You two make for an unusual jodi, especially since both of you come from different schools of acting. So what did you all bond over?
Nimrat: The fact that we come from the same part of the country helped us bond. But what I liked about being on set with Akshay was that he was so spontaneous and always open to trying new things. He doesn’t like to be prepared. He would tell me, “Please don’t tell me what you’re going to do. Just come on the set and do what you think you should do.”
We would play out the toughest of scenes with a very easy approach. I’d go on the sets even on days when I didn’t have to shoot and see how he is going about things.
Airlift deals with a thought-provoking subject of how India rescued Indians stranded in Kuwait during the Kuwait war. How demanding has the film been on you?
Akshay: It’s been a tough film. We had to recreate all that happened in 1990. As references, we had photographs of what actually happened there and tried to get as close to reality as possible.
Plus, last year was heavy for me – from Brothers to Baby and Gabbar Is Back. These films too were quite serious and required a lot from me. Thank God, I had a Housefull 3, which was a stress buster of sorts.
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Do you think the film’s subject is relevant in today’s times?
Akshay: It is a real-life story based on facts. On, Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait and many people – Kuwaitis and Indians – lost their lives. The story is how those 1 lakh 70 thousand Indians who were living there, escaped from Kuwait. I play Ranjit Katyal, a shrewd businessman who tackled the whole problem and succeeded in bringing them back to India. I always insist that this story should be included in text books so that children can learn what India has done for them.
What message does this film give out to those Indians who have settled abroad?
Akshay: There’s a dialogue in the film which goes, “Jab bhi kisi ko chot lagti hai, toh woh sabse pehle Maa Maa hi chillata hai.” This means that no matter where he is, he will seek India first and his motherland will come to his rescue.
There have been many cases where the Indian embassy or the Indian Army has helped Indians who live abroad. It recently happened in Yemen too where 650 people were brought back to India. The message is very clear – you can never imagine what India has done for you.
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We’ve seen some instances of discrimination against Indians abroad. Have you faced any such cases?
Akshay: I have not.
Nimrat: Sometimes, you do notice that there is a difference in their behaviour towards you. But it’s few and far in between...
Can you elaborate on that?
Nimrat: It could also be a matter of perception. You see, people around you talk about discrimination all the time. As a result, sometimes, you end up noticing something that may or may not have been intended that way. So I think it’s a question of perceiving something at that time. I can’t be completely sure of it but sometimes, I think discrimination does happen. My family lives abroad and they tell us incidents. Having said that, I think the world has bigger problems to deal with.
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Nimrat, you’re coming back with a film almost 3 years after your last release The Lunchbox. Is that by choice?
Nimrat: It’s part chance, part choice. Ideally, I would have liked to have a release between The Lunchbox and Airlift. But I was away for half a year for Homeland. Then things panned out in such a way that I could not take up another film. There were 1 or 2 films that I really wanted to do but they didn’t take off at that time. I think whatever happens, is eventually for the better.
Coming back to you, Akshay. During the release of Baby, you had mentioned that you want the PM to watch the movie. What about this one?
Akshay: I’d love it if people who matter to the country watch the movie. I want the whole of India to watch Airlift because it’s a film that talks about how incredible India is.
Your last 2 releases – Brothers (approx 85 crore) and Singh Is Bliing (92.57 crore) fell shy of touching the 100-crore mark. Were you disappointed with their box-office performances?
I was not happy with how Brothers fared at the box-office. I was expecting a much better response to it. I have never invested so much in a film as much as I did in Brothers. I brought Mixed Martial Arts to the fore; it is never given importance in India. But I am glad I tried something new. I’ll keep trying so that one day, mixed martial arts and self-defense become compulsory subjects in school.
Image Source: twitter/akshaykumar
And what about Singh Is Bliing?
Singh Is Bliing was okay.