Exclusive: Working With Akshay Kumar is a Joyride - Neeraj Pandey
Director Neeraj Pandey talks about close friend and collaborator, birthday boy Akshay Kumar!
On Akshay ‘Khiladi’ Kumar’s birthday, his close friend and collaborator Neeraj Pandey, the director of Special 26 (2013) and Baby (2015), talks exclusively to The Quint about what makes Akshay so special.
“At First, Akshay Didn’t Like My Script Much”
Neeraj Pandey: There are two versions of how Akshay and I met. My version is that I had sent the script for Special 26 to him. After a few weeks, I got to know from his office that he didn’t like the material much. Then after sometime, there was a chance meeting at his office. We met through a common friend, and got talking. Of course, I asked him about the script and what exactly he didn’t like in it. To my utter surprise, he told me that he had never received the script. I narrated the story to him in one line, and he was immediately on board. That’s how our collaboration began. But he always maintains that he never received the script. We keep debating about this, and both of us maintain our versions of the story.
“Akshay Was Extremely Sharp on the Take”
Neeraj Pandey: Akshay has a great body of work, and as we all know, he has been around for more than two decades. He’s tried different things. One of the reasons why he is so prolific and successful is because he has constantly been on his toes, taken risks with the moving times, with different filmmakers. I have always maintained that once the script is in place, everyone becomes a slave to the material, literally, be it actors, crew, writer or the director, and that is how it should be, to do full justice to it. And if we just complement whatever is asked of us, it’s more than enough. Filmmaking is not rocket science. After the one liner of Special 26, I left the script behind. I was just off A Wednesday (2008), and it was my second film. The way Akshay surrendered himself to the material, was admirable. While working on the film, I found that he is extremely sharp on the take. He is willing to learn no matter where the lesson is coming from. He is very, very disciplined. This is one of the main things I really like about him. Whether it’s a 9am shift or it’s a 5 am shift, you are not worried because there is no waiting around. For me, he has never been THAT star. He is very grounded, that’s one of the things that make us click. We don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. Our line of work is anyway stressful, why make a big deal about it? It’s a job, and we just have to focus on it.
“We Are Absolutely at Ease When We Talk”
Neeraj Pandey: While working on our second film, Baby, we had a tremendous sense of comfort. Our trust in each other has not been misplaced, so that sort of cements our working relationship. It’s a journey of people who come along to work together, and of course, it is more than that but, I don’t want to put a tag on it. We are not typical social butterflies. We are absolutely at ease when we talk, and we both don’t know how to pretend to be someone else. We don’t have to waste five minutes of pleasantries before getting to the point. That sense of comfort was there, is there, and hopefully, will be there.
“With Akshay, It’s Always Been a Joyride”
Neeraj Pandey: Akshay has shown terrific growth as an actor. Look at the choices he is making now. Both the films we made together were very non-Akshay kind of films, there was hardly any music to support them. Once an actor is convinced about the material, it cuts through, it adds another layer to his performance and it translates on screen. And his conviction has made all our collaborations fruitful. We always have that inherent desire that we want to work with people, whom we ‘get’. It’s a long process, from the script to the film, you don’t want to collaborate with people who carry their own baggage and add hassles. It’s a small life at the end of the day. I would like to believe that the few films I make in my life, I would enjoy making them with people who really understand, and get what all of us are up to collectively. With Akshay, it’s always been a joyride. We are on our third film now.
(The writer is a journalist and a screenwriter who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. Follow him on Twitter: @RanjibMazumder)
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