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    The Akira director tells us why he chose Sonakshi Sinha and how she aced the high-octane scenes

    After giving us action blockbusters like Ghajini and Holiday – A Soldier is Never Off Duty, director AR Murugadoss took everyone by surprise with his latest Hindi action feature, Akira. Set to release next week, the Hindi remake of the 2011 Tamil action-thriller, Mouna Guru, — which had actor Arulnithi Tamilarasu as the lead — now has actress Sonakshi Sinha portraying the protagonist. The script revolves around a spunky college student, Akira, who fights corruption fearlessly. “Initially, I wanted to remake the film in Hindi with a hero. Then one day it struck me; why can’t the hero be a girl? This thought further strengthened the concept in my head and I decided the film would be woman-centric and started adapting and making changes,” begins Murugadoss.

    Casting right
    The news of Sinha playing the role of Akira and doing intense action sequences went viral, with the trailer grabbing 13 million views, and Murugadoss feels that he couldn’t have made a better choice. About Sinha, who undertook mixed martial arts training under leading professionals six months before the shooting started, he says, “She fit the role aptly and portrayed (the character) with her hard work exactly the way I (had) imagined”. The director added a twist to the plot by casting director Anurag Kashyap as the ‘villain’. “During the shooting of Holiday, she (Sinha) gave me a DVD of Lootera. When I watched it, her small nuances and natural performance took me by surprise. I felt guilty that I had cast her as a normal commercial heroine in Holiday, for just some songs and love scenes,” admits the filmmaker, adding that subsequently, when he decided to make Mouna Guru as a woman-centric film, he immediately cast Sinha. “The fact is if Lootera had not been there, Akira would definitely not have been done with Sonakshi,” he says. Talking about the changes he made to the existing script to accommodate a female lead, Murugadoss says that it is psychologically set in the Indian mindset that men can fight five to six men, but if a heroine does the same, we have to give them a reason. “So I established (that) with a back-story—that Akira took formal training in self-defense and martial arts right from her childhood.”

    Present and future
    The 38-year-old Chennai-based director—who picks actresses Angelina Jolie, Anushka Shetty and Samantha for their realistic portrayal of action roles—is now ready to make his next Tamil-Telugu bilingual movie, starring Mahesh Babu. “It’s a new genre, with action as the backdrop and an interesting screenplay. I am collaborating with (cinematographer) Santosh Sivan again,” concludes Murugadoss, but not before promising a big action film in Bollywood soon, with a hero!

    Akira releases on September 2.

    — Saloni Sinha

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