Q&A from Mr. Akshay Kumar on Patiala House

Q&A from Mr. Akshay Kumar on Patiala House

How would you describe the plot of the film?  Patiala House is based in Southall London where the Kahlon extended family has lived for four generations. The movie follows my battle to follow my dream of becoming a fast-paced bowler for the England Cricket team, fighting the odds, although the cricket element of the film is incidental, and symbolic of something bigger, representing any dream or ambition one may hold in his or her heart. My character. Gurtej Singh Kahlon, or ‘Gattu’, is the eldest son and runs the family corner store for a living. He is a dutiful son but also adamant about following his dreams.   
You play the role of a British Asian…what have been the challenges of playing such a role? I had to engage in a lot of emotional and cultural preparation for this film which in itself has been a challenge. The film offered me the opportunity as an artist to explore a persona that was deeply guided by a spectrum of conflicting sentiments and emotions. The unique thing about Gattu’s character is that whilst there is a multitude of conflicting messaging, reasoning and questioning surrounding him, his character is quite stoic on the outside and he conceals the emotional turmoil that is inside him.  Let’s not forget that the issue of parents wanting children to following their dreams and parents overlooking the modernization of children’s lives and aspirations exists even in modern India.  
Did you study some British Asians to study their personality, their way of thinking? I was spending time among British Asians and observing them, although I have been exposed to all generations of Asians living abroad at various stages of my life. I made a conscious effort to read into subject-matter of Asians migrating into Britain in the 50s and 60s from India and other parts of the world such as Kenya and Uganda and the issues they experienced – whether racism, unemployment or being termed as social outcasts.  
The film's message is about generation gaps and overcoming the problems within this issue. What are your own thoughts about this matter? My personal take on this is that family pressures and expectations are something that most youth experience and will have to address at various stages of their lives whether it’s about which career one should pursue, who they should marry, or how they should conduct their life in general. It’s a completely global phenomenon and to be honest not one that will disappear so easily. At each stage of one’s life, norms, values and expectations change which impact relationships. The key to overcoming this issue is mutual respect, empathy and understanding. It’s important to address the situation correctly, explain to parents what you believe in a way that is respectful and doesn’t hurt their sentiments and beliefs. It might not always work in one’s favour but that doesn’t mean that you give up on your dreams. There is always a second chance and you have to grab it at the right time and do your best.  
Do you relate strongly with the character of Parghat Singh Kahlon? Yes to a very great extent, I do. In a way I can say that Parghat Singh Kahlon or Gattu, as a character is an amalgamation of me as a person and my struggles in life. Some years ago I went through the same situation, when I had a run of films that didn’t do so well. I thought I was finished. But then I did a film called 'Jaanwar', which I felt was my second chance in the industry. I did not give up but kept fighting and trying, because I knew this is exactly what I wanted and I was not one to quit without a fight. Today, I am glad my persistence paid off and I want everyone to take an example from this and keep going, just keep fighting. Patiala House represents me as a person; very strong-minded, respectful and loving. I wanted to make a success of my life, set myself some goals and worked hard to achieve those things from a young age. I never felt any job was beneath me, but while working in small jobs, I would continue to dream big and actively take steps towards achieving those dreams.  
 
Do you think the film is an accurate portrayal of the culture clash a lot of British Asians face? (British Asians identifying more strongly with Western values than Indian values?) I would like to think so and hope the audience agrees too. You see, Patiala House addresses the issues of cultural clashes uniquely and in a way that hasn’t really been explored in Indian cinema previously. It’s not re-digesting already appreciated films such as Namastey London which was primarily a romantic drama based on the cultural clash between two lovers and given a glossier make-over. Patiala House looks at the cultural clash between various generations of a family which is the plot’s bedrock and does so in a realistic fashion.  Of course if you are born and bred in a western country, one can’t be expected to wear ethnic Indian outfits or speak the mother-tongue at all times, but you dip in and out of culture which we reflect in Patiala House. When you live in a western country, your thoughts are more open as you meet people from different parts of the world, but that might not necessarily be a negative. Just when you begin to waiver from your ideals and pretend to be someone you are not, that is when it begins to go all wrong. But from what I have seen, most of the British Asians are quite grounded in their up-bringing, respectful of their values and traditions and do have a strong attachment towards India, its culture and religious values, while being rooted in UK.    

This isn't the first film you've starred in a film that deals with British Asians. How does Patiala House differ from Namaste London in terms of its message? Namastey London was more of a love story between a British born Asian who is in denial of her Indian roots and a guy who is from India and has a deep-rooted connection to his homeland.  Oh the other hand, Patiala House is more of an inspirational movie. It is about each and every individual who has had times of trial and tribulations but has emerged successfully out of it on the basis of his own will and hard work. It’s about being passionate about your dreams and fulfilling them as and when you get that second chance, if you were not successful the first time around. 
 
Why is the film called Patiala House? To start with, Patiala means ‘Large’. In our case it signifies a fourth generation Sikh household in Southall, London, which comprises of 22 family members. Hence the title, ‘Patiala House’. Our household is run by an autocratic and big headed Gurtej Singh Kahlon, which is played by Rishi Kapoor who also plays my dad in the film. Patiala House is where the gap in thought between the younger and older generation has reached a simmering boiling point and mutiny, rebellion is round the corner.  
 
The film takes place mostly in Southall. Did filming take place there? Did you travel around England at all? If so, what was your favourite place to visit? Yes a major part of the film was shot in the key areas of London such as Southall, Covent Garden and not to forget the Oval and Lords cricket grounds and Nottingham Trent Bridge. Certain parts were shot in India, where we recreated Southall’s infamous Broadway, detail for detail, in a Mumbai film studio. I had a magnificent experience while filming for the cricket portions at the Oval and Lords cricket grounds. Just imagining some of the legendary cricket players that have played on the same field and achieved the pinnacles in their careers on those very pitches was very inspiring for me.  
 
You play the role of a cricketer. Did you undertake any formal training for the film? Yes of course, I had to undergo thorough training with veteran cricketer Balwinder Singh Sandhu. This role was a challenge as I had to train as a fast paced bowler in preparation for all of the cricket portions of the film, but at the same time it was very enjoyable as I got to try my hand at my favorite sport, cricket. He taught me how to play cricket with skill and as a sportsman which is extremely different to playing the game for leisure. I had to perfect my skill to the tee to ensure my bowling skills looked absolutely realistic on screen and that I did justice not only to the sport but to Gattu as well.  
What was it like working with Anushka Sharma? Anushka is a very sweet girl and a hugely talented actress. She fits perfectly into her character as Simran, a girl next door aspiring to be a Bollywood actress. She as a character is very strong; someone who will not give up on her dreams easily and hence goes ahead to pursue them. She is the one who encourages Gattu to chase his dreams, so here again you can see, behind every successful man there is a woman. She will really charm audiences with her performance. She has done a superb job.   
What was it like working alongside the English cricket team? Thrilling and a huge privilege! As far as the cricketers are concerned, I got to work very closely with cricketing veterans and icons from across the globe such as Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Keiron Pollard, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Herschelle Gibbs, Nasser Hussain and David Gower to name a few. I am passionate about cinema and cricket, so it was wonderful to combine both. It was an honor to work and share the pitch with them and they were very supportive – great sportsmen through and through. They taught me a few good bowling tricks which helped me a lot while filming the movie.