Having worked with south Indian directors such as Prabhu Deva and now AR Murugadoss in Holiday — A Soldier Is Never Off Duty, Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha are all praises for film-makers from the region. "They are quicker and more professional. They love morning shifts and pack up early. I love that," said Akshay, during his visit to the HT Café office with co-star Sonakshi.
About facing any communication problems, he says with a laugh, "Their Hindi might not be so good and their English might be broken, but so is mine, so we manage." Sonakshi added, "I have done four films with south Indian directors, so I understand the basic tone of the language. Otherwise, everything is the same."
She is also thrilled to be working with superstar Rajinikanth in a Tamil film. "When I met him on the sets, I told him I was nervous. He asked me, Why are you nervous? Rather, I should be, since you are my friend’s daughter".
How was it working on the film?
SS: This has been the most different film we have worked on. It’s a serious film, an action thriller. It’s based on sleeper cells and how a soldier finds out about them on his holiday. There’s a plan being activated by the sleeper agents and he needs to put an end to it. As a director, Murugadoss sir is serious, so there was less masti (fun) on this film (set).
AK: This film is special for me because of Murugadoss. He’s very intelligent, and I love the way he looks at a script. He met army personnel and RAW agents to understand how the sleeper cells operate. I don’t think many people would know what they are. Even I learnt about them later. Murugadoss is just 5’ 2” in height, but very violent in nature. (smiles)
SS: Stop spoiling his name. He’s a quiet man.
AK: I’m not talking his character, but his imagination. Look at Ghajini (2008) and another film Ramana (2002) that he made earlier. If he was here, he would be thinking about how to blast this office and how the hero would come to save it.
Did you do any research for the film?
AK: No, Murugadoss requested me with folded hands to not do anything.
Was working with Sonakshi different this time?
AK: It’s been... (takes a long pause)... there has been a lot of improvement in my beloved heroine, Sonakshi. She was good in Lootera (2013). I keep calling it Lootere, which annoys her. She has done some mature acting, and after eight or nine films, to take on such a role is daring. Even I wouldn’t dare do such a role. It was wonderful.
Read: Murugadoss was supposed to make Akshay-starrer Holiday before Thuppaki
So far, most remakes of south Indian films have been masala entertainers. Do you think Holiday will bring about a change in this trend?
AK: Yes, it will bring a change as our director believes in realism. We haven’t shot in any studio for this film. We have shot at real locations, including both our houses. He didn’t allow us to build a set. The climax is on a ship; we asked him if we could shoot against a green screen, but he refused. It was difficult to shoot the film in the middle of the sea because so many permissions are required; we had to get them from Delhi. He has such a penchant for realism that he wouldn’t allow scenes where I’d be punching someone and three guys would go flying as a result. For another scene where I had to climb down a building using the parapets from the seventh floor to the sixth and then the fifth, he didn’t allow me to use a cable because, after editing, there’s a visible hunch.
Sonakshi, how was it working with Murugadoss?
SS: It was fantastic. At times, you want to improvise, but he wants things to be done in a certain way. Sometimes, you would want to argue, but with Murugadoss, you wouldn’t want to, as he is very clear about how he wants things. I chose the film because when I saw it as a whole, it was gripping and I wanted to be part of it.
You have had a long career and done so many roles. At this point, what do you look for in a script?
AK: When a script comes to me, I look at it and wonder if anyone has done something like this. At times, there comes a script that you just want to be part of it, like Special 26 (2013) or OMG — Oh My God!, which was a comedy with a message. I still remember when Vipul (Shah; producer) came to me for the first time and said he wanted to narrate a script. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t do the film because I didn’t even know who he was. Then he told me it was about three blind men robbing a bank (Aankhen; 2002). It gave me a jolt and made me wonder how that was even possible. There are many roles to do. I’m only 126 films old; I’m just a newcomer (chuckles).
Have you become picky after Lootera? Are you looking to do more such films?
SS: Yes, I would love to. I am still waiting for the right kind of script. I don’t want to do it just because people are putting pressure on me or there’s a certain kind of trend. I want to do it for right reasons. When Lootera came to me, I felt it was written keeping me in mind. I am looking for something different.
Have you signed any new films?
SS: I am on the verge of signing a film that will be performance-oriented. It’s not a big secret or anything, but I need to make a proper announcement.
AK: Sonakshi, would you like to play a superwoman?
SS: Yes, I love those films (laughs).
AK: You can see Sonakshi fly now (laughs).
Sonakshi, which are you favourite superhero characters?
SS: Superman... no, it’s Iron Man.
Akshay, have you been impressed by any young talent like Varun, Sidharth, Alia, Arjun…
AK: I like Ranveer Singh. He is good. They are all superb, but I like Ranveer because he has a lot of energy.
Is love missing from your life, despite so many opportunities around you?
SS: I like how people make my life seem so interesting and adventurous, and I do wish it becomes like that, but right now, it isn’t. Sorry to disappoint people.
Does the length of the role matter to you?
SS: We only look at that here. In Hollywood, more attention is paid to how much impact the role has on entire script, and I think we should start doing that in our films too.
What has changed the most about you in the last few years?
SS: I learn every day on the sets. I had no formal training in acting. I didn’t go to a film school. So whatever I know is by being on the job.
Do you give tips to actors who are younger than you?
AK: No, it’s time I should start learning from them. They are much better prepared than us when we started out. For me, I would like to say that I got lucky. I got a chance and I survived; I was one of those lucky fish.
Has the quality of cinema changed over the years?
AK: Yes, cinema has changed, technology has changed, and even the cheques have changed.
Do you enjoy the part where you have to step out and promote your film?
AK: No I don’t. I was very happy in the past when there were just few magazines. They would come, interview us and go. If someone tried, then we would get interviewed on Doordarshan.
SS: It depends. At times, it does get too much. When I started out, this kind of crazy marketing was already prevalent, so I just jumped into it. Also it gets repetitive. You are asked the same question and you are giving the same answers.