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Subhash K Jha
At long last. Abbas-Mustan's Ajnabee is finally complete and ready for release this Friday.
The film has been in the making for as long as I can remember. Okay, maybe it's an exaggeration. But three years is a long time for any film to be completed.
One major development in the interim was that Kareena became the no 1 female star in the country. After Refugee, Ajnabee was supposed to be Kareena's next release.
Akshay says, "I knew she was going to be a major star, just as I know Abhishek is going to be really major very soon. In fact, I congratulated both Kareena and Abhishek after I saw them in Refugee. Do you remember I took Kareena’s mobile number from you?"
Yes. I also remember how warmly Kareena spoke about Akshay in my very first interview with her, which also happened to be the very first interview she ever gave, about how protective Akshay was towards her throughout the making of Ajnabee.
That she had a stiff tiff with Bobby Deol during an outdoor stint in Switzerland must have made Kareena all the more appreciative of Akshay's mollifying presence.
"I really don't know about all this," Akshay says, diplomatically. "But I did feel very protective about Kareena throughout the making of Ajnabee. I've seen Kareena prancing around as a carefree teenager on her sister's sets.
"Don't forget, Karisma was my first heroine in Pramod Chakravarty's Deedaar. After that, Karisma and I did ten films together in nine years. Now I have Dharmesh Darshan's Han Maine Bhi Pyar Kiya with Karisma (and Abhishek Bachchan) coming up for release by the end of this year.
"Kareena would often drop in on the sets to meet her sister. I never imagined she would become such a big heroine in so little time."
Akshay is one of the few leading men to have worked with both the Kapoor super-siblings. When I ask Akshay to compare Karisma and Kareena he laughs, "With Kareena anything can happen. She's very spontaneous before the camera. Karisma is extremely organised in her conduct both off and on screen. Karisma is very methodical.
"When you're facing the camera with her, Kareena takes you by surprise every time by doing things you never expect. Since I like to rehearse a lot before the final take I used to be thrown offguard when Kareena would suddenly do the most unexpected things in the final take."
Akshay tells me working with Kareena has been an enriching experience. "I needed to be on my toes constantly. I never knew what would hit me." That's what Hrithik Roshan also told me about Kareena. "Minutes before the final take, she would be joking and having fun on the sets. But the minute the camera is switched on, there's a magical transformation in her."
The same transformation used to take place in Sridevi, too. Will Ajnabee propel Kareena's career forward? Akshay seems to think so. "She's wonderful in the film. Her character is very different from all her three releases so far," he promises, on his costar's behalf.
And what about his own real-life heroine? "Oh, Tina and I are just fine together. Let the magazines write whatever nonsense they want. As long as we're happy, who cares about wagging tongues? The same people even wrote that I had fights with Sunil Shetty during my stage concerts in the US and Canada last month.
"Do I look like the kind of person who would come to blows with anyone in public? And for the information of those who would like to see me in ugly situations, I've signed up to do more shows for Sunil's (Shetty) Popcorn Entertainment."
As for his real-life heroine, there's no immediate chance of seeing them together on screen. "Tina doesn't want to act with me. She opted out of the only film that we had together Vikram Bhatt's Awara Aashiq Deewana. Ask her why. Right now, I don't think she's too keen on doing films. She's too busy looking after our home and her interior decoration business, plus her occasional plays. In fact she's busier than me," Akshay grins.
Twinkle and Akshay ushered in his 34th birthday last Sunday at a well known restaurant in Bombay. All of Akshay's friends, Twinkle's friends and their mutual friends were there.
Contrary to cynical asides like, "Give them six months" and "Akshay is just playing a loyal husband to prove to the world that he can be faithful", the marriage seems just fine.
Akshay shares a strong bond not only with his wife, but with her parents, too. Dimple Kapadia can't stop raving about her son-in-law. The feeling is mutual.
During Ganesh Chaturthi this year, it was Akshay who supervised the festivities at the Kapadia home, much to Twinkle's amusement and joy.
Akshay is also known to drag her to Rajesh Khanna's bungalow for lunches where the proud father-in-law and delighted damaad discuss personal and professional problems.
"Yes," he sighs. "I've found the perfect wife and a new family to go with the marriage. Aren't I lucky?"
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