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Lights, Camera, Reset: Akshay Oberoi

By Armin S. Saturday, Aug 15, 2020 09:02: AM

Akshay Oberoi is one of those actors who you always notice in a frame. There is this knowledge he carries in his eyes that make him an actor who seems to be wise beyond his years, from the very beginning of his career. When I sat down on a video call to chat with him, I realized that our conversation had to be more than just about films and series and projects. Learning lessons, hitting the pause and reset buttons, and completely zoning into a character – we talk about it all. Here are some excerpts from my chat:

Keeping Sane Amidst the Pandemic
“I have a three year old. In order to be a good dad, you got to use that imagination and creativity quite a bit. I think his innocence and his zest for life, his energy, keeps me positive through the day. I had not really been able to articulate that until this moment. I’ve been reading, writing – but that is really secondary. It is really that three year old that keeps me realizing that there is still beauty in the world. At the end of the day now, I am more exhausted than I was when I was shooting.”

Maintaining and Harnessing Creativity During COVID-19
“The creative process is so difficult to define. Every role comes with its own set of challenges. Some roles is what I put on that helps. Some characters is the way the character speaks. Some character is about body language. The last couple of years, I was working like a mad man. I feel like I’m making up for lost time. I had a bunch of films that didn’t work at the box office. I’ve always had this zest and hunger to do such a wide variety of work that people can’t ignore me. I’m writing and really just taking the time to spend with my family.” 

Hitting the Reset Button
“This time frame has been time to sit back and not be so caught up in this whole business. I have been after perfecting my craft for so long, for so many years as a sincere, dedicated actor, that now it was about emptying my mind. Sometimes when you go from project to project, you don’t have a chance to hit the reset button. 

If I don’t come back to zero every time, I will always have a little baggage of the previous work I have been doing. 

The basic mantra of acting is to be in the moment, to be alive. Sometimes, I feel that that is missing. I am using this time to be meditative and contemplative. I’m getting out the noise that Bollywood creates in your head. What really matters – my wife, my child, my friends. And really listening to people. That is what acting is all about. I think good actors are good listeners.”



A Lesson You Had to Unlearn
“I don’t generally go back and watch a lot of my work. I hate the idea of setting patterns. I try to watch it less, I try to listen to what people say about my work more. So the more work you do, you keep changing the approach to your work. After Pizza, I think it was for Kaalakandi, it was this process to learn the dialogue so you understand the context of what you are saying. If it is my own language, I would just be trying to get the gist of the character and the objective of the scene instead. I thought it would be magical. Since then, I have done six more projects and I realize now that that is naïve. I think you have to come with immense amounts of preparation, even if the language you are shooting in is yours, even if the character is very similar to you in real life, it requires immense preparation. Now before every take, I will rehearse every line, like a billion times. No pattern setting though, until the moment action is called.” 

Flesh and building a back story
“Me and Swara Bhasker are in Flesh. What I loved about this project is the exploration of the human psyche. I’m really after what does this person actually want. I built a pretty bizarre story for my character in Flesh. When you develop a really solid back story is that you start thinking like that person, and you start dreaming like that person, and you react like that person. It is kind of scary. But sometimes the back story that you have built for the character is not what is actually what you discover on set.”



Akshay at the start and Akshay now
“When I first started in this industry and first moved back to this industry, I was a wholly different human being. I don’t know whether it is the industry and the profession that I chose and chasing after a certain dream, meeting the people that I met, and going through the ups and downs of a very unstable profession, or the characters that I came across along the way – but everything kept opening up my eyes. Because I was this New Jersey prepped school who interacted with a very small percentage of the world. I suddenly came to Bombay and I wanted to be an actor, and somehow, by luck or destiny, I started playing desi hardline characters – I had to really investigate these people because I hadn’t spent time with people like this. When I started doing that, my eyes started opening up to how different people function in different parts of the world. I feel like all these things started seeping in and also the heartbreak of being rejected at first and thinking when you arrive, you will be the next Shah Rukh Khan and that’s not happening. The whole journey has really changed me. 

If I had stayed in New Jersey and remained a banker, which I had been for six months post graduating, maybe I wouldn’t have changed. I’m very grateful for this journey even though it has come with lots of pain and heartbreak. It has also brought me great joy. 

As my friend who used to act says, Imran Khan – he says this is the only profession where the highs are really high and the lows are really terrifyingly low. And he’s right. So that journey has really changed me. 

I cannot go back and pinpoint certain things. But me now, has come because of this really beautiful art form of cinema.”

Full Interview on our YouTube Channel: Bollywood Film Fame Canada

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