If They Tell Me To Kiss, I Ask How Long: Akshay Kumar #Bollywood #Throwback

Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia once lived in a small house with 18 relatives in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. He was just one of the many handsome young men then leading an unremarkable life. Until he suddenly became Akshay Kumar in what was then called Bombay. In an industry where stardom is usually a favour of the genes, Akshay Kumar somehow managed to find spectacular success. There have been murmurs that he is the highest paid star in the country. It is tempting to publish his astronomical fees, but then most Bollywood figures are unworthy of print. What is true, though, is that he is right there at the very top.

In conversation with Rubina A Khan for Open, he describes the world according to him, and why he doesn’t think highly of critics who have panned his latest film Kambakkht Ishq. Excerpts:

Critics say that Kambakkht Ishq is a vulgar and cheap film. It’s making money at the box office, though. How do you see this situation? Let me put this as politely as possible: people who can be paid to say bad things will [say whatever they are paid to say], but at the end of the day, the audience proves us all right or wrong. Film lovers number in millions versus a handful of negative critics. In my life, never have I let someone else make my decisions for me. If a random person tells me something is bad, I’m not going to listen to him or agree with him. I’m my own person, we all have different tastes. I like tea without sugar, but my sister likes it with sugar, no problem. If we all didn’t have our own tastes, all the men in the world would be married to the same woman, wouldn’t they? Reviews have never changed my decision to want to see any movie, Indian or international. I have my own opinion and that’s enough for me and it should be for you too.

Was Kambakkht Ishq supposed to be your ticket to Hollywood? Sylvester Stallone, Brandon Routh and Denise Richards are in the film. 
It is nowhere near a ticket to Hollywood but by the sound of it, they [Hollywood stars] wouldn’t mind a ticket to Bollywood. We are all in love with our own industries. I’ve no agenda when I star in a film. I can’t exactly plead with my producers to spend huge amounts of money to sign great international stars just so that I can satisfy my whim to go to Hollywood. Hell, no. We just want to show that we are as big and as capable as anyone in the world in the business of cinema, and have fun in the process.

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You’ve kissed Denise Richards and Kareena Kapoor a lot in the film. Did the script demand it or were you inspired on your own? Denise even went on to say that she was left in no doubt that you were Bollywood’s hottest man and a great kisser. 
AI had to kiss these wonderful ladies not only because my character demanded it, but also because a red-blooded, hotheaded stuntman can’t exactly be frigid now, can he? But more importantly, I’m an actor and I do what my director asks me to do. If he says ‘jump’, I ask ‘how high’, if he says ‘kiss’, I just ask him ‘for how long’. Simple. We are human beings and we have been kissing since birth. It’s strange that people are so amazed at its existence in our country. In the film, they weren’t rude kisses or anything like that. They were kisses in character and were in sync with the story line.

Before every film release of yours, a slew of malicious and scandalous rumours make the rounds like the one involving your trainer Jennifer or one of your co-stars like Katrina Kaif, or about your box office collections being poor. How does that happen? 
A lot of people out there don’t like me getting a fair chance in life or my fair share in the big Bollywood pie. They get scared and possessive of their territory and react in the only human way they know—create a war to make themselves feel better. All I can say is I’m sorry you guys have to read and hear this kind of negative and false stuff. Just think of it as light entertainment. I’m glad everyone has noticed the pattern finally, the fact that there are only bad things said when I have a movie releasing. This has been happening to me for a while now. But I still stand tall and say never mind and go on with my business. Who said show business was easy anyway?

Which Hollywood actor or personality would you like to be associated with in a future film? 
Meryl Streep. She is an actress who sweeps clean the floor with any actor she works with. On second thoughts, maybe I’d be too scared to share a scene with her since she is so very talented and fabulous. Also, I would love to work with Quentin Tarantino as his movies are so outrageous, so radically different.

How has the slowdown of the economy in India affected you?
AMy asking fees in the recession is half of what it was when our country’s economy was booming. We are all only what our country can give. If we run low on rice, I will have rice only once a day, if we run low on money, I can only charge what the country can afford. I have no work if there is no money in the banks. I’m not a money grabbing thief as I am painted out to be. I do have morals you know.

You are becoming quite a style icon, aren’t you? Your films too are creating a lot of fashion trends. 
Well, thank you very much Rubina, but I don’t think you have ever seen what I look like off screen. I deliberately make an effort to look like I don’t own a wardrobe so I can walk around looking like a tramp in the hope that no one recognises me. But on screen, I try and make a huge effort to look presentable for my fans and audiences. Otherwise, my wife Tina would kill me.

