Shankar is James Cameron on steroids: Akshay Kumar
The Bollywood opens about working with Rajinikanth and Shankar on the 'biggest budgeted Indian film ever'
Akshay Kumar describes working with megastar Rajinikanth in Shankar’s 2.0 as a humbling experience. Akshay plays the role of Pakshirajan in 2.0, an ornithologist who wages war against the ill-effects of modern technology. The film — produced at an unprecedented budget of Rs 510 crore and hailed as the biggest Indian film ever — marks the Tamil debut of Akshay, who had done the 1993 Kannada film, Vishnu Vijaya. “Technically, South film industries are way more advanced than Bollywood,” he says, urging his fans to watch 2.0 on 3D-enabled screens to maximise immersion in Shankar’s grandest effort yet.
What prompted you to do 2.0?
I had never heard anything like the screenplay of 2.0. I've done many social films but this one has an overarching international message. I was surprised that no one had thought of it before. I was thrilled that our director, Shankar, came up with such a brilliant idea. Additionally, I was getting an opportunity to work with ‘the’ Rajinikanth. I was also told 2.0 will be the biggest budgeted Indian film ever (510 crores), so I really wanted to a part of it.
What about the idea convinced you?
Shankar narrated the whole script to me over two-and-a-half hours. I knew every character and plot-point. There's a very powerful line in the film that says, ‘The world is not only for humans.’ It speaks on behalf of all animals and birds who are telling us, ‘Listen, the earth doesn't only belong to you. We are also a part of it. Just because we can't speak, don't take advantage of us. Don't mess with nature.’
The prosthetics must have been a big challenge?
Yes, it was extremely hard. I had to sit patiently for three-and-a-half hours while three people worked on my prosthetics. Once the shoot was over, I would sit again for an hour and a half, as they removed everything from my body, piece by piece. I would go to sleep at night knowing it would start all over again next morning. The prosthetics covered all pores of my body, making my sweat collect underneath the makeup. When I would remove everything after working for 5-6 hours, my whole body would stink of sweat. Also, I was on a liquid diet. Only milk and juices were allowed.
Rajinikanth called 2.0 an Akshay Kumar film…
He is just being humble. The film is called 2.0 and that's his character. This is very much his film. I'm just the Amrish Puri of this film (laughs). It was great fun working with Rajini sir. We would speak Marathi on the sets. He is a great man and it was amazing to see how he would take the simplest of lines and turn it into an epic dialogue. He puts entertainment into every line he delivers. He is also very professional and upfront. He doesn't care about his appearance or his look. He is what he is, which speaks volumes about any great man.
The visual effects and technology used in 2.0 seems unprecedented for Indian cinema…
2.0 is the most technically advanced film India has ever produced. It's an original 3D film that's designed specifically for the 3D experience, not one that's been converted into 3D. I advise everyone to catch it on 3D-enabled screens. Shankar is a unique inventor. He is James Cameron on steroids. Everything is larger-than-life for him. 2.0 is an attempt to provide an experience similar to watching a Transformers on the big screen. We can't compete with Hollywood because their budgets are 17 times higher than ours. But I’m sure even they couldn't have made this film in our budget. All this technical excellence serves to advance the film.
What, according to you, sets the South industry apart?
Tamil and the other South industries are technically more advanced than Bollywood. They are also extremely professional. A 7.30 am call-time for them means 7.30 am. In Bollywood, if they say 7.30 am, it means, “Do try to come by 9-9.30 am.” We have a lot to learn from the South. I sometimes feel a newcomer should do five films in Tamil before coming to Bollywood. Filmmakers there take about 35-40 shots in a day, whereas we only take 12-13. They are super fast and they don't take others for granted. They value people's time.
No male Hindi superstar has ever attempted a project like this. 2.0 seems to have bridged the Hindi and South film industries…
It's an experiment, yes. The success of Baahubali has proved what a crossover film can do. 2.0 is different because you have a Tamil film actor and a Hindi film actor coming together on a big scale, although I feel we shouldn't make such divides. At the end of the day, 2.0 is a very beautiful Indian film.