AKSHAY Kumar was telling me that he didn’t own a pair of bellbottoms back in the 1980s. That decade being when this style of flared trousers that became wider below the knees and ended in a bell-shaped leg was in fashion. “I did not have money at that time for bellbottoms. I was only in my track pants. But my Dad had one bellbottom suit and he used to wear that,” Akshay said.
We were talking on the eve of his new film’s release today, the 1980s hijack drama BellBottom, and Akshay was telling me this was the first film in the world that was started and finished during Covid. BellBottom, that is getting ra-rah reviews, was shot almost entirely in Scotland. “All the credit goes to the crew and unit. And to Vashu Bhagnani for taking the risk. Anything could have happened. There were around 250 people there and at that time we did not know what Covid was exactly, what it could do, we had no idea when the vaccine would come, but we took the risk. Not even one case of Covid was registered."
Sharing the headlines with Akshay is Lara Dutta who plays Indira Gandhi in BellBottom to perfection. The story goes that it was he who chose her. “Lara’s first film Andaaz (2003) was with me. I know her as a woman of perfect poise. So I called Lara and asked her ‘Do you want to play Indira Gandhi?’ She asked, ‘Where’s the shoot?’ and I said, ‘Scotland.’ She just said, ‘Let’s go. Are you sure I can pull it off?’ and I replied, ‘My heart says you can.’ Nobody recognized her on the set. Not even Mahesh (Bhupathi). Lara had to literally call out to him.”
I asked, “Are hijack films difficult to shoot because Bollywood has made only five whereas Hollywood has done so many – remember the iconic Air Force One? Akshay said, “It’s a different genre. But we were supported by true events. So we knew what we were doing and we had some people talking about it. This is the first hijack film in my career.” BellBottom’s trailer brought out comparisons with Airlift and Baby. “Because there is a lot of espionage here but the story is totally different. Airlift was about a rescue mission. Baby was about catching one terrorist. Here it is about securing a plane and nabbing seven terrorists,” he explained.
“Do you remember the first flight you took,” I asked Akshay. He laughed. “It was from Bombay to Delhi and I travelled alone. My father dropped me at the airport and the air hostess took over. I was small and very scared. I did not know what a plane looked like. My Dad told me my flight was by an Airbus. When I sat in the coach transferring passengers from the terminal to the plane, I thought this was the Airbus and it would take off and fly. I held onto the seat bar very tightly. Till the air hostess comforted me and pointed out the plane waiting on the tarmac.”