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From 'aam' baat to fashion and cold cures, Akshay Kumar interviews PM Narendra Modi 'apolitically'


The actor did a live interview with Modi earlier today, while keeping away from the politics during the most important moment in the democracy — elections. 

Shriram Iyengar

The synergy being forged between the film industry and politics seems to grow with every passing day. The latest is the live interview of prime minister Narendra Modi conducted by actor Akshay Kumar. The interview was aired early on Wednesday morning.

Seeing how the interview takes place during one of the most important moments of India's democracy, the Lok Sabha elections, the actor stayed away from any political talk, sticking to general issues. These included questions like if the prime minister likes mangoes, his anger management skills, his cure for common cold and his impeccable fashion sense.

There has been a buzz in the prelude to the interview, since Akshay tweeted out a cryptic message which was interpreted by many as his entry into politics. However, the actor soon took to Twitter to suggest that he was announcing a very different experiment.

From the onset, the Kesari (2019) actor made it clear that the chat will focus more on the life of the prime minister rather than his politics. Even so, the first question about whether the prime minister likes mangoes felt a little strange, particularly to a prime minister who has not held a press conference in the last five years. Answering Akshay's curiosity, Modi said, "I like eating mangoes and love mangoes. In my childhood, I would often pluck them from the trees, rather than choose the ones in a basket. I liked it natural that way. But nowadays, I have to think twice before eating a mango."

The following questions soon delved into the prime minister's life, and how he deals with his anger. The actor even offered a tip about venting his anger on a boxing bag to the prime minister, however, Modi opted for a different method. While admitting that he often held back on expressing his anger since it took away the attention from important issues, he said, "If something which I don't like has happened, I would sit alone and write everything on a paper. I would write what I did and why I did that. Then I would tear that paper and throw it away. I wouldn't even read it again. Then I would write it again. This is how the anger inside me would burn out."

Another important question raised by the actor dealt with the prime minister living away from his family. The aspect is particularly in question since only yesterday, Modi visited his mother under the glare of the media in Ahmedabad as he cast his vote.

Speaking on the topic, the prime minister said, "If I would have left home after becoming the PM, then probably I would have missed my mother. But I left home at an early age. There is always a sense of detachment. Even today when I call my mother, she would tell me why am I wasting my time on her. And even I am so busy that I don't get time for her."

The actor even managed to get a few laughs out of the prime minister by narrating his version of Gujarati jokes. Speaking of a sense of humour, Modi said, "I am sometimes afraid that my jokes will not be taken in the right spirit. People often turn things one way or another on social media and for TRPs."

In an election that has seen the industry divided down the line, Akshay focussed his questions on a neutral scale. The prime minister, too, shed some light on the cordial relationships politicians share behind the camera. Admitting of the ocassion where he shared a joke with Congress party member, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Modi went on to add, "The prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, often sends me a couple of sweets every year. This might affect me in election season, but even Mamata didi [Banerjee] sends me a gift of kurta every year. It is a misconception that we don't get along off camera."

The funnier moment though was when the actor questioned if the prime minister had any post-retirement plans. "That is a problem for me," Modi said, "because I don't know anything. I have always taken on the responsibility that came my way and put all my time into it. I will find it very hard to find something to pass my time along by myself."

Having always been a fitness conscious actor, Akshay even delved into the short sleep regime of the prime minister. On being asked about his three-hour short sleep duration, Modi said, "A lot of people ask me the same thing. Even president Barack Obama, when he came asked me, 'Why do you do this?'. We are on good terms so we talk in terms of 'tu-taad'. He asks me every time we meet if I have taken his advice, 'Did you change your sleep pattern or not?'"

The fact that he was speaking with a man in charge of the world's largest democracy going through an election did not dissuade the 'khiladi' from asking if the prime minister gets a cold, and what he does to keep away from it. This led the prime minister into a discussion about the benefits of Ayurveda, one he advocates. "Since I grew up in a poor household, I never knew what a doctor was or what expensive medicines were, but I believe in Ayurveda. I only drink water, and sometimes fast till the cold goes away," he added, "Or I add a drop of sarson [mustard] oil into my nose. It burns, but it cures the cold."

The actor followed a similar line of questioning with a foray into the prime minister's fashion statement, asking him, "This simplistic sense of style...have you developed it yourself, or were you told by others?" Particularly pleased by the question, the prime minister explained that perhaps it was his insecurity that forged his 'fashion sense'. He said, "I have always been conscious of appearing proper in front of others. Perhaps it was because I come from a poor background, and had a slight complex because of it."

The prime minister turned the table on a visibly uncomfortable Akshay when it came to his question on social media. Saying that he does follow social media, Modi said, "Particularly yours and Twinkle Khanna ji's [Akshay's actress-author wife]. It teaches me a lot of things about the outer world. Sometimes I wonder if your family life is peaceful because she takes out all her anger on me on social media. But I am happy to do that."

The interview, aired across several channels, was also aired on the social media pages of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With the Election Commission acting on a ban on the biopic on the prime minister, and a web-series, it seems Akshay has stepped in to bring the star power from the industry.