Just before the world première of Chandni Chowk To China in London, DEVANSH PATEL got hold of the busiest actor in India -Akshay Kumar - to talk about his biggest movie and Bollywood's first ever martial arts comedy
AKSHAY Kumar may be treated like a god in Chandni Chowk and is arguably one of the biggest movie stars in India, but just a couple of years ago Akki, as I call him, couldn't even pitch an idea in China or for that matter, Hollywood.
However, all that changed for Kumar when he signed Nikhil Advani's Chandni Chowk To China.
It must have taken more than just convincing our Chinese neighbours to do a cross-over film with Akshay in the lead. But our 'Khiladi' Kumar wove his magic and the deal was signed: India's first ever kung-fu comedy with Bollywood and Chinese stars was to be made and have worldwide premières in LA, Toronto, New York and London.
It's a dream come true for the martial arts maestro - not only can he finally highkick his way around the Great Wall of China after years in the mainstream movie wilderness, but more importantly it means he's at last achieved his life-long ambition to play the real Akshay Kumar before he entered films - a cook. And the actor added a bit of spice to make this world exclusive Chandni Chowk To China interview very, very tasty!
Q CC2C is a film based on your real life story. How true were you then to the film?
A As true as I am with any character I have to play. I happened to love this character immensely. It enabled me to be the man I have wanted to be on screen for a long time now - a funny action hero. What more could I want? It's totally my kind of film... However the only similarity between my life and this film is the fact that I was born in Chandni Chowk, like my character, and he has to cook just like I had to learn to cook when I was working as a chef in Bangkok. I am playing a halwai in the film. If there's anything anyone likes about me at all, I recommend this movie to the whole family. It is me in my element and I would love to share it with you.
Q This is the first kung fu comedy to hit Bollywood since its inception. Are you happy that cross country talents are merging to give us even more entertainment?
A Yes definitely. I have always believed that Bollywood has been evolving. With people being more accepting and culturally-aware there has been a great demand for global Indian cinema. Cultures have been merging. There has been a great influence on the western culture in India and the Indian culture in the west. People are coming together so why not cinema? After all people are spending their hard earned money to watch a good film and if we can provide this through the merging of cultural talent then why not?
Q You are considered to be Bollywood's box office mascot. Both Welcome and Singh is Kinng grossed over £1m in the UK. Will CC2C complete the hat trick?
A Hat trick or bad trick... at the end of the day it's all about hard work. I am grateful to all my fans for providing me with all the love and support as they always have and I am glad they have enjoyed my films in the past year. Whether or not Chandni Chowk To China will be a success is something that I cannot predict. All I know is that the whole team and of course I, have worked extremely hard and all I can do is leave the rest to you all.
Q How did Deepika adapt to such an action-packed film where you will steal most of the show?
A Oh I haven't stolen the show, trust me. Deepika has quite a few stunts that she has done as well in the film. Apparently I have heard that she calls herself the female version of Akshay Kumar. So I guess I'm the one that should be worried (laughs).
Q We know you are a master when it comes to action. How difficult was this compared to all your other action films?
A It was a lot more painful, and a lot more advanced than any martial arts I've performed in my previous movies. The stunt team were incredible. I'm so happy to have relived my black belt days! It's a movie I wish I could do over and over again, if only it didn't hurt so much. I loved the style no one has seen in Bollywood before. Let's hope it was all worth it at the end of the day.
Q Did you have to learn Chinese as a language?
A No not at all, that was the whole point. I'm a true Chandni Chowk boy through and through and that's half my adventure. The fact is that I'm so innocent that I'm not aware of what's going on around me. Though I couldn't resist learning a few words, just for jokes on the sets... not to be repeated on paper though - sorry guys!
Q Nikhil Advani's Salaam E Ishq was a complete disaster. What made you work with Nikhil then? Was it Nikhil's Kal Ho Na Ho or Rohan Sippy productions?
A That's a bit harsh, it wasn't a disaster. Anyway, how can I judge Nikhil Saab for his flops when I have way more flops to my name then he'll ever have? Nikhil is one of the best commercial directors I have ever come across, to the point where I can't wait to work with him again, as well as Rohan Sippy. It's not about reputation with me - if you hadn't noticed I work with many new directors. It's not about the name with me, it never has been. It's about the passion. Show me your passion for your work and I'm anybody's. And right now no one has shown me as much passion as Nikhil Advani Saab.
Q We know you are a good cook. Please tell us what's the yummiest food you can cook?
A Honestly, if you want to live I wouldn't recommend you eat any of my food (laughs). OK, I'm not that bad, but I've been pampered too much now that I've forgotten my secrets. Give me a day in the kitchen, though, and I'll rustle you up some delicious Punjabi food.
Q How was it to work with one of Bollywood's finest talents, Ranvir Shorey?
A Do you know what, I truly think he is one of the finest actors I have ever come across and of course, we got on like a house on fire. Such a funny guy and damn good at what he does. I love sharing the screen with him.
Q Which is your favourite track from the film and why?
A Oh... Sorry too hard a question. I love Sidhu cos it's just me throughout in the film, I love the romantic song purely cos it's just beautiful. Soundtrack is addictive, the training song hits home a lot - it just helped me get through the hard parts during the shooting - and the video song means so much to me because it's my life story written by an admirer and good friend. So yeah, hard to say really.
Q Tell us about shooting at the Great Wall of China.
A Ah! Words can't describe how amazing it was to shoot there - one of the best experiences of my life and what an honour. Even Mission Impossible didn't get permission to shoot there. One of my best shots of my whole career was on that wall. It was unforgettable. What more can I say? Come see me in my element.
Q So far in your career you've given escapist performances. Any idea when are we going to see you in some serious roles?
A Well to be honest, I would not completely agree with you. I think I had a very serious character to play in the film Sangharsh. I have Nagesh Kukunoor's Eight by Ten coming up this year which is a supernatural thriller. So there's no room there for escapist cinema. I will also be playing a true life character in the film Komagata Maru which is an epic film based on the voyage of a ship from India to Vancouver in the early part of the last century. It is a film of high level government intrigue, duplicity, racism, spying, military engagements, court battles, sedition, and assassination. Is that serious enough for you?
Q Finally, how's the touring going Akki?
A Absolutely marvellous, I'm touring right now as we speak. LA, New York, Toronto and London... Have to say, I am overwhelmed with the reaction. All we have left to do now is release it and then it's all up to you guys I'm afraid. You do know I love you all, don't you? (winks).