COMEBACK KHANNA

India Today - - LEISURE -

In Sec­tion 375, Ak­shaye Khanna will be seen de­fend­ing an al­leged rapist. In­sist­ing there is more to the world than good and bad, the ac­tor asks us to look at life in to­tal­ity.

Q: You were on a hia­tus from 201216. Was it be­cause of a lack of good roles or was it a self-im­posed break? It was a com­bi­na­tion of a few per­sonal is­sues, and not getting the work I re­ally wanted, some­thing I have grap­pled with a lot in my ca­reer. Be­fore Dil Chahta Hai, I had a spell too. Hope­fully it’s the last hia­tus.

You re­turned in 2017 with two thrillers—Mom and It­te­faq—in which you played a po­lice of­fi­cer...

Com­ing back to work af­ter such a long pe­riod, I wanted to ap­proach it as start­ing from scratch. They were smaller parts in terms of length, but not in qual­ity. It was a de­lib­er­ate choice to start with ef­fec­tive roles, which I knew would get me no­ticed, but the larger re­spon­si­bil­ity was not mine. Af­ter The Ac­ci­den­tal Prime Min­is­ter and Sec­tion 375, I’m in a very good space.

The Ac­ci­den­tal Prime Min­is­ter didn’t

fare well at the box of­fice…

I was proud that it was the first-of-it­skind po­lit­i­cal film to be made in Hindi cinema. You may or may not have liked it, or been in­dif­fer­ent to it, but it was an hon­est film for me. It was per­ceived to be pro­pa­ganda be­cause of the tim­ing of the re­lease and of the tal­ent at­tached to the film, who were per­ceived to be a part of a po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy. It was ab­so­lutely not. The fac­tors went against the film.

In Sec­tion 375, you play a lawyer who is de­fend­ing an al­leged rapist. How chal­leng­ing was it to play a man who can be la­belled a vil­lain?

One should not ap­proach a char­ac­ter on how peo­ple are go­ing to think about it. Moral­ity is very sub­jec­tive. Whether it is Aj­mal Kasab or the rapists of Nirb­haya, they all were legally rep­re­sented. There’s never only good and bad in the world. Life has to ex­ist in to­tal­ity.

How es­sen­tial is the film in the wake of the #MeToo move­ment in In­dia?

It is a slightly lesser talked about as­pect of the de­bate on rape in In­dia, which is mis­us­ing the law in a way it was never intended to. The fact of the mat­ter is, peo­ple are con­stantly find­ing ways to go around sev­eral laws. We are talk­ing about just one. ■

—with Suhani Singh

AK­SHAYE KHANNA wanted to emerge from his hia­tus with smaller, yet sig­nif­i­cant, roles that would get him no­ticed

Ak­shaye Khanna with co-star Richa Chadha in a still from Sec­tion 375

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