Priya Gupta (BOMBAY TIMES; February 1, 2015)

I meet Neeraj Pandey, Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher over a cup of coffee in the lawns of Akshay Kumar's sea-facing apartment and can see them visibly happy with the appreciation they have received for their latest thriller Baby. Excerpts from a conversation with them.

What has been the audience's response to your film Baby?
Neeraj Pandey: It's overwhelming, considering the fact that it is not a typical, run-of-the-mill film. And this, despite it being a song-less film.
Anupam Kher: It's a patriotic and balanced film based on reality. It's a real film on terrorism without any jingoism and has got us so much respect.

Akshay, many believe this to be the best performance of your career so far.
Akshay Kumar: People would stop at giving 3 stars for my films. This is the first time I have seen so many stars in my film. I have taken a picture of a hoarding in Juhu showing so many stars for my film. My wife Tina took me for dinner and even paid the bill. I have received 727 smses complimenting me for my performance.
Anupam Kher: People can't believe that a film so slick, so realistic without any clich├ęs in it, has come from India. Akshay is a commercial, popular actor. For an actor like that, who sometimes has to play to the gallery and people love him like that, there is not a single fake moment in the film with his performance. That itself is an achievement. It's very easy in a Hindi film to acquire fake moments. Not because we are bad actors but because in a movie like this, silence is more important than words.

What is your view on the film being banned in Pakistan?
Neeraj Pandey: The main protagonist Feroz played by Danny Denzongpa, who leads the ATS against terrorism, is a Muslim character. He is working in the interest of the nation. And that is by design. There are good and bad people in every community. Rashid Naz sahab (the Pakistani actor who plays a terrorist in the film) has played a very similar character in a film made in Pakistan by a Pakistani director and he told me while we were shooting the film, 'As long as there is a Pakistani directing me and it's a Pakistani film, it's not a problem. But aap ko bahut mushkil hone wali hai. Jab tak yeh Pakistani bolega, tab tak theek hai humhare wahan.'
Anupam Kher: My driver is a Muslim and he loved it. He saw it and said 'Aisa hi hota hai.' The film is against terrorism and not against Muslims. That is also my response to Pakistan banning it. They should have been the first to pass it and been the first country to watch the film as they have suffered much more than any other country due to the effect of terrorism. They will anyways see it as the pirated version, so the ban is only an immature political stance that someone has taken. There is a very important scene between Akshay, playing an Indian officer, where he talks about defending a Muslim family in the Gujarat riots and he says, 'Humhare form mein koi Hindu, Muslim, Sikh ya Isai nahi likhte, we only write Indian.' Pakistan should have been the first country to see the film and, in fact, tell the world to see it as they have just suffered the innocent killing of 145 school children in Peshawar. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism much more than any other country in the world. Why should they ban it?
Akshay Kumar: The film has released in even UAE, who are rigid and where they normally don't even allow films with Arab jokes in it to be shown. Muslims all over the world have loved it. We plead to Pakistan to please also release the film there.