Interview with Bollywood Superstar Akshay Kumar regarding Patiala House
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Was this role challenging?
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 dilemmas internally, his character is outwardly quite stoic and he conceals the emotional turmoil that is going on inside him.
4. 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.
5. Are you a cricket buff in real life?
Oh yes! I love both, playing and spectating. I would play cricket in the bylanes of Delhi where I grew up as a kid. I always looked up to cricket personalities like Vivian Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan and always enjoyed their on-pitch performances. With Patiala House I got to work very closely with cricketing veterans and icons such as Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Keiron Pollard, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Herschelle Gibbs, Nasser Hussain and David Gower to name a few. Whenever I am at home, my son Aarav and I have this schedule to play cricket together as Aarav is also extremely fond of cricket but only to play, watching it is still boring for him but he's only 8.
6. Tell us about your preparation for the cricket scenes.
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.
7. How was the experience 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 and it was such a pleasure working with her – she’s a through and through professional with an immaculate work ethic.
8. How was it working with Rishi Kapoor for the film?
It was an absolute delight to work with such an icon of the Indian film industry, who is so very humble and a wonderful human being. I have literally grown up watching his films and having the opportunity to work with him again was a total honor. He is such a great actor and inspiration and sharing the same screen space with him once again, as his on-screen son, was sheer joy.
9. 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.
10. What do you think is the best thing about Patiala House?
As the reference Patiala suggests, the film is extremely big-hearted. There are so many wonderful attributes to this film that I would certainly be doing a severe injustice by mentioning just one quality to this film. It’s been a labor of love for every person that had the honor and privilege of being involved in this film, in whatever capacity. I have faith that the collective love, hard work, dedication and vision of the entire unit will steal audiences’ hearts and that this film will stay with people for years to come.
11. Which is your favorite song in the film?
It would have to be ‘Kyun Main Jagu’ which is also referred to as Gattu’s theme tune. The song conveys the very essence of this film. Listen to the lyrics very carefully, no joke even months after making this film when I play this song in my car I can’t help but get choked up, to be honest I still haven't understood why this song affects me so much, but it does, and I'm not afraid to admit that, listen for yourselves, see if you feel anything remotely powerful when you take in the words…