He got his first break, Isi Life Mein (2010), from the same banner – Rajshri Productions that launched Salman Khan in Maine Pyar Kiya more than two decades ago. After pursuing theatre for five years in the USA, he moved to New York for plays and studied there. His real struggle began after he came back to India to pursue his dream – Bollywood and eventually managed to bag the lead role in Rajshris’ Isi Life Mein alongside another debutant Sandeepa Dhar. Now, after four years, Akshay returns to mainstream, commercial cinema with his upcoming thriller, Pizza 3D, a Tamil remake and is pinning all hopes on the movie that is likely to boost his career. Over to Akshay…
So whom would you love to have a Pizza with?
(Laughs) Nobody likes to have Pizza alone. I would like to have Pizzas with as many people as possible. I don’t think anybody right now is interested in my personal life. There’s nothing to hide. I have something in my life.
You’re coming back to mainstream cinema after quite some time. How did Pizza make the grade for you?
Yes, I’m coming back after a while but frankly, newcomers don’t get the required support from the industry and an actor like me find it difficult to get good work. I’m glad to be launched by a production house like Rajshris but I had to struggle a lot. I saw Shaitan that released three months after Isi Life Mein and was very impressed with the film’s director. I realised this is the kind of cinema I should be doing. I called and SMSed Bejoy several time. He didn’t reply. Later, somehow we managed to talk and I auditioned for a TV show just to prove to him that I have it in me. Luckily, after we did the TV show, he offered me Pizza.
Considering you don’t have a godfather in the industry, what difficulties you faced?
It’s very difficult to convince people for a meeting because everybody would keep saying me same thing – tere pe paise kyun lagaye. It was very difficult to reach here. If Pizza doesn’t work then I’ll have to start from zero. I think if you come from a film family, its slightly easier as people at least know you.
Were you expecting more from Salman Khan, who promoted Isi Life Mein and did you approach him for work or to support you?
No, I think I got more from him than expected. Rajshris’ doesn’t believe in promoting and marketing their films, so Salman came forward to give us a helping hand. He invited us on Dus Ka Dum show and tweeted about us. There’s no need for him to do such things for me.
Your journey is similar to that of Abhay Deol who started with a rom-com, Socha Na Tha and later ventured into doing unconventional subjects…
Correct. Abhay also started with Socha Na Tha and Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local came after that and Dev D and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye later which were unconventional films. It’s an unconventional choice but I don’t think that actually takes me out of the mainstream circuit. I realised after my first movie that if you don’t have Yashraj Films or a Dharma Productions support, you have to do interesting work and prove yourself as an actor. My focus was to sign a film not like Isi Life Mein and not what other actors are doing currently. It was very conscious that I do something different.
Talking about your credentials as an actor, what do you think are pre-requisites for debutants to bag YRF or a Dharma Productions film?
If you know them you can meet them directly or else you have to go through casting directors. Their selections are also very different. When I told my father about becoming an actor, he told me to study it and not to mess around with it. He told me to understand it as a craft and work on it relentlessly. He told me, ‘If you think you’re not ready to put those kind of hard work then don’t do it.’
Considering you had to struggle a lot, were you disillusioned?
I guess everybody who gets to struggle a lot gets disillusioned. It’s how you digest that disillusionment. Either you get frustrated, get angry and leave and go to something else or you can stick around and bitch out about everybody or you can say I’ll fight it out.
What attracted you about Pizza?
It’s a very different story. If you have seen the original Tamil movie, you would know it. As I said this movie will put me on to a different bracket and it would help me get noticed. It’s quite interesting when you see a conventional looking hero doing something off beat.
So, horror as a genre appeals to you as a viewer?
Not really and not that I watch horror films, but I saw Pizza (original movie) and I loved it. I felt it’s a crazy story. People who don’t like watching horror films will also like it because it’s an entertaining thriller with horror elements.
You like downplaying the fact that Vivek Oberoi is your cousin?
I haven’t been very close to Vivek but I have watched his work quite closely. We are not much in touch as a family but again I hope he would watch Pizza and give me his feedback on my performance. He’s one of the best actors we have today.
What’s one role you would like to do?
I want to play the anti-hero, similar to Riteish Deshmukh’s act in Ek Villain. That’s the coolest thing to do. Who wants to play a good boy?
There are interesting concepts and interesting stories but a lot depends on Pizza.