The Coronavirus-induced lockdown has been going on since March 24 across the country. The shoots, naturally, too have come to a standstill and that too even before the lockdown was enforced. Hence, there was considerable excitement when it came to light that Akshay Kumar shot for a public service ad about the pandemic last week, on May 25. The pictures of this ad, directed by R Balki, went viral and it also aroused hope among the film and TV fraternity that if this particular shoot can be successfully completed by adhering to social distancing norms, then the government might also allow other shoots to resume as well.
Today, the ad in question went online and has received a favourable response. It features Akshay Kumar as Bablu who wears a mask and is on his way to work. At this point, the village sarpanch, essayed by Atul Srivastava, reminds him that working when the pandemic is still going on can be detrimental. Bablu then informs him that he’s confident that if he goes to work and makes sure that he takes all precautions, the chances of him contracting the dreaded disease is minimal. He also points out that even if he gets Coronavirus, it’s not the end of the world since thousands have recovered from it and the government has arranged for sufficient health infrastructure for Covid-19 patients.
Few hours after the ad went live, Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke to Atul Srivastava about his experience of doing this ad and how he bagged this project. He narrates, “I was called by Shruti Mahajan, the casting director. She said, ‘Balki sir chahte hai ki yeh ad aap hi karein’! So I replied, ‘Fir toh humein unki chahat ko poori kar deni chahiye’!”
He adds, “I am very fortunate that I got a chance to shoot for this video and to with Akshay Kumar again. Bahut mazaa aaya unke saath kaam kar ke. He was very respectful and we have worked together before, in Toilet – Ek Prem Katha.”
Talking about shooting in the post-Covid era and whether he had any apprehensions, Atul Srivastava opens up, “I had no fear and that’s because I knew the team will take care of everything to ensure our safety. Each and every thing was discussed in detail and planned accordingly. The production guys asked me whether I am going to travel in my own car and if yes, they said they’ll send me the permission letter. Even the society where I reside is quiet strict with these matters. Once I was back from the shoot, my car was thoroughly sanitized. The vanity van, provided to me, was also quite clean. There were very few people in the unit and they were all at a distance”.
He also adds, “While discussing dialogues, we all wore masks and practiced social distancing. Also, we were in a vast, open space at Kamalistan. The make-up artiste had worn the necessary safety gear. I took off the mask only when my shots were filmed And as you saw in the ad, I was standing at a distance.”
Thanks to the extensive planning, the experience was quite smooth. Atul Srivastava reveals, “The shoot got over in no time. We were done by 9:30 am. Akshay Kumar left at 9 while I was left at 9:30 am!”
Atul Srivastava has worked in some significant films and has been known for his work in films like Munnabhai MBBS, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, serials like Service Wali Bahu and Jeannie Aur Juju. But it was his portrayal of Rajkummar Rao’s father in the 2018 horror comedy blockbuster Stree that made him immensely popular. He was later also seen in films like Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Luka Chuppi, Bharat and Dabangg 3.
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