The celebrations around Diwali — the Indian festival of lights — might be muted this year due to the pandemic, but Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar is determined to spread cheer with his new horror comedy ‘Laxmii’, out in UAE cinemas on November 9.
After a brief lull in new Hindi releases in cinemas here, Kumar will light up the big screen with ‘Laxmii’, a comedy in which he plays a transgender ghost. Directed by Raghava Lawrence, the film also stars Kiara Advani and is the remake of Tamil hit ‘Kanchana’.
Earlier this year, Kumar was in Dubai for a three-day shoot for the song ‘Burj Khalifa’ along with Advani.
“I love shooting in Dubai … I have seen Dubai’s tremendous growth over the years and it’s amazing to see these fantastic changes in this city,” said Kumar as he gave this journalist a tour of his Dubai sets.
Excerpts from our email interview with Kumar on his Diwali plans and his resolves for 2021 …
Tell us about ‘Laxmii’ and what drew you to that project?
The script of 'Laxmii' is what drew me to the film. It’s a horror comedy — one of my favourite genres — but it isn’t explored a lot in our industry and so I was inclined towards making this film. Plus, my character had so many dimensions and it was too good a challenge as an actor to not take it up.
What do you want the audience to take away from your new film?
As you must have seen in the trailer and promos release so far, my character gets possessed by the ghost of a transgender [woman]. But to know how and why, you will have to watch my movie. I love picking films which are entertaining and have a message. Besides my powerful character and the script, what also drew me to ‘Laxmii’ was the chance to hopefully help bring more acceptability towards this community — something which we’ve tried to handle very sensitively in this film and bring to light. So, I hope the message we are trying to convey reaches the audience and makes a difference. Hopefully, they’ll have more understanding about gender equality after watching my film.
How difficult is it to play a transgender personality in a sari and will this film break stereotypes around them?
Wearing a sari didn’t come naturally to me … So, in this regard, I blindly followed my director Lawrence who taught me how to act, react, dance, fight … everything you see me do is courtesy him in this film. And to do all of it in a sari was not easy at all. My respect for women who wear sari everyday increased ten-fold...I mean these women run to catch trains and buses, do their housework, office work and what not, but manage it all so gracefully. Initially I was extremely clumsy, but I had the stylist on set to help fix the sari for me. Seriously hats off to the ladies who manage it so well.
Tell us about your experience of filming in Dubai for ‘Burj Khalifa’.
We shot that song in Dubai just a month or so before the pandemic, so life was good and normal then. As you can see in the song, we’re having a lot of fun. The choreography is different and the song beautifully showcases the city and the iconic Burj Khalifa. As always, the entire experience was warm and well taken care of.
What is the way forward for Bollywood following this harsh 2020? What did you learn during the pandemic and do you fear your career being altered?
After being in a lockdown for all these months, the industry is back in action and is now in full swing. Most of my colleagues have resumed shooting. So, I think the way forward is work and more work. The show must go on, whether the fate of it lies in the theatres or in OTTs. In these past few months of the pandemic, I have truly learnt about gratitude. There are so many things we take for granted — simple things like meeting our friends and family, going to work, restaurants, theatres, gyms or about going on holidays. This pandemic has brought about a complete change in perspective. Now I am more grateful than ever to be back on set doing what I love.
Diwali is around the corner. What are your plans?
As soon as I finish with all my commitments towards ‘Laxmii’, I will be flying to London to be with my wife and kids in time for Diwali. So, it will be some relaxed family time filled with playing cards and gorging on lots of food and sweets.
My message to my fans is to stay safe, and I hope they have a Happy Diwali and if possible do help make someone else’s Diwali happy as well, in whatever way you can — be it of your house help or your vegetable vendor. That’s truly the best way to celebrate, by ensuring everyone around you is also happy.
What’s your resolution for the upcoming new year?
My resolution is simple: try every year to do better than the previous year. Given a change, I would like to keep our tradition of celebrating my wife’s birthday — which falls just before New Year’s revelry — in South Africa. It’s something we’ve been doing for a few years now and I hope we’d be able to do it this year as well.
Did you know?
Gulf News was invited to the sets of ‘Burj Khalifa’ song that was shot at the Al Qudra desert in January earlier this year. Kumar was on the final day of his three-day song shoot in the UAE and told us that filming at the Burj Khalifa filled him with a sense of deja vu.
“I was filming in the exact spot in 1999 for my comedy ‘Hera Pheri’. At that time, there was sand all around me in that spot. Now imagine, I am back at the same location filming against the world’s tallest building. It is mind-boggling. I have seen Dubai’s tremendous growth over the years and it’s amazing to see these fantastic changes in this city,” said Kumar in an interview with Gulf News in January 2020. At that point, no photography was allowed in the closely-guarded sets. There was an 80-member crew stationed at the filming location to ensure smooth flow of the production and Kiara Advani was also spotted wearing a sparkling gold outfit.
Don’t miss it!
‘Laxmii’ releases in UAE cinemas on November 9.