Interview Hindi

Success is 70% luck, 30% hard work: Akshay Kumar

While promoting Mission Mangal, Akshay Kumar speaks of how the film happened, his working style, and why he believes only hard work does not guarantee success.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Keyur Seta

In recent years, Akshay Kumar has become the poster boy for 'patriotic' films or films that promote 'nationalistic' feelings. But the actor has achieved this without repeating any subject. This can be seen from his 'patriotic' filmography which consists of films like Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty (2014), Gabbar Is Back (2015), Baby (2015), Rustom (2016), Jolly LLB 2 (2017), Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017), Pad Man (2018), Gold (2018) and Kesari (2019).

His latest, Mission Mangal, is yet another film dealing with a subject of national importance which is very different from the films mentioned earlier. It is based on India’s successful launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). The film also stars Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Nithya Menen, Sonakshi Sinha, Sharman Joshi and Kirti Kulhari.

In a group conversation involving, Akshay Kumar spoke about how Mission Mangal happened, his working style and why he believes success has more to do with luck than with hard work. Excerpts:

What do you feel when you give back-to-back successes considering you have also gone through dull phases?

I have gone through them three times. So I wouldn’t be surprised if I go that way again. I have no idea. So the best way is to just keep on working.

I still remember when I had 14-15 flops, I used to remember the words, ‘Gaya gaya gaya gaya...’ And [later] ‘Arre, aa gaya aa gaya aa gaya...’ So, it happens. It’s part of life. It happens to everybody here. For somebody it happens in their career. For some it happens in their personal lives.

There are times when I see a film of mine and feel this will be a smash hit, but then it doesn’t work. I have reached a stage after 30 years in the industry that although one needs hard work, one needs luck as well. That makes a lot of difference. I don’t know how many people would believe me. But I believe in 70% luck and 30% hard work.

Actors always speak about the ways in which they prepare to get into a particular character. But you have always been someone who relies only on the director.

Everybody has a different way. Just like you have a certain way of working as a journalist. Some other journalist might have a different way. But at the end of the day both of you are journalists. So, this is my method. 

How did Mission Mangal happen? The director had apparently come with a different project.

He had come with a different project. We were working on that also. But then he also narrated this. He just gave me a one-line narration and said his sister is a scientist at ISRO [Indian Space Research Organization]. I told him, "Jagan, why don’t you write something on this?" He came back after 20 days just to give one line of what he had thought of it. I quite liked it and asked him to start working on this. Then he along with [producer-director R] Balkiji wrote it and that’s it. 

What is your take on Hindi cinema finally opening up to female-centric films which seem to be made regularly these days?

We have learnt such mistakes since our childhood. Even in our textbooks, we hardly had chapters where a woman is doing something, except the one Rani Laxmibai chapter. That whole buildup has been like that. We have been trained like that. But things have to change. Now there will be more films where women are taking the lead. A lot of such films are being made. 

Personally, when did you think this change should come?

I thought about it long back. But I didn’t have the money to make films. I was never a producer. But when I became a producer, I started doing films like these. 

Are you hoping for a tax-free status for Mission Mangal?

Let’s see. But the problem is that we get it after the first week. Jahan chahiye hota hai tab toh milta nahin hai [we don’t get it when we need it]. It would benefit in the first week. In the second week the money is small. 

Has there been a conscious effort to tell this story in a commercial manner?

Yes. I haven’t made a documentary film. I have made commercial cinema where there is laughter, fun, emotions and songs. There are 2-3 small songs. Just like when I made Toilet: Ek Prem Katha I added commercialism to it. There was a little fight also. The same is the case here. You have to tell the audience everything you want to say but in a very commercial way. 

Your colleagues from the industry always get surprised to see you do four films a year and about your habit of starting the day early and packing up early.

Why are they getting surprised? There is nothing to be surprised about. It is not rocket science. It is so easy! If your film gets over in 35-40 days, you can do four films a year. It’s the easiest thing. You can get Sundays off. You can take Saturdays half-day. You can go for one month of holiday. After every film you can take seven days off. People ask me why I start work at 5am. Toh bete subah ho gayi toh kaam nahin karoon? Kab karoon?

The problem is that we have forgetten our own childhood. We used to wake up so early to go to school. We have forgotten our habits. Somebody wakes up at 9am, someone at 11am, someone else at 12 noon. Those who are drunk don’t wake up at all! 

Have you been advised not to do certain films?

I have been advised a lot of times not to do this or that. I was even advised not to do Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017) and Pad Man (2018). I have received such advice from big people in the industry, those who were revered. That is not right. It doesn’t matter how much my role is. I want to be part of a great film even if my role is small. In Khakee, I die after the interval. If you feel it is great cinema and you think it can make a difference, just go ahead and do it. 

The last time you worked together with Dalip Tahil was 25 years ago in Suhaag (1994). How was it reuniting with him?

It was nice. I have done so many films with him. We couldn’t work together for 25 years because he went to Hollywood and I remained here. As soon as he came back, we did a film.