Right now, I’m in full Gandhi mode: Akshaye Khanna
Critics are going ga ga over Akshaye Khanna’s performance in “Gandhi My Father” as Mahatma Gandhi’s little known son Harilal and he too is quite pleased with the outcome. But the actor denies taking help from his personal experiences to essay the role.
“I’ve never used my personal life to play any character. I read about actors digging into their experiences. I don’t carry my roles home. Yes, scenes in ‘Gandhi’ have eaten into my soul,” Akshaye told IANS in an interview.
Like many, Akshaye was not aware of Harilal’s existence and says this lack of knowledge made it easier for him to get under the skin of the character.
“Before I read the script, I didn’t even know he existed! Of course, I was aware Gandhiji had a family. But I knew nothing about Harilal. So it was relatively easy for me to play him. I didn’t have to copy someone people knew about.”
Critically acclaimed “Gandhi My Father” is Akshaye’s third release” of the year. The earlier two films “Salaam-e-Ishq” and “Naqaab” didn’t work and the actor says he was hugely disappointed.
Q: “Gandhi My Father” was made under an oath of secrecy among the cast and crew?
A: It wasn’t secrecy, just a low profile until we were ready to release. A film like “Gandhi My Father” isn’t easy to make. And we haven’t made a small art film – it is a big commercial film. It’s important to plan a film’s promotion properly, specially when it comes to Mahatma Gandhi, who’s so much part of our lives even today. Now when we’re finally allowed to talk, we feel we’ve been let out of jail.
Q: You play Gandhi’s son Harilal. Not much is known about him.
A: Before I read the script, I didn’t even know he existed! Of course, I was aware Gandhiji had a family. But I knew nothing about Harilal. A very minuscule number of people know about him. So it was relatively easy for me to play Harilal. I didn’t have to copy someone people knew about.
Q: So how did you get a grip on the character?
A: I asked my director Feroz Abbas Khan how to play him. He gave me Harilal’s biography by Chandulal Dalal. For me the research was in capturing the spirit of the man. Then I read letters that Harilal had exchanged with Bapu and Kasturba. That was pretty much it.
Q: Do you see Gandhi’s son as a dark character?
A: Not dark at all. I see him as the most courageous character I’ve ever played. For any person, even the son, to stand up to Gandhi required a tremendous amount of courage. The entire British Empire couldn’t stand up to Gandhiji. Harilal could!
Q: Did you delve into your own relationship with your father to play Gandhiji’s son?
A: Let me say one thing … I’ve never used my personal life experience to play any character. I read about actors digging into their experiences. To date I’ve never done that. I look for the emotions in the moment, and then I let it go. I don’t carry my roles home. Yes, scenes in “Gandhi” have eaten into my soul.
A: Darshan Jariwala, Shefali Shah and Bhoomika Chawla were extremely relevant to my performance. Let me tell you Darshan had a thankless task. It’s terrifying to play Gandhi, especially after Ben Kingsley. I wouldn’t have been able to do it. In spite of the enormity of his burden, Darshan has carried Gandhi off with ease.
Q: And Shefali as Kasturba?
A: Please do not take my words lightly when I say hers is the single greatest performance given by an Indian actress. I can write this in blood.
Q: Have you told her this?
A: Yes I have. She’s one of those rare actors with an inborn talent. Highly underused and underrated. She just needed to be given the right opportunity. I can’t put words to her performance.
Q: How do you rate your own performance?
A: Yes, this is one film where I’m immensely satisfied with my work. I feel happy about my work. Not that I’ve ever left any stone unturned. But there’s a quality to the film that benefited my performance. Every actor has excelled.
Q: Feroz Abbas Khan as a director?
A: He’s such an intellectual. In one sentence I’d say he’s aesthetically intellectual. Anil Kapoor said he had yet to meet a director as deep as Feroz. He has immense integrity and honesty.
This is his screen debut but it looks like he has done 20 films before. Coming from theatre and being an actor himself, Feroz has a tremendous sense of performance. It’d extremely interesting to see where Feroz goes after “Gandhi”.
Q: You did two comedies “Shaadi Se Pehle” and “Salaam-e-Ishq”. Now you’ve done a very dramatic role in “Gandhi”.
A: I don’t want to suffocate myself by playing the slotting game. I see myself as an actor who does his job. And look at the variety of roles this year – “Salaam-e-Ishq”, “Naqaab” and now “Gandhi My Father”. The very fact that I’m offered such a variety proves writers-directors have faith in me.
Q: Were you disappointed when “Salaam-e-Ishq” and “Naqaab” didn’t work?
A: Hugely. I feel there was a lot of negative attitude towards “Salaam-e-Ishq”. It was virtually targeted. But I feel “Salaam-e-Ishq” pushed the envelope. I adored the script and the film and I can work with Nikhil Advani any time of the day.
Right now, I’m in full Gandhi mode. I’m in the best place I’ve ever been.