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Akshay Oberoi on playing squadron leader Bash in Fighter: ‘I loved every single day of making this movie’

Directed by Pathaan maker Siddharth Anand, Fighter stars Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone and Anil Kapoor

Sameer Salunkhe Calcutta Published 06.02.24, 05:04 PM
Akshay Oberoi, who plays Basheer Khan aka Bash in Fighter.

Akshay Oberoi, who plays Basheer Khan aka Bash in Fighter.

For Akshay Oberoi, Siddharth Anand’s Fighter is the big moment he has been waiting for for a long time. Oberoi, who plays squadron leader Basheer Khan aka Bash in the aerial-action film starring Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone and Anil Kapoor, chatted with us about why this has been a very special journey.

The last time we spoke, you had said, ‘I am still hungry for a successful film’…

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Akshay Oberoi: You are right. I was craving this kind of success and I’m happy it has come.

How are you taking in the response to Fighter?

Akshay Oberoi: I’m enjoying it. I’m trying to be as present to the experience as possible because, look, how many big films are made in a year? Not many. So, just to be a part of such a huge movie with such a huge star cast, with such a huge director, and then representing the Indian Air Force, being in those fighter jets, the whole experience is so magical that I’m just trying to soak it in as much as possible.

What was director Siddharth Anand’s brief to you on playing Basheer Khan aka Bash?

Akshay Oberoi: We had a conversation about how Taj (played by Karan Singh Grover) and Bash are like Jai and Veeru from Sholay. That was a starting point for finding the grounding of this character. While Bash is sweet, innocent and endearing, he’s also deeply patriotic and mature. We talked a lot about broad strokes… who this guy is. Sid also trusts you if he has cast you. Once we had the initial talks about Bash, he kind of let me go and do my own thing, work on my physique, work on the lingo, work on how I would walk and talk. I never wanted to let him down because he’s such a passionate, larger-than-life director. He makes sure that actors have done their homework and they show up prepared.

Was character detailing such as the badges that you’d be wearing on your arms done once the actors came on board? Or was everything written in the script?

Akshay Oberoi: Sid and Ramon Chibb, the co-writer/producer of Fighter, had a career graph for every single Air Force pilot about exactly when he would have entered the Air Force and what he would have done to get into this Air Dragons unit. Based on that, what the badges would represent and all of that was very authentic. Sid wanted all this stuff to be very authentic. A lot of attention was paid to the details of everything, especially our different uniforms for different reasons. And all of that was very real. We also had a whole team of Air Force pilots making sure that nothing was incorrect, how we were standing, talking, the lingo we were using, and how we would respond to our commanding officer. All that was very much grounded in reality.

Did you undergo any special training for Fighter?

Akshay Oberoi: We were able to go to Tezpur and we had access to every top pilot in India and we could ask them anything. And since I’m a very curious person in general, especially when it comes to building my characters, I asked them everything I could. Am I standing correctly? Is my collar correct when I salute? How do I do it? What does this button in the cockpit mean? They were gracious enough to guide us on everything, and these were India’s elite fighter pilots.

What was the feeling when you wore the Indian Air Force pilot’s uniform for the first time?

Akshay Oberoi: Oh, goosebumps, man. I mean, first of all, it’s such a good-looking uniform. Second of all, the responsibility of representing the Air Force is enormous. I put it on and I looked at myself in the mirror and had goosebumps. I realised how serious this job is and how I would do everything in my power to make sure I did nothing to upset any sentiments. It’s a big responsibility.

The chemistry between the ensemble cast was quite good. What was your equation with the rest of the cast members?

Akshay Oberoi: Every day was special. I think we all understood what a huge movie this was. I worked with Deepika Padukone before in Piku. I worked with Anil Kapoor sir in Thar. Of course, these were small roles. In Fighter, I have a full-fledged role. There was already a kind of comfort and the bond happened very fast and that chemistry reflects on screen. Our bonding needed to be established very fast in the movie. There’s not a lot of time to do that. It kind of helped that we all met and immediately kind of clicked. We all got along well and then went about making the movie.

Since it’s a special movie for you, what is the most special reaction that you received?

Akshay Oberoi: There’s been a lot of love. I’ve never had a movie that has been watched by such a large audience all at once. Word of mouth has been extremely positive about this movie. So many people have such strong, beautiful things to say, but the one that really hit home for me is my son’s reaction. He would ask, ‘Papa aap kaunse set pe jaa rahe ho?’ Whenever I said Fighter, his eyes would light up; he was so excited at the mere thought of me playing an Air Force pilot. I took him to the screening and it was the first movie he’s seen in a cinema hall. He sat between me and my wife, and put on those 3D glasses. When the movie ended, he hugged me and said, ‘Papa, that was awesome.’ The joy in his eyes and the joy in his smile was everything.

What was the first and last scene that you shot for Fighter?

Akshay Oberoi: The first thing we shot was mine and Karan Singh Grover’s entry on the bikes. That was the first day of the shoot at the Tezpur Air Force base. The last thing we shot was the song Sher Khul Gaye.

I loved every single day of making this movie. While I’m so happy that the film has received so much love and attention, I’m feeling kind of sad that the movie is over. I wish I had 10 more days to shoot. We shot the movie for over a year. The edit and VFX work was going on simultaneously.

The year has started on a positive note for you. What else do you have lined up in 2024?

Akshay Oberoi: Well, I did a lot of work last year. Along with Fighter, I did Illegal Season 3. I joined the cast of Broken News Season 2. I did a movie with Ravi Kishan called Varchasva, which is about the coal mines in Bihar. I did a film called Tu Chahiye directed by Ratna Sinha, who made Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana (2017). I did 2014 with Jackie Shroff, where he plays a cop and I play a terrorist. I still have one more schedule in Bhuj next week for that film. But I haven’t signed anything new. I was kind of waiting for Fighter to release before I went ahead and took up the next thing.

You have been working in the entertainment industry for 14 years. What is something that you have changed your mind about after coming this far?

Akshay Oberoi: I’ve changed my mind about my reluctance to sell myself. I’ve realised that you must sell yourself. A lot of actors innately have that skill but I don’t. That is something that I need to work on. I think in our business everybody wants everything right away, but things take time.

I’ve now understood the business. I’ve been around for long enough. My work has been appreciated for long enough. But now it’s time to make some changes in terms of the stuff that I’m reluctant to do, like being more active on social media, or going to more parties, or doing a better job of talking to the media about my work and selling my work.

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