700 days of challenging oneself to consistently maintain a physique, of waking up in the morning and struggling with the urge to eat anything, if not the ice cream or burgers that he constantly craves for on a weak day, anything that he could get his hands on, of not missing the gym even for a day, of reminding oneself that it is that much more patience and conviction needed to get through it all – Akhil Akkineni has been super obsessed with his dream project for the last two years.

“Patience essentially means not just time, and in this case, it meant multiple efforts, which included constantly stay in shape, to put myself out there, get out of my comfort zone, and be so involved in the project,” shares Akhil, who is in his wildest form in ‘Agent’, his latest release. Directed by Surender Reddy, the film is an earnest attempt by Akhil to get out of his lover boy image and prove his mettle in his favourite genre – ACTION.

Though the film didn’t turn out to be a hit at the box office, it saw Akhil in a never before avatar. With his unruly curls, restless energy, loud and silly, and unpredictable and dangerous he put himself out there pitching in all his energy, attitude leaving behind inhibitions and shunning his earlier image. “It was difficult at times but I knew I was doing it for myself and for the film, and that kept me going, shares Akhil during an exclusive interview with Provoke Lifestyle.

Agent was one of the longest films to be made. What kept you going?
When I say the film took a long time in the making, it also includes the time we spent discussing the film and how we could it the way we envisioned. Then I had to work on my physique. Usually, we maintain a certain look for action sequences and then we relax. Suri Bhai told me that he wanted me to look the same throughout the making of the film as he was not sure when he would have an action sequence or where he would make me do a shirtless scene.

The first eight months were strenuous. On some day I would feel like I do not want to wake up. I would have these cravings for Pizza. I would feel like eating up a tub of ice cream. I felt I could eat up anything. During these moments, patience and conviction has to come as a combination. It’s for the good of the film. And, that kept me going. After the first eight months, I could relax a bit, and had a cheat day every week, when I would eat what I liked. However, for the last 700- days I did not miss going to the gym even for a single day. That kept me mentally sharp. I am little extreme that way. I get a high out of it. The self-control I had to display was giving me a kick.

How was it to do something so extreme in terms of the character in Agent?
Everything we did, we wanted it to be extreme. We wanted a bit of chaos in the film. The director wanted a wild character. Personally, I was a little on the softer side, in the way I speak or behave. And, for me the hard thing to do was to outdo myself out there in front of all people. Initially I would feel awkward to jump around and behave like a monkey. I would constantly check to see if I was acting well. Whenever I felt it was not looking natural on screen, I would redo the scene. But once I caught the meter, it all became very easy.

Is there any misconception about you that you wish to clear?
That I am a lover boy. It is a preconceived notion that I can do certain kind of roles only. I really want the action hero tag. I want to get into the genre. And, I have put in a lot into this film. I have enjoyed the journey, and I am ready to face the result. But I will continue to work in the genre. With each film, I have learnt something new; I have grown and moved forward. I have learnt not to be hyper and over aggressive. I have learnt to be calm, thinking before taking a decision, thinking my steps through and not be overly impulsive.

What do you think about the opportunities for the new generation of actors?
We live in generation that has to deal with a scenario of media and films – where one hit or failure can change the fate of anyone. We can’t complain about the lack of opportunities. Definitely, I can’t! I just have to make the most of what comes my way.

I see a lot of fearlessness in the new generation, and they are non-conservative and ready to take a risk. It is there in any industry, but in our film industry we put it out there for everyone to see.

I believe that if I am not fearless, I will just be any another actor. There are negatives of taking risks. You have to face the consequences, which I am ready to.

How do you handle failures?
It’s always heartbreaking. My first film had crushed me. The journey from becoming an actor to being crushed has made me what I am today. It is a part of me. Initially I was disappointed. But, I did learn that it is better to learn than to complain. To realise the mistakes I made, and how I want to go ahead. From the first film, I came out knowing I want to be more involved in my films. I came out with more wants. I look for a challenging role, I want to dig my teeth into my role, perform, excel, present myself in a new way, which is very important. It is more about the progress I make with a film. Agent in that way was extremely demanding for me as an actor and person.

Do you think you have arrived as an actor?
I do not think I have arrived. Even when my film Bachelor was a hit in terms of audience’s acceptance and financially too. It will take me multiple series of films to finally convince myself that I have arrived. I am not satisfied with myself. I hope in 10 years from now perhaps I will be satisfied.

What do you do when you are not shooting? Any plans post Agent?
I have been with Agent for some time now, and given so much to it, surrendered to it, maintaining my body, performing to get better at my character, doing stunt workshops, but now I need to disconnect from the project. I need to get away to progress as a person. I don’t have much of a life beyond films. I am setting up my next project, which will start soon.

Akhil, Beyond Being an Actor…

What kind of films do you watch?
I love action films. I watch James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, John Wick, Avengers, Batman Trilogy, Nolan’s Tenet and all his movies as he delivers an experience every time. But I have been a big fan of Telugu mass films. I would choose Rajamouli’s Interval Block over any international film. A recent film that caught me off guard is Prashant Neel’s KGF. He presented a new style in elevation of heroism. What a badass film he made!

Are you into automobiles?
Not at all. Cars are for transport and bikes are dangerous.

That’s so unlike your brother Chaitanya?
Yes! Ask him to get on a horse, then we will talk. I have two horses Giselle and Zara. Riding them is like therapy for me. I have taken Chaitanya to my horses during Covid. He only came twice.

What about pets?
I have a pet Drogo – French Bull dog. He is my best friend and a great emotional support. He is like my buddy.

What kind of fashion do you identify with?
The sense of fashion that is now in and the kind of looks that we are getting is suiting my sensibilities. Loose fits and light colours are what I like. I like wearing simple colours like subtle beige of grey and that’s my style, which you will find even in my house. I am not much into pop colours.

Any recent film that made you cry?
When I watched ‘Oke Oka Jeevitham’ I cried – I bawled, especially because it was my mother I was watching in the film, and it was too emotional for me. For two days I could not come over the film. I told my mother – you should not have made me watch the film.

Are there any qualities of your parents you wish you had?
I hope I have acquired some of the positivity of my mother. She has so much positivity radiating out of her. And, I hope I have a bit of the charm from my father.

What is your favourite travel destination?

You like to play cricket. Would you have been a cricketer, if you weren’t an actor?
Yes. You are right. I play anything I can get my hands on. I enjoy playing. But cricket is my dearest sport.

Are you following IPL matches?
I am following IPL matches regularly. I am enjoying watching every team play and each match is exciting. I want to appreciate IPL’s thought behind introducing Impact player. There is so much of young Indian talent on bench, and now they are getting an opportunity to play and are being recognised. It’s a great move.