‘I CAN NOW STEER THE SHIP WHERE MY HEART LEADS’

Sport, he says, made him what he is to­day. As the face of Kh­elo In­dia and with a unique new film, Ak­shay Ku­mar is here to make a change

HT Cafe - - Front Page - Sonal Kalra sonal.kalra@hin­dus­tan­times.com

With our pop­u­la­tion, one can only imag­ine the amount of hid­den sport­ing tal­ent In­dia has. This ini­tia­tive is the most in­cred­i­ble start­ing point to en­cour­age the youth to be ac­tive, and prove that in In­dia, we have not just in­tel­lec­tual ge­niuses, but also sport­ing cham­pi­ons AK­SHAY KU­MAR AC­TOR

Now the face of a na­tion­wide sports ini­tia­tive, ac­tor Ak­shay Ku­mar feels thrilled and hon­oured. He talks about it, and about his dis­cov­er­ies while film­ing Pad Man, based on men­strual hy­giene, re­leas­ing to­mor­row.

You’ve been made the face of the gov­ern­ment’s Kh­elo In­dia Pro­gramme. How do you see this hon­our and re­spon­si­bil­ity?

It’s gen­uinely one of the proud­est ini­tia­tives I could ever be hon­oured to be the face of! Sport has been my life; it’s the rea­son I am where I am. I owe my ca­reer, my ath­letic abil­ity, and many a proud mo­ment with my fa­ther... all to sport. For me, it’s the great­est form of ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren — it makes them team play­ers; brings cul­tures, com­mu­ni­ties, and coun­tries to­gether; it cre­ates strength, sta­bil­ity, dis­ci­pline and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

With our pop­u­la­tion, one can only imag­ine the amount of hid­den sport­ing tal­ent In­dia has. This ini­tia­tive is the most in­cred­i­ble start­ing point to en­cour­age the youth to be ac­tive, and prove that in In­dia, we have not just in­tel­lec­tual ge­niuses, but also sport­ing cham­pi­ons.

I’m thrilled to pro­mote Kh­elo In­dia from the bot­tom of my en­thu­si­as­tic heart. This is the be­gin­ning of the ex­cite­ment. Ev­ery­one needs to just go out, and play!

Your new film Pad Man’s un­con­ven­tional sub­ject is mak­ing peo­ple ner­vous, do you think?

Ner­vous? No! In­trigued? Yes! There’s noth­ing to be ner­vous about. This is a sub­ject that can and will only help our so­ci­ety. [In the film] there’s no con­tro­ver­sial be­hav­iour. In fact, the Cen­sor Board has loved it and hasn’t cut a sin­gle thing. What more can any­one want from a film with a mes­sage? So I’d say, peo­ple, in­stead of be­ing ner­vous, be en­cour­aged; use this in­trigue to spread the aware­ness we’re work­ing so hard to cre­ate.

This is to bet­ter the lives of your wives, moth­ers and daugh­ters. What’s there to be wor­ried about? Come on peo­ple, be brave, be mad.

At what point did you think that R. Balki would be the per­fect per­son to di­rect the orig­i­nal pad man Mu­ru­ganan­tham’s story?

Even be­fore the mo­ment the film was ap­proved by the real pad man, Mr Arunacha­lam Mu­ru­ganan­tham, him­self.

When he gave us per­mis­sion to take his story and make it into a film, my wife and I knew that Balki sir had to be the ge­nius to take this jour­ney and cre­ate the cine­matic mas­ter­piece that it is to­day. He was made to make this film. He’s from south In­dia him­self, so he has a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the ec­cen­tric­i­ties of the real pad man, ex­plained in his na­tive lan­guage. And, of course, our Balki sir knows how to turn rock into gold.

In all the re­search you and your team did around the lack of men­strual hy­giene, what shocked you the most?

Apart from the com­plete lack of so­cial aware­ness about men­stru­a­tion and the need for hy­giene, it was the silent suf­fer­ing many women en­dure. Some are locked in what one can only de­scribe as a prison. I mean, you’d think women had com­mit­ted a crime, yet it was God that made them this way.

Men­stru­a­tion is a gift to women to pop­u­late the world. How on earth can a woman be made to feel ashamed and filthy be­cause of it? It pains me that so many young girls can’t even at­tend school, for the strug­gle they face at this time of the month, hav­ing lit­tle or no san­i­ta­tion, toi­lets, or pads.

One shouldn’t need to be rich to be given a san­i­tary pad. A woman should not dread her bless­ing to men­stru­ate just be­cause men don’t know how to deal with it. Don’t worry, Pad Man will show every man, if he cares to lis­ten…

This is your wife Twin­kle Khanna’s de­but pro­duc­tion. What was your ad­vice to her as a more ex­pe­ri­enced pro­ducer?

Fol­low your heart. You’ll never be able to do enough, but what­ever you do, do it from your heart, and you can’t go wrong. Don’t let opin­ions, money, time, or fear change your path. Let the bad times roll be­cause the sun only shines af­ter a storm.

Is Pad Man your ca­reer’s tough­est role yet?

Tough­est... phys­i­cally, no, but ca­reer-wise, yes. This is a very sen­si­tive yet brave sub­ject, which needed my ut­most care and at­ten­tion. It was tough in the sense I had to be­come the ‘man’ that women re­ally needed me to be, and I didn’t want to let any­one down.

Be­ing Pad Man takes courage. I not only had to ex­per­i­ment with my­self, but also had to learn the ins and outs of san­i­ta­tion and men­stru­a­tion. I had to grab hold of this project and give it ab­so­lute re­spect de­spite any of my own male fears, un­til I re­alised there was noth­ing to fear but my own in­se­cu­ri­ties.

How do you re­spond to peo­ple who say ‘Ak­shay Ku­mar does only so­cial mes­sage films now’?

They clearly aren’t fol­low­ing my ca­reer! And even if I am, I’m noth­ing but proud of that state­ment. I do what I feel is right, I’m not un­der the same pres­sures as I was once upon a time. I’ve reached a phase in my ca­reer where I can steer the ship in what­ever di­rec­tion my heart leads me. I haven’t left com­mer­cial cinema. I have 2.0 round the cor­ner, fol­lowed by House­full 4. I’d say, in all hon­esty, that my films are still pretty di­verse. Aren’t they?

What’s with the new buzz cut?

Well, I’ve started shoot­ing for my film Ke­sari, where I’m in the heav­i­est tur­ban and beard I’ve ever had to wear. So I shaved my head to make my life a lit­tle eas­ier. I’m known for hat­ing wigs, pros­thet­ics and so on, and Ke­sari is quite de­mand­ing. It’s prob­a­bly my favourite look, though it’s tax­ing to fight and sweat in this avatar. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

PHOTO: HTBS/SARANG GUPTA

>> AK­SHAY GOES ON A ROAD SHOW WITH IN­DIA’S LARGEST WOMEN­ONLY BIKER GROUP>>P3

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