Bollywood heavyweight Shah Rukh Khan rocked the '70s-look to a t in his blockbuster Om Shanti Om, but this weekend, expect actor Akshay Kumar to knock him off his retro throne with the comedy Action Replayy.
Big sunglasses, shockingly long side-burns, psychedelic shirts and huge bell-bottoms: Kumar seems to have nailed the yesteryear hero look in this flamboyant Diwali release. Alongside him is Bollywood royalty Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who plays glam-goddess, Mala, to perfection with bouffant hair, big hoops and polka-dotted saris.
In pictures: See Ash's top five moments
Ahead of their arrival in Dubai tonight for the world premiere of the film, tabloid! caught up with Kumar over e-mail to find out about playing the classic Bollywood stud, his favourite '70s icons and romancing Rai Bachchan, among others. Calling Action Replayy "a one-stop guide to getting and staying married happily ever after", Kumar is in a tell-all mode.
Action Replayy is billed as the ultimate comedy caper this festive season. Do you ever fear that your comic timing may not evoke laughs?
I am glad you called it a comedy because the title is confusing. Many just assume Action Replayy is an action thriller. This film is a mix of comedy and romance — two of my favourite genres in film. Everybody knows how much I love comedy and I hope movie-goers don't get bored of it. After all, it's extremely challenging to carry off a comic role successfully and evoke laughter. If your dialogue delivery fails, it's a rather uncomfortable sensation. But with every project, all my efforts go into bringing a smile to people's faces.
You play a meek-husband-turned-stud who goes back in time. How tough was it to pull off the transformation?
It was tough, especially the make-up part. You can't imagine how many hours I spent with the make-up artists sitting in the van to make my character look as authentic as possible. But it was worth the effort because it helped me to transform mentally and physically. With my make-up in place, I transformed from Akshay Kumar the actor to a greasy long-haired, half-blind weakling husband, and then to a bouncy-haired handsome '70s stud. It was so interesting to display such versatility in one film, one character.
Your song Zor Ka Jhatka is becoming a club anthem in Dubai. Did you expect it to be such a phenomenon?
This song has got all the ingredients to become one of those popular numbers that people love to play at weddings and festive occasions. It's just brilliant. I love the beat and the choreography has one of my favourite dance moves, which I hope will become a trendsetter: hips thrust forward with simultaneous high-fives. The music from this film makes you come alive. It features everything — an eclectic mix of disco, retro, romance and party numbers. It's a perfect mix, so get ready to dance the night away!
Your long hair, retro wardrobe, the huge sunnies — there's no denying the magic of the '70s. Who do you consider the biggest icons from that era?
My biggest icon from that era was Rajesh Khanna — a legendary actor. While I was a kid, I remember being so fascinated by him and his moves. I remember copying his famous wink and wooing women like him — till I fell in love with his daughter (Twinkle Khanna). I still can't believe he is now my father-in-law. Time and destiny have created some incredible life experiences for me.
Did you speak to yesteryear actors or do any kind of homework for your role?
Nothing beats first-hand experience and I drew on that heavily. My primary homework was to reflect back to my life and my vivid memories of the '70s. This period in Bollywood was marked by some fantastic cinema. It was the age of disco and divas, colour and charisma, flamboyance and funk. We have managed to incorporate a bit of all of this in Action Replayy. Plus, it was also the age of innocence. Remember the magic of the classic romantic films with all those unforgettable love songs, lovers who were scared to hold hands on the streets, the platforms we couldn't walk properly in, the bell-bottoms. And oh, I adore and love a good '70s fight scene. It was all so legendary.
What did you learn about Aishwarya Rai Bachchan during the course of shooting for Action Replayy?
It's been long since Ash and I have worked together, yet it was so easy. Everyone knows how incredibly beautiful she is, but what amazes me is that every single shot she gives is like a million-dollar shot. Her expressions, her timing, her grace is all so mesmerising. But the moment the camera switches off, she just sits down with all of us and tells stories in the most unassuming manner. It was during one of these chats that she reminded me of a huge accident that happened to her on the sets of Khakee.
In 2003, during the making of that film she was trapped under a vehicle between a cactus and a car that had rolled over her, crushing her leg. Apparently, she was petrified but the moment she saw me she became calm because she knew I was the only person who could remove her safely from the wreck and rush her to the hospital. I have immense respect for her on and off the screen and knowing that the feeling is mutual helped us create a great working atmosphere.
Can you share an interesting anecdote while filming Action Replayy?
I love to torture my directors. For instance, when I was [shooting a parasailing scene] in Manali, the boys and me had this zany idea of going parasailing from the mountain [our shooting spot] all the way back to the hotel in the fog. We knew it was dangerous but we just floated the ideas to see director Vipul's [Shah] face. You should have seen his face — the colour had drained and I remember him marching up to the parasailing troops and warning him that he would cut holes [in their parachutes] if they let any of the actors go anywhere near the edge of the mountain. Frankly, I don't know whether he actually feared for our lives or was just worried that his movie wouldn't be completed on time.
You have survived for more than a decade in the entertainment industry. How would you characterise your journey?
My career has undergone many transitions — there were times when things were bad and even ugly. But when you love what you do, it's easier not to bow down to the pressure. But look at it this way, we wouldn't appreciate the highs if we never felt the lows. Agreed, some of my performances were extremely questionable but it wasn't because of lack of effort. I never stopped learning. The turning point in my life would be the success of my Khiladi films. They are what made me love cinema and led to great things for me.
Ash you like it
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is on a roll this year. Close on the heels of Raavan and Enthiran, she will be back on the big screen with Action Replayy tomorrow. When tabloid! caught up with her over the telephone in September, we couldn't help but ask her about this comedy. "Action Replayy is a fun film. My stand has always been not to attach myself to a certain image alone. I want to work with all kinds of directors. And remember, with an Action Replayy, I also have a Guzaarish [Sanjay Leela Bhansali's intense drama where she plays a nurse]."
Don't Miss it
Action Replayy is released in cinemas across the UAE tomorrow. Catch the making of the film on Star Plus on November 7 at 10.30pm.