“I Am Just The Amrish Puri Of This Film,” Akshay Kumar On His ‘2.0’ Character

Akshay Kumar is one actor who is always on time. So when we met him for the 2.0 interviews, it was no different. Most of the times, the actor enjoys and prefers talking to all the media together. So we all settled down on chairs arranged for us. Soon, Akshay entered with his entourage and made himself comfortable on a chair. Wearing a grey t-shirt which he had paired with a black bomber jacket and black joggers, the actor looked fit as ever. From his experience of working with Rajinikanth to sitting for more than 3 hours just to get his prosthetic, Akshay shares his 2.0 experience, and much more.

Excerpts from the interviews:

Your role in 2.0 is a very different role. What about it excited you?

I got very excited because first of all, I haven’t heard this kind of a screenplay. I have done many social films but this was a social film with an international message. I actually thought how no one came up with this concept and the message but Mr Shankar, my director of the film, thought of this. He came up with such a brilliant idea. Plus at the same time, I was very happy I was getting to work with Rajnikanthji and Mr Shankar, one of our country’s best directors. Plus they also told me it’s going to be one of the biggest, India’s most expensive film. I got a chance to be a part of this, so I was very happy and excited.

S Shankar said that you suffered a lot during the prosthetics.

Not suffering, it was very hard. 3 and a half hours I had to sit in one place, patiently, without doing anything else. There were three people working on my makeup and prosthetics and I just had to sit down quietly. In general, I am a very patient man. While playing this character, I became more subtle, completely mellowed. For 3 hours I had to sit on a chair doing nothing. Then when the shoot ended, they would take 1 and a half hours to remove all of it and then I would go home and sleep. The next day, the same thing would repeat. This continued for 38-40 days. That was a painful process. Because of the prosthetics, everything was packed and there was no oxygen. The 5 hours that I used to work, all the sweat used to be inside the body and didn’t have a way to come out. I still remember, when I used to remove the prosthetics, my whole body used to smell of sweat. Also, I couldn’t eat because the body has to be intact. The prosthetics were made according to my body size. So I had to be on a liquid diet. Only milkshakes and juices were allowed.

During the press conference, Rajinikanth said that 2.0 is your film.

He’s just being humble. It is very much his film because the title is 2.0. It cannot be I am 2.0 he is 2.0. He is just being nice and kind to me. I am just the Amrish Puri of this film. One anecdote about him is that whenever we used to talk, it was in Marathi because he’s a Maharashtrian. I can also speak Marathi. So it was fun. And anything simple would sound so great when he said it. You give Rajni sir just one line and he turns it into one epic dialogue. Basically, I would say in every line he puts entertainment.

What is the one that you admire about him?

He’s very professional and a very humble man. He is what he is. Even the look of his. He is what he is and comes like that. He’s not worried about how hair is. He comes in front of you like this and that’s it. That speaks a volume about him.

What is the one thing you learnt from Rajni sir? 

He is a very humble man. Humbleness I learnt from him.

Your look in the film has excited the audience. Can we say that your look is the highlight of 2.0? 

I don’t know if it is a highlight or not. But the movie, the way it is being made is the highlight, according to me. Also, technical wise, this is the best technical film India has produced. It’s a 3D film. It is not a film transformed into 3D. It is an original film where you can feel every detail of it. I would advise everybody to watch in 3D. It’s an amazing concept to watch in 3D. I would say Mr Shankar is equivalent to James Cameron given steroids. Everything is larger than life. This is an attempt from India’s side to try. You can’t compete with them (Hollywood) because their budget is like 17 times higher than our budget. Trust me, in this 510 crores, they cannot make what we have produced here, but the concept is lovely. The social message is amazing.

Do you think because of the technicality, the story, the direction will take a backseat? 

No, it will not. It will enhance it. The message what the film has to give it will be very clean and crystal clear. Understand when you leave the theatre, you know what is that international message the story wants to say. That narrative is very clean and clear.

What was your reaction when you saw yourself in that get-up? 

I was just clicking selfies. My family was with me. I kept on clicking selfies with my wife and my children. They were also very happy. This was only happening.

What is the most exciting thing about playing a villain?

If you have to play a villain, you require very fewer days. I just shot for 38 days to be precise. Mr Rajnikanth shot for maybe double of that. So that’s amazing.

Do you think filmmakers in Bollywood have a lot to learn from their counterparts in South as far as vision is concerned? 

Not vision. The technology down south is advanced. They are much better in technology. They are also very professional. Like 7:30 shooting starts means 7:30 shooting starts. Here 7:30 means aa jaana. 9.30-10:00 tak.

The superstars there might be coming on time?

Not might be, they definitely come on time. Their professionalism is very different. You can learn a lot from there. I sometimes feel a newcomer should do 5 films there and then come here. Then he will learn a lot from there. They take around 35-40 shots as compared to what we do. We do 12-13 shots. They are fast and they don’t take others for granted, they value other’s time. Like I have to value your time, you came at 12:30. I was told I have to come up quickly. I could have easily said you guys will have to wait half an hour, one hour. But that would mean I am disrespecting you. That respect is what they teach and I appreciate that.

What was Nitara’s reaction? Was she scared?

No, she has watched me get the makeup done. She watched the process. She knew something was happening to her father.

Sci-fi is not the kind of genre we have dealt too much with. Now that you have done one, would you like to do more in the future?

Yeah if anything comes by then surely, I would love to. Superhero is not only sci-fi, but there are other ways also to do sci-fi. I would love to do a film on plague, or the end of the world or a disaster film because of some kind of scene which is gone wrong. There’s so many things, I would love to.

Has 2.0 changed the way you look at technology?

Yes, I have learnt a lot. I have learnt throughout what a green screen can do to you. It can change your whole persona completely. It can change your whole environment. What power it has! So the technology can actually change the whole environment and the way it has been done. No wonder when I read about 300, the whole film was made on a green screen and you can hardly see it but it’s an amazing concept.

A lot of platforms like Netflix are coming to India? Do you have any plans of collaborating with any of these platforms?

Not yet. But I would surely love to do it. I would love to do something on a digital platform also.

You are the first male superstar to have made a transition to south cinema. Do you observe a skepticism among other stars when it comes to starring in South films? 

I don’t know. I think it’s an experiment. It’s an experience for me also. Let’s hope. But Baahubhali has proven it has gone very good in a way. But this Hindi film actor along with a Tamil film actor. I personally feel this divide we should be away from it. At the end of the day, it’s a lovely Indian film.

What are the developments on Mission Mangal?

The development is that while I am talking to you the shooting is still on.

What about Mission Mangal appealed to you? It is led by so many women. There are very few superstars who would back a film or would act in a film which has so many women. Very rarely have we seen that happen in Bollywood. 

Because that demands them to be ahead, they are the real heroes. We are supposed to be behind them even though me producing it. I am very happy to see these 5 girls, they are very big in their own way. They are not bothered that there are 5 heroines and we are coming together and why should we do it. That kind of attitude is not there. I don’t think so 5 heroes would come together. When I approached them they were very happy with their own role and they were ready to do it.

We have a lot of star kids in Bollywood. Is your son also interested in Bollywood?

He is 16 years old. I would like to let him live his life rather than out him in pressure. I am not interested in asking him if he’s interested in films, I am not that kind of father. I let him live. At this moment he is interested more to be with friends, to enjoy life and to study. You know what youngsters are.

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