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Entertainment – Akshay waives off fees, turns co-producer for his films

Nandini Raghavendra

No, we were neither privy to his flying tackles, gravity-defying breathless stunts or his usually macho akimbo pose. When BoB called on Hindi
cinema’s ultimate action hero, Akshay Kumar was sitting, relaxed, legs stretched out, palms interlocked behind his head, waiting in his van for a call from his director, Nikhil Advani. The van was parked at Mehboob Studio on the sets of his forthcoming movie Patiala House. His neighbours for the day at the studio included Sanjay Leela Bhansali with his closely guarded sets of Guzarish, among others.

The actor was scheduled to shoot a song for Advani’s film, where he is required to dance. “Please wait and see the shoot so that you can see me dance and write that there is nothing wrong with my back — which apparently requires surgery!” says the actor reacting to media reports on the same.

Unlike many of the other Bollywood action heroes, Akshay actually has a martial arts background with his father having encouraged him to begin training at the age of nine. Living in Bangkok, Thailand, at the time, Akshay (Rajiv then) also began to practice martial arts and went on to earn black belts in Taekwondo and Karate, as well as practice Muay Thai. When his movie Chandni Chowk to China(CCTC) required it he trained for Parkour as well.

Fitness is a not just a mantra: it is a way of life for this actor. For instance, the chair he was relaxing on had a simple, soft pillow more for comfort from the sharp plastic than for easing any acute back pain. But then even if he is in pain, he is a producer’s actor, agree Vipul Shah, Advani, Farah Khan and Dhillin Mehta (Ashtavinayak ).

Despite the pain, he will never lets anything come in the way of his professionalism , they vouch for him. In fact, even before Khan’s Tees Maar Khan (TMK) goes on the floor, Farah Khan is sure that her 70-day timeline from March will be adhered to and she will be able to release her film, as planned, around Christmas.

“For Akshay, the thumb rule is simple — 9 am to 9 pm is his producer’s time, so anything else you need has to happen before or after. I have had meetings at six am with him and seen photoshoots happen even earlier, but he will never waste a producer’s time,” says Advani, who is working with him in his second film after CCTC.

Over a career spanning 20 years, Akshay has seen many highs and lows and, in spite of his hit Khiladi series, the peak or jackpot at the box-office came between 2007-08 . Four back-to-back hits: Welcome, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Namaste London and Heyy Babyy. The box-office verdict which followed with Singh Is Kinng was then, only the icing on an already rich cake for Akshay.

All the above films were big-budget and with the kind of money they made, they wove a spell of success for Kumar. The industry hailed him like none other. His turnover reached dizzying numbers , with figures hovering over a Rs 1,000 crore. Combined with these numbers was the advent of the foreign studios and the demand for Akshay sent his price tag to unheard of numbers.

“Well, let’s say my price increased 10-fold but the people paying me were doing so because they were making that kind of money as well,” says Akshay, unwilling to confirm the price tag. He does, however, laugh off the ridiculous reports quoting an asking price of Rs 76 crore. In fact, the actor claims that he has no financial advisor and that he advises himself.

“Come on, after over a 120 films and 20 years, I have learnt that much for sure!” says Akshay amused as we give him an incredulous look. Success and failure have never been more interlinked in any other industry than in cinema and apart from handling his own finances, the two decades in the industry have taught Akshay to take both the highs and lows with equanimity. However, Akshay decided that it was unfair to make his producers walk the line of fire alone. If they catapulted to the top of the box-office heap with his films, he wanted to walk with them when they
scraped the bottom as well.

So, Akshay Kumar decided to change the rules completely. He is waiving off his fees and joining in as co-producer with Hari Om Production for his forthcoming films. Being a coproducer is not new for actor-producers but waiving off talent cost is. “The films were becoming unviable projects because of the burden of the talent cost. So, I removed that burden. Now, the full budget goes only for quality production, ensuring that a big film (with a top actor ) can be made for the budget of a medium-sized film say between Rs 15-25 crore maximum ,” says Akshay.

Among the seven films in pre or post-production stages between 2010 and 2011, Akshay is a partner in four. Each deal has its own permutations and combinations . Yet, the bottomline is that he will share the risk with the producer.
Does the loss of pay pinch? “I was looking at changing the approach of my work and making my films feasible. Film ke upar bhoj nahi aana chahiye. If I took the onus of the success, then I had to take that of the flops as well. And hits and flops matter. Being a producer is not an easy job and I too wanted to share the pain they go through,” says Akshay.

There are no poses, no philosophy, just plain and simple straight from the heart. And then, of course, if the films work, the sky is the limit, he adds. The point, according to Akshay, is that with these budgets, he is practically assuring a safe return on investment and at least a modest profit, if not huge. This is excluding the multiple revenue streams and satellite rights which are coming back in a big way again, he notes, doffing his hat to the success of 3 Idiots which, he says, has done immense good for the entire film industry.

Says Advani, the transparency in the industry with multiplexes coming in and corporates is far greater today. This is the reason why an actor like Akshay can take this decision, as he is by and large assured of getting his due share in the profits . Once again, Akki, as he is fondly called within the industry, works his math differently.
“I would say 60-70 % transparency is there. But the way I see it, even if a small percent of India’s population is watching Hindi films, like 5%, and on an average the producer’s take home is Rs 25 on each ticket, it works out to at least Rs 150 crore. Where are we seeing those kind of collections? Something does not add up somewhere!” asks Akshay, giving us some food for thought.

January 23, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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