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On the winning track

Akshay Kumar is a happy man. He reveals to SUBHASH K. JHA that both marital bliss and box office fortunes have kept him so.

Akshay Kumar ... things couldn't be better.

AKSHAY KUMAR doesn't live here any more. After marriage his address has changed from Casanova Street to Fidelity Road. Friends and colleagues are aghast at the change in him. "Pucca home-bird he has become," a co-star cooed appreciatively. As soon as it is "pack-up" on the sets, Akshay rushes home like a man possessed, to his wife Twinkle. On the career-front, things could get any better what with his two films with the Darshan brothers, "Dhadkan" and "Ek Rishtaa: The Bond Love" hitting the right notes at the box-office. In "Ajnabee" Akshay beams like a billion bucks. So what gives?

Ajnabee has taken its own sweet time to get into theatres, hasn't it?

Has it? Yes, actually two years is a long time considering today's movie-making economics. Like all normal healthy babies, I think a film should be ready for release in nine months. I'm trying to work out my schedules accordingly. All my recent films like "Sangharsh", "Jaanwar", and "Ek Rishtaa" were completed within a year.

Why did "Ajnabee" take so long?

Don't look at me. I didn't give it any soutela treatment. "Ajnabee" is a very difficult subject to handle. Because it is a suspense thriller the plot has to be unravelled very carefully. Everything has to be explained at the right time in narration. One wrong moment here or there, and your're gone. Nothing like "Ajnabee" has been tried before in Hindi.

You and Bobby Deol are chums in real life. What was it like working with him for the first time?

(Beams) Oh very, very good. We're close first. We don't socialise much together. But if he's shooting on this side of town he drops in. We play cricket together. I'm dying to see his son. But it so happens that we're never free at the same time. Our friendship helped us look convincing on screen. We had lots of scenes together in "Ajnabee

So the comfort level on the sets increases when you perform with a friend?

There was a lot of give-and-take with Bobby. Without naming anyone there have been colleagues in the past trying to undercut my roles and playing games of oneupmanship.

Speaking of friendly co-stars, a magazine informs us that you nearly came to blows with Sunil Shetty during your recent tours in the U.S.?

(laughs) First we were supposed to be doing business together. Then we nearly came to blows. Will they please make up their mind before making fools of themselves? No such thing ever happened. Do you think I can raise my voice, let alone fists, in public? The truth is, I've signed up to do more shows with Sunil's Popcorn Entertainment. Does that sound like a fight to you?

Kareena Kapoor has often spoken about how wonderful you are as a co-star. How different is Kareena from Karisma?

While Karisma is completely organised and methodical, Kareena is a child of impulse. She goes completely by intuition. In the final take she takes you by surprise by doing things that she never did during rehearsals. I like to rehearse a lot before the final take. So initially I was thrown off my guard. But soon I got used to her style and began to enjoy sharing camera space with her. You have to be on your toes constantly with her. On the sets she's always full of life.

Bipasha Basu is your real co-star in "Ajnabee" ...

Yes, she is. Bipasha falls in the ultra-sophisticated category of Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi.

Were you embarrassed to be linked with her at one time?

No, no, no. Bipasha is my wife's friend as well. I choose to ignore all such loose talk.

What did you think of your mother-in-law Dimple's performance in "Dil Chahta Hai"?

She's a wonderful actress, no doubt about that. I wish she would do more such roles. Our movies need her, more than she needs them.

Dimple says she adores you. How does that make you feel?

Obviously very,very nice. I feel I've been given a new family as my dowry after marriage.

You've proved many wrong by being happily married...

It was never important for me to prove anyone wrong about anything. It would have been stupid of me to marry Tina just to prove everyone wrong. Those who talk like this are being plain ridiculous.

All the rumours and gossip trying to create mischief in our marriage are going to waste. I'm leading my life with Tina very happily. That's all that matters to me. We lead a chilled out life. The best part of our marriage is, we don't get on one another's nerves. She doesn't interfere in my professional life, and I don't interfere in hers. Tina's new job as an interior decorator has taken off in a big way. In fact these days she's busier than I am.

Are you open to her pursuing her acting career?

Of course. When have I stopped her? I'd love to do a film with her. But she doesn't want to do a film with me. Ask her why (laughs). She's too much into her other activities and looking after our home to bother with attending shootings.

What's your next release?

It's Dharmesh Darshan's "Han Maine Bhi Pyar Kiya''. That comes in January. Though it's a love triangle it's nothing like "Dhadkan." Again it's got terrific music by Nadeem-Shravan. I must tell you I enjoyed working with Abhishek thoroughly. I've always said, and I repeat, he's going to be the dark horse of the film industry. Working with him my hunch about Abhishek proved right. We played cricket on the sets and had a great time together.

In Vikram Bhatt's "Awaara Aashiq Deewana", you've once again done some daring stunts, though you had promised to go easy on the derring-do?

More than stunts, these sequences are a display of amazing technique. The people who did the special effects for Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix" are doing them. For the first time in a Hindi film I've done kicks, somersaults etc., with invisible cables. I'm sure our audience would love to see something like this. I just loved doing them. Did I really promise not to do daring stunts? How many times would I get a chance like this?

Are you happy with the work that you're doing these days?

Yeah, I'm very thankful to God. I'm very satisfied with what I'm doing. I am doing Suneel Darshan's new film "Talaash". I've also signed Feroz Nadiadwala's "Kutumbh" to be directed by Mahesh Manjrekar. This would be my third film with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan.

Are you doing Prakash Jha's film?

No way. Meri to baat bhi nahin hui hai unse. I'm certainly not doing his film. He may be thinking of me for a role. But he hasn't got in touch with me.

You recently did a short film on family planning. What prompted you to do it?

When I was asked to do it I said exactly what I felt about it. A child should be brought into the world with both the parents' consent. The man alone shouldn't decide on this matter. Both Tina and I feel this way.

Everyone says you look terrific in "Ajnabee". Is the glow a sign of happiness? No it is the cameraman being kind to my face. Also the Chawanprash that I take every day.

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