By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Mumbai, (IANS) Akshay Kumar is happy he plays a soldier in "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon" that released in theatres this week.
"Throughout 2004 I've been fortunate enough to be playing different roles. And now in 'Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon', my final release for the year I play a poet-soldier named Rajiv - my real name!
"My character has lines for every occasion. I've never really had the opportunity to recite so much shayari (Urdu poetry) on screen before. I loved doing that."
Akshay came close to playing a soldier in J.P. Dutta's "Border". "Yeah, but that didn't work out. I'm so glad I've finally played a soldier. There's no better way to serve the country."
The film was initially in the eye of a minor storm when Akshay had refused to sign on the dotted line until director Anil Sharma cleaned out the soundtrack of all derogatory references to Pakistan.
Akshay brushes off the incident. "All that was sorted out. There isn't a word against Pakistan in 'Ab Tumhare...'. They're our neighbours and I'd never want to fight with my neighbour, would you?"
The film pairs Akshay with a new heroine Divya Khosla. "I was Lara Dutta's first hero (in 'Andaz'). Maybe I'll be lucky for Divya as well," Akshay grins.
Akshay is also thrilled to be cast with "two of my favourite people in the film industry, Bobby Deol who's my buddy and Mr Amitabh Bachchan, with whom I've done some of my best work in 'Ek Rishta: The Bond Of Love' and 'Khakee'.
"We'll be soon seen as father and son in Vipul Shah's 'Waqt'. In 'Ab Tumhare....' Amitji plays Bobby's dad, not mine," Akshay says regretfully.
2005 looks extremely bright for Akshay. "I've releases like 'Bewafaa' and 'Waqt'. In 2004, I got to play everything from the comic diversion in 'Khakee' to the victim of sexual harassment in 'Aitraaz'. I'm ready for bigger challenges now."
Akshay has just signed a new film with producer Sajid Nadiadwala with his "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" co-star. No, not Priyanka Chopra again. But Salman Khan.
"I'm looking forward to working with Salman again. We had such a ball during 'Mujhse Shaadi Karogi'. But the new film, to be directed by Shirish Kundur won't be a comedy but a love story.
Preity Zinta is likely to be the girl between Akshay and Salman in Nadiadwala's new film.