W

hile Akshaye has always been promising, his choice of films has been far from satisfactory. Watching him admire Mallika Sherawat’s assets with a wig almost falling over his nose in an inane sex comedy like Shaadi Se Pehle was quite a torture chamber experience — for him and us.But even in the mediocre material that has come his way, Akshaye has tried to bring a method to the madness.

“You can hear his brain ticking all the time,” says Salaam-e-Ishq maker Nikhil Advani. “As an actor, he gives a director so many options in the same scene. He is one of the best we have.”

As Akshaye says in a chat with Pratim D. Gupta, the greatest of actors make mistakes. We hope Akshaye’s made his share and Gandhi My Father proves to be the turning point.

Your producer and your biggest fan Anil Kapoor says that Akshaye Khanna was born to play Harilal. Your comments...

(Laughs) That’s very sweet of him. The way I see it all the casting in the film has been done keeping in mind who suits the characters the best. Not just me, even Gandhi and Kasturba.

But Gandhi My Father is definitely not just another film you have done...

No, definitely. There’s something really special. Something that has exceeded my expectations. I was floored by the script but the film has turned out to be even better. I feel fully charged about Gandhi My Father. It’s really, really something to look forward to.

What made it special? The historical backdrop or the human relationships?

I feel it is the relationship between Harilal Gandhi and Mahatma Gandhi. No one knows about this story, yaar. What a beautiful story! What a moving story! Very few people even know about the existence of Harilal Gandhi.

The general feeling is that Harilal was so overawed by his father that he wasted his own life. How do you look at him?

I know people feel that just because Harilal had a troubled relationship with Mahatma Gandhi, he was weak. No. That’s not true. He was a tremendously intelligent, a man with very strong character. He had a mind of his own. How many people know that Harilal was Mahatma Gandhi’s right-hand man in South Africa? He was the first Satyagrahi. He went to jail so many times. Harilal was the first person to use fasting as a weapon for justice. He was the man who taught Gandhi that fasting can be used to fight against injustice.

Isn’t Gandhi My Father pitched as a family film rather than a historical account?

Yes, because here we are dealing with emotions that can never be dated, can never be irrelevant.

What is the essence of the story?

As my director (Feroz Abbas Khan) says it beautifully: “Here is a boy looking constantly for Bapu and confronting Mahatma.” Now, those are basic family values.History is in the background. Freedom struggle, all that, is used as a backdrop. What is in the front is the story of a family. The sacrifices that all the great leaders of that time made was not just about going to jail. Families were ruined, relationships were affected. Now that you and me are talking here in a free country is because of those sacrifices.

You did not do any other film during the making of Gandhi My Father.
Did you feel responsible for the job at hand?

Instantly. No two ways about it. I have never ever come across this calibre of writing. It just stunned me. There was no question about not doing it. The entire team just approached this film in such a way... the whole focus came from a place of honesty, of truthfulness. Just tell the story, that was the idea.As far as research goes, since Harilal is not a known figure, my job became easier than Darshan Zariwala or Shefali Shah. Their responsibility was far greater. Because no one knows how Harilal looked, how Harilal talked, I just had to capture the essence of the man, the spirit of the man. Feroz gave me some material and said, it’s enough, just read it a couple of times and then just go with the script.

It’s said that everyone in Bollywood wanted to do this role, including Aamir Khan. Does that put extra pressure on you?Why should that put pressure on me?

My work is already done. It is canned. It is ready to be shown the world over. I can’t do anything more. And I do not feel that I could have given any more effort. There is no sense of regret or the feeling that I have left one stone unturned. I have really given everything to this role. Now we just want as many people as possible to be aware of the film and, hopefully, like it. Now if someone wanted to do my role, well, I can’t do anything about it.

After doing films like Gandhi My Father, is it difficult to get yourself to do such inane Bollywood romcoms?

Every film requires its own approach. I don’t approach my films as being unimportant or less important. When I am on the sets and doing my work, all the films are same to me. I have to be in the moment and I have to do my job to the best of my ability. To me there is no distinction. But the media and the public have their own point of view and rightly so.

You certainly can do better than Shaadi Se Pehle and Aap Ki Khatir...

All actors make decisions and choices which are part of their work. That does not mean that you choose not to work in certain kinds of movies. I did those films out of choice. Why should I be shy of it? If I made choices which ‘x’ number of people think have been bad choices, I accept it. I embrace it. But I have made that choice and I have gone wrong. And sometimes I have been right.You pick the greatest actors in the world. They have all gone wrong. They have done films which have not done justice to them, which have disappointed their fans and well-wishers. That is the nature of the business. I am not Einstein. Hopefully those mistakes will become less but I will continue to make my choices. I am not coming from a space where I should be ashamed. I am not trying to run away from my work.

Will you do more Western productions or maybe crossover films?

After this I am not thinking of anything. Three of us — Anil, Feroz and me — are just going mad. It’s like we are delivering a baby. And when delivering you can’t think about anything else apart from the baby.


Anonymous said...

Good interview.

I think you should write a post devoted to critiquing how Akshaye has grown as an actor from 1997 till now.

I feel that there's been a significant improvement from his acting since Hulchul. Before Hulchul, I wasn't always fully satisfied with Akshaye's acting. However, after seeing him in 36 China Town and Aap Ki Khatir. I started feeling more satisfied with his acting. He has been really good after 2005. He was superb in Naqaab as well. Before, I felt that he looked a bit more youthful, whereas since 36 China Town, he has started to look more matured and manly- and has become a more suave and seasoned actor. Clearly, it has done him good by doing more and more movies as opposed to the usual two per year he did prior to 2004.

Anonymous said...

You know, probably a lot of people will disagree but if he performed the role of Harilal Gandhi now. I feel he would give an even superior performance.

Anonymous said...

Akshaye Khanna is a very good actor. Outstanding one as he always stands of the crowd because of his sheer talent. He is better than Amir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Ajay Devgan and Akshay Kumar. But, the directors are ignoring him. Including Karan Johar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali! Hope they sign very soon. Especially Sanjay Leela Bhansali after Saawariya!!