There is plenty of action, power and raw emotion in this week’s big Bollywood release Brothers, an official remake of hit Hollywood film Warrior.
Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra play warring siblings on opposite sides of a fight arena in the gripping drama, directed by Karan Malhotra and produced by Karan Johar.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, the versatile actor pushed himself to the limit for the physically demanding role. Not surprisingly, he was feeling confident when Eastern Eye caught up with him to find out more about the drama. The friendly actor also revealed some fitness tips and spoke about working in Hollywood.
What attracted you to Brothers?
Everything about this movie is very close to my heart. It means a lot to me, especially because it is a movie about martial arts, which makes it even more important for me.
The movie is being released this month, which also coincides with me completing 25 years in the film industry. I am so happy that the film which will be commemorating the accomplishment of my quarter-century in the industry happens to be a story about martial arts; when it’s my martial arts background that got me into the film industry in the first place. We’re literally going full circle.
How does the Indian adaptation compare to Hollywood version Warrior?
We have tried our level best to give the best performance we can. I wouldn’t really compare the two movies, to be honest, as we probably can’t make it better than the original, but we gave it all we could. Let’s see what the audience says.
Tell us about your character in Brothers?
I play a schoolteacher who teaches physics and chemistry. He used to be a mixed martial artist who would fight on the streets for money. Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a very dangerous profession and due to monetary issues my character faces, he has no choice but to go back to the streets to fight in a professional tournament.
How much training did you have to do to prepare for this role?
The main part of the training was a six-month, intense and gruelling regime, followed by practicing different fighting styles like judo, karate, kyudo, aikido and other mixed martial arts.
You always push yourself to the limit. How do you break through the pain barrier each time to get in such great shape?
(Laughs) It’s been 25 years and I haven’t had a break. Jokes apart, my international filming schedule becomes a break for me. It’s the best thing if your work is your passion in life. It makes me feel like I’m always on a break.
As part of our training programme, I had to lose up to 16 kilos and Sidharth Malhotra had to gain 12 kilos in weight. While fighting was a major physical challenge, we also had to face a lot of mental challenges. A high level of mental attention is requi-red to remember your punches and every move.
So which was more challenging in Brothers, the emotional or physical scenes?
The most challenging part was fighting like a professional MMA fighter, learning from the best and then trying to catch up with their fighting techniques. But I thoroughly enjoyed it as my teachers are from everywhere around the world – from Brazil, Los Angeles, Bangkok and Japan. They are true MMA fighters. It was an honour to learn from the best.
What was Sidharth Malhotra like as a co-star?
Sidharth is a very talented young man; he is very professional when it comes to work. Although he had no experience with MMA, he did really well. He also went through eight months of training. Sidharth has a great future ahead of him. In Brothers, he plays the character of a ‘man’ unlike his earlier movies, where he has mostly played young characters.
Do you have a favourite moment in the movie?
It would have to be the climax of the movie, which took about 52 days to shoot, just to get it perfect for the audience. All fans across the globe should watch this movie on the big screen. Do not watch pirated versions of it, we poured our sweat and blood into this movie.
Can you share a behind-the-scenes story from the shoot?
We had a great time on set. Sidharth’s a Punjabi, I am Punjabi and even our director Karan Malhotra is Punjabi. (Laughs) We spoke in Punjabi all the time, to the degree the film should have been called Prah (brothers in Punjabi).
Who will this film most appeal to?
Everyone, as the film is not just about martial arts and action – there is a love story in the movie. I mean it is about street fighting, but there’s a reason to why the fighting happens in the first place, which emanates from love.
You will get to know that there’s a love story between Jacqueline Fernandez and me, there’s also a family related love story between Jackie Shroff and Sidharth, and also between Shefali [Shah] and me. The fighting comes later on in the movie. The story’s main emphasis is on its relationships.
Can you ever see yourself acting in a Hollywood film? If so, what kind of project would it take for you to say yes?
Of course. Which actor wouldn’t like to act in a Hollywood movie? But the script has to be right for me. I would love it to incorporate an eastern influence, as I would love to stay true to my roots. I am open to anything from any part of the world. Cinema is one big family and everyone has something to learn and share from the other.
In Brothers, you have done some serious fitness training. What tips would you give anyone wanting to get into shape?
Always watch what you eat. Keep your stomach to a small size. Overeat and you will expand your stomach as well as your appetite, so it is better to eat to 70 per cent of when your stomach is full.
Spider push-ups are the best; they tackle just about every muscle in your body and it gives you a different kind of shape and definition. There are only so many times one can lift a deadweight. But when one can swing, climb, summersault, balance, twist, dive, kick, punch, choke and burn their way through a session, then I believe one has trained their body for greatness. It may not look as ultimate as a body builder’s, but you can always move like a champion. Stamina is key. You just have to push yourself – it’s all in the mind. Grasp it as you kill yourself (working out). Give in and you’re already the weakest.
And above all, take a day off. Sunday is my family day. I may not be at work, but I work hard to give them everything they want.
Which other films do you have on the way?
My focus is on the release of Brothers. After that I have Singh Is Bling coming out on October 2, and then Airlift in January 2016. In Singh Is Bling I play a larger-than-life character; something I haven’t done in a couple of years since Rowdy Rathore. My films have been pretty serious with Gabbar, Baby and Special 24. I’m really excited about Airlift, as it is a story about Saddam Hussein’s attack on Kuwait.
Finally, why should we all go watch Brothers?
I would just like to tell my fans how much it means to me to make a movie that they like. I really hope they like Brothers. I would also like to say that the movie took about one year to do, and as I said, we literally put our blood, sweat and tears into making it. Watch it with your family and loved ones.
Brothers is in cinemas now.