Interview: Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in Kolkata - AIRLIFT is about heroic pilots evacuating Indians from Gulf war

By Ankita Pandey and Asmita Mukherjee/WBRINN
Photos: Biswajit Saha/WBRINN

Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in Kolkata (C) WBRi Inc.
Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in Kolkata

Kolkata, India, Jan 18 (Washington Bangla Radio) - Akshay Kumar recently visited Kolkata to promote his upcoming film "Airlift" which is based on the real-life heroism of Ranjit Katyal and Indian commercial plane pilots in a record-breaking effort to evacuate more than 110,000 Indians stranded in the war-struck Kuwait when Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait in 1990. Kuwait was liberated in the overpowering success of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm by a global coalition led by the United States.

Akshay Kumar was accompanied in Kolkata by Nimrat Kaur, his co-star who plays his wife in Airlift. Nimrat's remarkable performance in "The Lunchbox" is remembered by all film-lovers.

Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in Kolkata (C) WBRi Inc.
Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in Kolkata

Kolkatans could not help getting enthralled when the Khiladi of Bollywood dropped in the town to meet the press. The 48 year old actor who has given us some brilliant performances in films like “Special 26”, "Holiday", “Baby” and “Gabbar” apart from his "Khiladi" series spoke at length about his thoughts and experiences on "Airlift" during this visit.

Keeping in mind the plot of the film, WBRi asked Akshay about his view of rightly portraying Iraq as the aggressor in invading Kuwait.

AIRLIFT (2016) Hindi Movie Official Poster
The new poster of Airlift

"The film is less about the war and more about its consequences. The story revolves around the massive number of Indians stranded there, who lost their home, their shelter. It's about their suffering and how my character Ranjit Katyal managed everything about the evacuation with the help of the Indian Government. It is about  the heroism that Air India pilots showed  in making the evacuation successful,” said Akshay Kumar.

Watch Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in "Tu Bhool Jise" Full HD video song from AIRLIFT (Hindi, 2016)

The actor who has been honoured with the Padmashri Award in 2009 for his contribution to Indian cinema added that this incident should be published in the text books and should be taught in schools so that the children would know about this incident and the heroic activities of Indians. He regretted Ranjit Katyal's name is still unknown to most of the people. He hoped that the real life character of Ranjit Katyal might win a prestigious honour after the movie- release.

When WBRi asked the actor to share how Kuwait was reconstructed for the movie’s shoot, he said,"Since it was impossible to shoot in Kuwait most of the parts were shot in Ras-al-Khaimah in UAE. After our recce we  noticed that the area still resembled the era of early nineties of Kuwait. Later the sets there were recreated to depict the Kuwait of 1990. The remaining part of the movie was shot in Rajasthan.”

The actor at this point added a note of thanks to the Indian and UAE governments for their cooperation. He however seemed unaware about the speculations that the film has been made tax free in India.

"It would have been very nice if the film really had been tax free as many more people would have seen it. But there is no official statement from anywhere confirming it.” Akshay Kumar said.

The actor was asked  whether he ever felt insecure that he might be targeted because his recent movies are based on national issues that put the spotlight on criminal acts of countries or groups. He replied, "I actually hate such films that show blame-games between nations . My movies don't blame any particular country or any community. They are some negative people in every society who really try to harm us. They have just been portrayed as how it was. My movies do not blame any country or any group as a whole."

Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in Kolkata (C) WBRi Inc.
Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in Kolkata

Like many of the big Bollywood stars the actor also has a very deep Kolkata connection. Remembering his days in Kolkata, he said "After returning from Bangkok I did my first job here in the new market as a peon with a travel agent. The office was located in the Esplanade area. I worked here for one and half year before I moved to Dhaka. There are lot of memories here which I always cherish.” he said.

Nimrat Kaur said during the press meet, "I am really lucky to work with someone as prolific as Akshay Kumar. I am also proud to be part of a movie which will make the nation proud."

Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in Kolkata (C) WBRi Inc.
Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur in Kolkata

"Airlift" is directed by Raja Menon and also stars Purab Kohli and Feryna Wazher. It opens in theaters on Jan 22. Watch the theatrical trailer of Airlift.

AIRLIFT (Hindi, 2016) Official HD Theatrical Trailer