Bollywood star Akshay Kumar chats about his role in the new cricket-themed movie Patiala House, out on 10 February, which includes scenes filmed at the Oval, Lords and Trent Bridge. He plays a young man whose dream is to be a fast bowler for England.
Are you a cricket buff in real life?
Akshay Kumar: Oh yes! I love both playing and spectating. I would play cricket in the bylanes of Delhi where I grew up as a kid. I always looked up to cricket personalities like Vivian Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan and always enjoyed their on-pitch performances.With Patiala House I got to work very closely with cricketing veterans and icons such as Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Keiron Pollard, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Herschelle Gibbs, Nasser Hussain and David Gower to name a few. Whenever I am at home, my son Aarav and I have this schedule to play cricket together as Aarav is also extremely fond of cricket but only to play - watching it is still boring for him but he's only eight.
How did you go about preparing for the cricket scenes?
Akshay Kumar: I had to undergo thorough training with veteran cricketer Balwinder Singh Sandhu. This role was a challenge as I had to train as a fast-paced bowler in preparation for all of the cricket portions of the film, but at the same time it was very enjoyable as I got to try my hand at my favourite sport, cricket. He taught me how to play cricket with skill and as a sportsman which is extremely different to playing the game for leisure. I had to perfect my skill to the tee to ensure my bowling skills looked absolutely realistic on screen and that I did justice not only to the sport but to [my character] Gattu as well.
This isn't the first film you've starred in that deals with British Asians. How does Patiala House differ from Namaste London in terms of its message?
Akshay Kumar: Namaste London was more of a love story between a British-born Asian who is in denial of her Indian roots and a guy who is from India and has a deep-rooted connection to his homeland.Oh the other hand, Patiala House is more of an inspirational movie. It is about each and every individual who has had times of trial and tribulations but has emerged successfully out of it on the basis of his own will and hard work. It's about being passionate about your dreams and fulfilling them as and when you get that second chance, if you were not successful the first time around.
Do you relate strongly with the character of Parghat Singh Kahlon?
Akshay Kumar: Yes, to a very great extent, I do. In a way I can say that Parghat Singh Kahlon, or Gattu, as a character is an amalgamation of me as a person and my struggles in life. Some years ago I went through the same situation, when I had a run of films that didn't do so well. I thought I was finished.But then I did a film called Jaanwar, which I felt was my second chance in the industry. I did not give up but kept fighting and trying, because I knew this is exactly what I wanted and I was not one to quit without a fight. Today, I am glad my persistence paid off and I want everyone to take an example from this and keep going, just keep fighting.Patiala House represents me as a person; very strong-minded, respectful and loving. I wanted to make a success of my life, set myself some goals and worked hard to achieve those things from a young age. I never felt any job was beneath me, but while working in small jobs, I would continue to dream big and actively take steps towards achieving those dreams.
How was the experience working with Anushka Sharma?
Akshay Kumar: Anushka is a very sweet girl and a hugely talented actress. She fits perfectly into her character as Simran, a girl next door aspiring to be a Bollywood actress. She as a character is very strong; someone who will not give up on her dreams easily and hence goes ahead to pursue them.She is the one who encourages Gattu to chase his dreams, so here again you can see, behind every successful man there is a woman. She will really charm audiences with her performance. She has done a superb job and it was such a pleasure working with her - she's a through and through professional with an immaculate work ethic.
Which is your favourite song in the film?
Akshay Kumar: It would have to be 'Kyun Main Jagu' which is also referred to as Gattu's theme tune. The song conveys the very essence of this film. Listen to the lyrics very carefully - no joke, even months after making this film when I play this song in my car I can't help but get choked up.To be honest I still haven't understood why this song affects me so much, but it does, and I'm not afraid to admit that. Listen for yourselves, see if you feel anything remotely powerful when you take in the words.