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Section 375 is much bigger than my character: Akshaye Khanna

Akshaye Khanna is among the few stars who is known to leave a lasting impression on moviegoers with the depth, sincerity and intensity he injects into his characters. Be it a struggling salesman in the hit comedy Hungama, a wealthy kid in love with a singer in the romantic musical Taal, the scheming antagonist in the thriller Humraaz, or a sensitive companion in the coming-of-age saga Dil Chahta Hai, over the years, he has built up an enviable body of work. Now in his latest film Section 375, he takes on the challenge of portraying a lawyer defending a Bollywood filmmaker (played by Rahul Bhat) who is accused of sexually assaulting a crew member. “It’s a mature and balanced piece of storytelling which will engage the audience in such a way that most films that I have watched in this genre before have not engaged me. I am not trying to lavish unnecessary praise on the film, but this is what I genuinely felt when I saw the movie in the theatre for the first time. I have never felt this kind of cinema-going experience in the past,” Akshaye confesses.

The movie features an epic courtroom battle as Akshaye’s character battles Richa Chadda, who plays a public prosecutor seeking justice for an alleged rape victim (played by Meera Chopra), a costume designer in the filmmaker’s unit.

We chat with Askhaye to know how the movie will engage the audience.

Tell us about your character in the film.
The movie is much bigger than my character. I would feel more comfortable talking about the movie rather than my role or part in the film. I’m very proud to be part of this movie. It’s a film that deals with a subject that is much larger than any individual in the film. Many angles could have been explored (by a filmmaker) with a subject like this and the moviemakers could have sensationalised the issue, but that’s not the case with our movie. It’s a mature and balanced story which will resonate well with the audience.

The movie has already had its world premiere at the Singapore South Asian International Film Festival recently. What were the reactions to it?
I got the sense that the movie touched the audience. I was sitting at the back of the theatre, in the last row, and I could see that the audience was so engaged in the film that they were not looking at their mobile phones, they were not even checking their messages on their handsets! I found this to be very remarkable for this day and age. That was gratifying for all of us.

Has the movie been given the typical Bollywood treatment?
No. This film is not your typical Bollywood entertainer, but every film doesn’t have to be that, does it? But having said that, I must say it is an extraordinarily entertaining and engaging movie.

How did you prepare for your role as a defence lawyer?
I didn’t indulge in any preparation outside the script, I just stuck to it. I have never felt the need to go beyond the script so far in my career. Until now I have based my performances purely on the script and how I react to it. I don’t prepare myself for a role like many other actors. It also depends on how your director wants you to play a certain character. It’s a collaborative process. It’s a combination of visions. That is my approach to a part.

What are the challenges that you faced in Section 375?
Every film has its challenges. Section 375 did not pose a different challenge from any other movie that I’ve done in the past, except for the fact that it’s a verbose film. The movie is about a court battle and my character has to argue a lot.

We had dialogues running into multiple pages – two, three, four pages per shot. Which is not common for most other movie parts, so that I would say was a unique challenge.

What’s the one reason why people should not miss out on the film?
If people haven’t been to a courtroom before, they should watch this film because it will give them a feeling of sitting in a real courtroom and watching an entire case unfold and being debated right in front of their eyes. So, in that sense, this movie is very unique.

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