Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar teams up with Ghajini director A.R. Murugadoss and leading actress Sonakshi Sinha in the much-awaited new film HOLIDAY releasing in theaters on June 6. Akshay sat down for this exclusive in-depth interview to talk about his new film, his career and his personal life. Check it out!
Q: What is the movie ‘Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty’ all about?
A: Holiday is an intelligent thriller, based on the deadly notion of sleeper cells, which has plagued several nations and caused heinous terrorist crimes. I work as a DIA, Defense Intelligent Agent for the Indian Army, I come across a deadly terrorist plot to attack Mumbai. My character is skillful and patriotic, I’ve been protecting the borders of India, but unfortunately when I return home on Holiday, I get sucked into defeating the ring leader of the terror ‘sleeper cell’ to save the city I was born and raised in. It is a very relevant film, and it deals with an issue which very few people are aware of, however the impact of the film is very transient. With the terror issues going on left right and center, the screenplay to this film and its overall treatment has literally never been touched before in India. In that respect, this is something quite unprecedented.
Q: Can you explain the tagline of the film?
A: I am a soldier as well as a secret Army Intelligence Officer. I arrive in my home city of Mumbai on holiday, but suddenly things get out of control and I’m drawn into this deadly terror attack. Basically, a soldier is ‘never off duty’. This is a very different type of film not only for me but for my audience, which has not really been seen in Indian cinema before. It is a thriller that draws the audience in with a very strong screenplay. I was shocked at my own response to this film, for it really throws you, from fear to emotional turmoil. The story is based on the subject of terrorism, which is a global concern, but it makes you remember why we are so safe, we have such an incredible army to thank for keeping us so comfortable in our homes at night. This story is an eye opener for many out there, a true experience to witness.
Q: What appealed to you about Holiday?
A: I said yes when I heard just the first half of the script from Vipul Amrutlal Shah. I was so captivated, I couldn’t wait to find out what happens in the second half. I was impressed by the script and how true to life the issues it deals with are. I am proud to be part of a film which touches upon reality and the very issues we face today. This is real cinema, not fictional cinema, this is what makes this role very exciting for me. In fact, I’ve learnt about the field of intelligence whilst submerging myself into this role, especially given the unique concept and narrative. I’ve heard stories surrounding the notion of sleeper cells, the role they have played in terrorist attacks and the importance of cleaning them up to safeguard populations. This script is raw, gritty and real, and I became addicted to the plot.
Q: What was it like working with director A.R. Murugadoss?
A: I was extremely honoured to work with A.R. Murugadoss. He is a very talented and skilled director. He very quickly learnt my acting style and guided me on how to give the best performance possible. I always joke that even though his height is quite short, his imagination and power is through the roof. He is a man of brains. This is a very special role for me to play as it has challenged me and has allowed me to portray a role I was very keen to get my teeth into. I truly hope that I have done the character justice for my fans.
Q: How long have you been in the film industry?
A: It’s been 24 years and counting
Q: Was it a challenge to transition from the romantic parts to the more serious aspects that the role demanded?
A: Not really. I have been acting for a very long time, and it has become easy to transition from character to character, and from scene to scene. When you have great co-stars like Sonakshi Sinha you can bounce of each other’s onscreen emotions in seconds. One of the best things about this job is creating an atmosphere that draws everyone’s attention and sucks them into the film, rather than leaving them bored in their seats.
Q: So we hear that the action in Holiday is completely different from your past films?
A: Vipulji (Vipul Amrutlal Shah) is a firm believer that if you want something different then you have to go elsewhere to get it, so much so that we brought over one of the best stunt teams in the world from England, to choreograph most of the film’s action sequences. Greg Powell and his team of stuntmen were, in my eyes, absolutely brilliant, from their discipline to their style, not to mention their incredible talents, it was beyond refreshing to work with them. One of my favourite sequences in the whole film is the gun fight that we shot in the old abandoned kitchens in Bombay. There’s no fancy trickery, no special effects, it’s just me and the fighters, hand-to-hand combat in an enclosed environment. It was a fight like I’ve never shot before, hats off to the stunt team, it may not blow your mind with ‘out of this world CGI’, but it was never meant to, it was made to make you go ‘wow!!’ that had to hurt, it’s raw, it’s real, it’s how it would have been done back in the real days.
Q: We understand your dad was in the army, Do you have memories of him in the army at all?
