The recent rise of girl power in India is being illustrated in Bollywood with a surge of woman-centric films being made.
A perfect illustration of this is new release Akira, which sees Sonakshi Sinha portray an expert fighter who stands up for herself. The potentially game-changing remake of 2011 Tamil hit Mouna Guru has flipped the script and has a tough female lead protagonist instead.
The eye-catching trailer for the high-kicking thriller generated a lot of hype, and not surprisingly, lead star Sinha was pleased during the promotions of Akira.
Tell us about Akira?
It’s been a lot of hard work for me to look the way I have in the film. I really want to thank (director) AR Murugadoss sir, who has worked with the best action heroes in our country. I worked with him in Holiday and he trusted me with this kind of film.
It is about this girl who stands up against all odds. I feel every girl today should be able to take care of herself because you can be put into any situation. This film is about that and her journey.
It’s got a couple of tracks going on, all interconnected. It’s a really cool Murugadoss-style thriller.
So what was the experience of working with director AR Murugadoss again on Akira?
As I said, the first film we did together was Holiday, which the audiences loved. He is a fantastic director to work with, I felt that from the very first film I did with him. I was pleasantly surprised when he came to me with this.
He said we are going to turn it around and make it a woman-centric hard-hitting film about this girl’s character. I was like: ‘You want me to do it?’ He was like: ‘Yes, for sure, I think you can pull it off’. He’s a very trusting and good director to work with. I don’t think I could have asked for anybody else to do a film like this with.
How do you feel after doing all the action scenes in Akira?
(Jokes) I feel like beating someone up right now! It feels great, there is always an adrenaline rush when you do scenes like that on set with all these amazing stuntmen, fighters and action directors, who I have worked with a lot in the past. It was quite exciting and really awesome.
It must have helped working with action heroes like Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn in the past?
For the past five years I’ve been working with these guys, and from them I learnt all these fighting skills. It is truly a pleasure watching them do the action on-screen. I love action films and love being a part of them. I am really happy, thankful and grateful that I did all the action in this film myself.
Did you take any martial arts tips from Akshay Kumar, who you worked with on Holiday?
(Laughs) The biggest tip he gave me was to beware of injuries, but even that I wasn’t able to follow. I think he is a very sensible person when it comes to understanding proper form about martial arts and stuff.
Even watching him do all the action when I was shooting with him on all the movies I have done, you get to learn a lot. He’s always very involved with it, so he automatically teaches you without it kind of being intentional.
Was it difficult prepping for the eye-catching action in Akira?
It was not easy for sure, but I have played a lot of sports at my school and college days. So athletically I am capable of doing that. I did training for three or four months before the film started and while we were shooting.
It was difficult, I went through a lot of injuries and it was painful as hell. You wake up sore every single day and some part or the other is always hurting, but it was all worth it. I trained quite a bit for this film.
Tell us a little more about the injuries you sustained in the film?
Yes, there were plenty of injuries, including three that were major. A nerve in my wrist got twisted and I couldn’t straighten my hand. I hurt my knee while doing one of the kicks in one of the cable action sequences. I hurt my back also; it was very strenuous and gruelling. I did suffer a few injuries but I am back with a bang. (Laughs) The pain was all worth it.
Director Anurag Kashyap acts in Akira as a villain. What was it like starring alongside him?
Fantastic. If you look at him in this role, you will be surprised. He has done such a great job. He truly fits the character, like a hand fits a glove. He is so menacing in the film. He is perfect for this role and is a really good actor. (Laughs) I told him: ‘You should just stick to acting now!’
Your character in Akira is a fearless girl who stands up for what is right, but in today’s time do you think it is difficult for celebrities to take a stand on anything because it will be seen as controversial?
Obviously there are a lot of instances where things are blown out of proportion and people are targeted or kind of picked on for no reason. But I will tell you personally I always stand up for what I feel is right. I think every girl in today’s day and age should do that.
This film has a lot of incidences a lot of girls today are put through and (shows) how you should basically be able to handle it yourself. So I hope, wish and pray that when people see this film, girls especially, understand that.
Institutions like schools and colleges should incorporate self-defence martial arts as a subject for girls from a very young age because I feel it’s very important in today’s day and age.
We have already seen woman-centric films, but very few action-led ones. With Akira and Force 2, you are now doing two back-to-back ones. Are you hoping it leads to more such films in Bollywood?
Well, I sure hope so, because I am very happy to be a part of a film which is kind of a path-breaker in its own way. It’s the first kind of action woman doing an action kind of film. I am really happy to be a part of it!
Of course, filmmakers should consider pitching more such roles to women. Even Force 2 that I’m doing has got a fantastic role, and there is lot of great action for me in that as well. So yes, I guess the path should open up.
How different is the action in Force 2 compared to Akira?
Very different. Akira is very raw, hand-to-hand combat and very rustic action. Force 2 is a bit more stylised, more chase sequences, technology and all of that. (Laughs) It is very different, don’t worry!
We are now seeing Bollywood actresses like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra doing Hollywood films. Do you want to follow in their footsteps?
Right now, I have no intention. I feel they’ve got some really good characters and roles to play in Hollywood; if something like that comes my way, I will think about it. But right now, I don’t really intend to as such.
Akira is your first release in over a year and-a-half after Tevar. Does the long gap affect you as an actor?
No actually, because I have been super busy in that gap. I have been shooting for films like Akira and Force 2. I am starting Noor as well, so I am very excited about that. I have been super busy and just doing my work.
Honestly for me, it’s all about that. I concentrate on my work. I wear blinkers, do my work and do it well, and when the film has to be releasd, it is.
Finally, with Akira, you are carrying the film on your shoulders. Do you feel any anxiety?
It feels more than great. It feels amazing, it feels that I was waiting for this moment and I was born to do this.
Akira is in cinemas now.