Raghuvendra Singh visits the set of Shaukeen to discover how Akshay Kumar throws colour in a sultry day
PRODUCER- Murad Khetani and Ashwin Varde
DIRECTOR- Abhishek Sharma
CAST- Akshay Kumar, Lisa Haydon, Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor, Piyush Mishra and Cyrus Broacha
LOCATION- Renaissance Hotel, Powai, Mumbai
Shaukeen, based on Basu Chatterjee’s similarly titled comedy in 1982, is about three ‘colourful’ old men – KD (Anupam Kher), Lali (Annu Kapoor) and Pinky (Piyush Mishra). The Delhi-based threesome is looking for some fun in life. But girls in Delhi don’t seem to share their enthusiasm for romance. So the trio decides to go out of the country to try their luck with women. There they find Ahana (Lisa Haydon). The three ‘manthers’ decide to woo the girl in their own desperate ways. Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar, playing himself, is also part of this naughty comedy.
Akshay Kumar has to step out of a studio and a huge crowd of girls is set to mob him. He has to reach to the safety of his car. It’s a blistering summer afternoon and director Abhishek Sharma is giving instructions to
the junior artistes. The sweat and towels take a backseat the moment Akshay arrives on the set. The schedule erupts with energy. Abhishek explains the scene to the star. The moment the director calls for action, a torrent of young girls start screaming Akshay’s name. The star is forced to employ the assistance of his bodyguards just to get him to the car. For a second you believe this isn’t a scripted scene, but an actual movie star moment.
Akshay checks the shot on the monitor and asks for a retake even though director Abhishek is happy with the result. The excited girls though have manhandled Akshay’s clothes to the extent that his jacket is nearly undone revealing the inner vest. The scene moves on to the next shot, where Akshay has to enter the vehicle. It’s time
for some Akki style improvisation. While entering the car, Akshay pretends as if his foot is stuck in the door. He then opens the door, smacks his bodyguard and waves at his fans. Abhishek and his producers Ashwin Varde and Murad Khetani laugh at the comedic inventiveness of Akshay. Abhishek says, “Akshay never tells us what he’s going to do. He is impromptu in comic sequences. His ingenuity makes the scene funnier.” Akshay plays the accolades down and says matter-of-factly, “I let the director decide if he wants to keep my spontaneous additions to a scene. It’s his call.”
Akshay Kumar is sitting on sofa with a drink and watching news about him on the TV. Just then his secretary Aman (Cyrus Broacha) storms in with some bad news. Abhishek is setting up the camera and lights. In the meanwhile Akshay multitasks and finishes a quick business meeting. Back to the shoot, when the director calls for action, Akshay starts coughing and calls for a cut. The perplexed director asks, “What happened sir? You were so natural. It was great improvisation once again…” Akshay cuts him to say, “Something was stuck in my throat. I wasn’t acting, I was really coughing.” The set breaks into laughter.
Akshay insists on rehearsing for the next scene. It’s contrary to popular belief that Akshay doesn’t rehearse. But the actor explains, “Rehearsals are a must. I’ve learned this from Mr Amitabh Bachchan. He usually rehearses for 15-20 minutes before every shot.” Abhishek, creator of the Tere Bin Laden franchise, though is still high on his star’s ability to extemporise. “He’s fantastic! Comedy is best when it’s spontaneous and improvisations are valuable. He’s brilliant when it comes to dropping his own dialogue.”
The schedule moves to the next shot, which is set up in the exterior of the hotel premises. Abhishek decides to show Akshay around the location. The actor’s assistant runs to the vanity van to fetch his flip-flops but the actor doesn’t wait and starts walking bare feet. He waves to the women working in the garden and takes a long walk around the property when the sun is bolting rays down with a vengeance.
Producer Ashwin Varde tells us how his adaptation of Shaukeen will be different from the original. “Shaukeen is the story of three shaukeen mijaz (of colourful temperament) old men, who want to have fun. The basic premise is the same as of the original. But the narrative is poles apart. That’s why we hired Tigmanshu Dhulia and Sai Kabir to write our film. We’ve taken Mithun Chakraborthy’s character and twisted it into Akshay Kumar playing himself. As a result, the second half of the film is totally different.”
He’s quick to point out that this is not your average adult caper. “This is not a Grand Mastii. There’s a thin line between being naughty and vulgar. The film is full of mischievous fun. But we will never let our subject look cheap. ‘Three old men chasing a young girl’ can easily look low-brow. But we will maintain a level of dignity.” He also informs that after Mumbai, the schedule will shift to Delhi, Mauritius and Thailand.
Akshay is sitting in a limousine and chatting with ‘a serious filmmaker’, who wants to work with him. The staid filmmaker enters the limousine with a puppy and a tote bag on his shoulder. As the shot is canned, producer Murad Khetani tells us of a gaffe that was avoided. “We’d asked for a particular limousine for this shot. But they sent the wrong car. It was a last minute scramble. We somehow managed to arrange the car we wanted.” Shot over, Akshay emerges from the car and starts shaking hands with everyone on the set. That’s the cue for his staff to pack up for home.