A: I don’t really have many memories of my dad being in the army, as he gave up the army by the time I was born. However, I would say he definitely brought me up with military discipline; he would wake me up at 5am and take me jogging with him, after that I was always early to bed and early to rise. Because those moments with him were precious, I never messed around when it came to my father; he was a great man and the army knew they were blessed to have him. I appreciated his every word and every movement.
Q: How was it working with Ghajini famed Murugadoss?
A: For a little guy he has an imagination that could scare the crap out of ‘the Incredible Hulk’… He’s absolutely fascinating once you get to know him. At first we were both very quiet with each other, but it didn’t take long for our personalities to shine on set. He’s a very intelligent director, he has a certain way of how he perceives things and nothing stands in his way. One minute he’ll be sitting there not saying a word, then he’ll jump out of his box with sheer excitement for his shot, or scream for a gun if he’s not happy, he literally wears his heart on his sleeve, his emotions vary in seconds. He’s amazing to work with.
Q: How would you describe your overall experience with Holiday?
A: It was fantastic. Playing an army officer is in itself a great experience, but I especially enjoyed working with the director, A.R. Murugadoss. When you work with a director who knows exactly what he’s doing, and has a clear plan for his vision, it makes the actor’s job so much easier. Murugadoss is an exceptional talent, and it was an absolute pleasure getting the opportunity to work with him.
Q: When you eventually get to take a break from your busy schedule, What is your favourite holiday destination?
A: I love Goa. It’s very chilled out. Everyone knows me there and everyone says hi, without being intrusive. It’s the only place in the country where I can roam around and enjoy myself. My family and I travel the world, but there’s no place like our little Portuguese cottage in Goa, we spend every Christmas there and have the best family memories.
Q: How supportive is your wife, Twinkle of your career?
A: Tina is a breath of fresh air when it comes to working in this industry. She has the sharpest, wittiest tongue, but I always know where I stand and what she truly thinks of my films. Her taste is very different to most, but her love and support over the years has kept me standing strong, for there is always a strong woman standing behind any successful man. She’s been through everything with me, my fans should really thank her more than me!!!
Q: What was your relationship like with your father-in-law, legendary Bollywood actor Rajesh Khanna?
A: I knew Kakaji even before I met his daughter. He was a producer and in my struggling days, I had visited his office 5-6 times to look for work. On one of my visits, he told me that he was making a film with Chunky Panday, post which I should come to him. He would often say to me, ‘Buddy what are you doing?’ He was a very chilled out man. One of my favourite memories was when we all went to Goa for a family holiday, it was unforgettable. Even though he was very sick, we insisted he came to enjoy himself, and why not!! What I liked most about him was that he was very lion-hearted, and he was a yaron ka yaar. Jo bol diya soh kar diya. He liked the fact that I was taking good care of his daughter and he loved my son Aarav a lot.
Q: A great father, a good actor and a successful businessman too… is there something in your life that you still long for, after achieving so much in life?
A: I have got more than I have ever dreamt of. I consider myself very blessed. I love my life and my job has taken me places and given me a life I never believed existed. All I can ask for now is health and happiness for myself and my family.
Q: What do you do to emotionally de-stress?
A: I am not a very talkative person, so I don’t talk much. I can offload 30-40% to my wife. That’s it. Otherwise, I deal with my stress myself. A good game of cricket in the garden usually does the trick, but I’m not the kind of man that takes my worries home with me, work is work, but it has no place in my family home, what happens in the outside world stays there. When I walk through my front door, I leave as much stress or anxiety there and walk in with a light heart so my kids don’t feel my pressure.
Q: Do you get to spend enough time with your kids?
A: As a father, seeing my kids grow up is one of the things which makes me happiest. Earlier, when I used to finish shooting, I would come home and hangout with my wife. But after my kids were born, I couldn’t wait to finish work so that I could rush back home and spend time with them before bedtime. Fatherhood changes all your priorities, but there’s one thing everyone knows about me, I always make time for my kids, no matter how small, I miss nothing!
Q: You’ve done action and comedy. What kind of role would you like to do now?
A: I would love to play a negative character. It is the negative characters that rule the screen in those two-and-a-half hours. It is only in the last five minutes that the hero takes over. I have no problem being beaten to a pulp in those last few minutes as long as I have had a large share of the pie. I enjoyed playing the villain in Ajnabee. It’s nice to get your hands dirty once in a while and be really mean and obnoxious on screen. You should make the audience hate you, mix it up a little bit!
Keep it locked on Urban Asian for more updates on Holiday!