Akshay Kumar’s Kesari (2019) is set to be released on 21 March. In the film, Havildar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) is unfazed when his tiny band of 21 Sikhs from the British Indian army is confronted by a 10,000-strong Afghan force.
However, the actor was stumped by a couple of questions thrown at him by reporters at a promotional event in Mumbai today.
The adjective kesari, meaning saffron, is also used by a paan masala brand endorsed by film star Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar was asked what he felt about this.
“Kesari is the colour of valour and sacrifice, but does it bother you when a contemporary uses the same to endorse a tobacco product,” he was asked.
Akshay Kumar looked startled, then replied, ”This brother has mixed kesar and kesari. I don’t know how you have got an ad in the way. We are on a different path while you are headed in another direction. Never did I imagine that one day such a question will be thrown at me. Even if I spend my whole life, I will not be able to answer that. Sorry, brother, I don’t have an answer.”
The other question that left the star groping for an answer related to his having played Sikh characters many times. The questioner wanted to know how Akshay Kumar carries the turban so well.
The star began to answer, found himself meandering, and appealed to producer Karan Johar for help. Ever the smooth talker, Johar coolly took charge and said the answer was simple, it was because Akshay Kumar is a son of the soil.
Karan Johar and Akshay Kumar had their own banter going during the event. The 51-year-old star is supremely fit and considered one of the most disciplined actors in Hindi cinema. A journalist pointed that out. Johar jumped in and said, “Don’t ask how disciplined he is. The first time I was to meet him, he asked me to come at six. I thought he meant six in the evening. It didn’t strike me then that he was calling me at six in the morning! He is not a human being, he is a morning alarm.”
Akshay Kumar promptly retorted, ;“The way he has spoken, it is clear he went to night school, not day school. He has forgotten his childhood. He probably went to school past midnight.”
Over the years, Akshay Kumar has played strong patriotic characters and also worked for the welfare of soldiers. Karan Johar was asked whether as a producer it was easy to convince a star like Akshay Kumar to do a film like Kesari.
“I think when [director] Anurag Singh and all of us went to Akshay, it was because of not only the dignity that he has always brought to the silver screen but also the prowess he has as a mega movie star. I feel if there is one man who can stand and scream and scare a battalion of people it is Akshay Kumar,” Johar said.
The Dharma Productions head honcho paid glowing tribute to Akshay Kumar and said the film would have been impossible without him. “I think that conviction you need to have in your demeanour, it doesn’t come from just your presence, it comes from your body of work, it comes from your eyes, it comes from your humanitarian work, it is a combination of various factors that encompass the magic and magnitude of Akshay Kumar,” he said.
“So when you write a narrative such as Kesari, when you have this man leading a band of 21 to combat an army of 10,000, there are few names that pop up in your head. Akshay Kumar was leading that list. He was our top-to-bottom choice. Had he declined, this film wouldn’t have been made.”
Watch the Kesari promotional event below.