Khatron Ke Khiladi has lured you into hosting the second season too. When does it hit the television screens? 
AAh ha. It is coming out sometime in September-October. Even I can’t wait to see what all these girls went through, again. I am still feeling sorry for them—it was that khatarnak (dangerous). If you thought the first season was crazy and had you on edge, this one has to be seen to be believed.

This feature first appeared in OPEN on July 25, 2009 and is a part of my #Bollywood #Throwback series 

©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR | JUSTIN BIEBER’S GOT A BELIEBER IN A KAPOOR!

RUBINA’S RADAR

Whilst Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor’s got girls crushing on his looks with an enviable legion of die-hard fans notwithstanding, you’d never guess who his sister Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni is a huge fan of. Justin Bieber! The Grammy award winning singer is minutes and hours away from landing in Mumbai on Sunday, May 7th for the Asian leg of his Purpose World Tour wherein he’ll be performing live for his very first show in India on May 10th at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. The JB Army in India is counting down to Bieber Fever live, come Wednesday evening.

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Pattie Mallette with son Justin Bieber | Getty Images

The Delhi-based jewellery designer is a Belieber and loves his music (who doesn’t), so much so that she’s designed two bracelets from her eponymous Indian jewellery line for him and that’s not all. She’s even made one for his mother, Patricia (Pattie) Mallette too! “I hope Justin enjoys wearing my creations as much as we enjoyed making them for him and his mom, Pattie. It’s rather unfortunate that I can’t be at the show in Mumbai as I have a work exhibit here in Delhi. I would have loved to hear him sing my favourite track, Where Are You Now, live in Mumbai,” says Sahni of her welcome package for the Canadian singer.

If Bieber digs the bracelets as much as she does his music, AND wears them, it’ll be the ultimate reciprocal gesture for her from the popstar.

UPDATED: Justin Bieber did not arrive into Mumbai from Dubai, UAE today as expected, but his tour manager did. The ETA of the Bieber jet (with him in it!) will be published here as soon as possible. 

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©Rubina A Khan 2017

 

Jashn-E-Kaifi With Shabana Azmi At 25, Janki Kutir

Shabana Azmi celebrated the 98th birth anniversary of her late father, the legendary Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi, with an evening of music and poetry called Jashn-E-Kaifi at their family home, 25 Janki Kutir in Mumbai on the 14th of January 2017. Her brother, cinematographer Baba Azmi orchestrated the annual evening on a larger scale this year in a bid to bring back some of the cultural nostalgia of artistry that is not only reminiscent of their home, but an integral part of both, his and Shabana’s growing years – a home where legends like Begum Akhtar, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Guru Dutt, Chetan Anand, SD Burman, Madan Mohan, Balraj Sahni and MF Husain commingled with their parents Kaifi and Shaukat Azmi in a manner most concordant, in the pursuit of the arts. As she showed me around the house – her parent’s bedroom, her childhood room, resonant with memories of an era gone by, I was intrigued by the rich fabric of its familial history. As we walked around the house, every exposed brick seemed to whisper a couplet with the wafting aroma of tea brewing in the kitchen heightening its mystical, old-world aura. And then there was the music…

I heard Sonu Nigam, India’s most beloved singer and a fine musical talent – perform live – a big first for me. The stage was brought alive by raw musicians and singers as well as seasoned ones to an enthralled audience. I loved Javed Akhtar’s rendition of Kaifi Azmi’s poems which brought the house down, and understandably so. Some of Kaifi’s most famous written works in Indian cinema set to music are Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho Kya Gham Hai Jo Chupa Rahe Ho (Arth 1982), Chalte Chalte Yunhi Koi Mil Gaya Tha (Pakeezah 1972), Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil Mere Kaam Ki Nahi (Heer Ranjha 1970) Waqt Ni Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam (Kaagaz Ke Phool 1959) Meri Aawaz Suno Pyar ka Raaz Suno (Naunihal 1967) Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar (Arth 1982) and Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho (Hanste Zakham 1973). 

Here is Jashn-E-Kaifi in pictures:

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Jashn-E-Kaifi stage

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Sonu Nigam

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Javed Akhtar

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Shabana Azmi with her nephew, Viraj Vishwakarma

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Sukriti and Prakriti Kakar

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Kaifs Azmi’s favorite chair

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Shabana Azmi

©Rubina A Khan 2017