On Our Radar: Meet the trailblazers who are shaping the future of content.

14 years into the industry, actor Akshay Oberoi finally gets his due with a blockbuster hit at his hands in the form of “Fighter“. You must have all seen him play the patriotic and brave Indian Air Force pilot Basheer Khan in Siddharth Anand‘s latest. Born, raised, and studied in the US, Akshay is an American actor of Indian descent. He made his acting debut as a child in the 2002 comedy-drama American Chai and played his first leading role in Rajshri Productions’ film Isi Life Mein.

From earning a Bachelor’s in Theater Arts & Economics at John Hopkins to finessing ballet, jazz and hip-hop dance forms to portraying the most diverse range of characters on the big and small screens, Akshay Oberoi has created a brilliant legacy for himself. And with ‘Fighter‘ he got his long-due claim to fame. Starring alongside industry stalwarts like Hrithik Roshan, Anil Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, and more, while holding your own, is no easy feat.

Also Read: Pavail Gulati Speaks About Acting, Social Media & Everything In Between In An Exclusive Interview

On Our Radar this week, we have the ever-charming and treasure trove of talent – Akshay Oberoi himself. While not getting too lost in his dreamy eyes and gorgeous demeanor, we managed to chat over all things acting, OTT content, theatre, the Fighter experience, upcoming projects, and much more! Read on:

Akshay Oberoi On Our Radar SN exclusive interview actor bollywood fighter movie basheer khan OTT content

Akshay, what was your first encounter with Indian cinema, and what made you pursue acting?

When I was a kid, my father used to show me a lot of films. So, actors ki bohot baat hoti thi ghar pe. He would show me movies of Gurudatt ji, Bachchan sahab, Dev Anand ji, Shammi Kapoor ji, and more. We would never talk about the movie, we would always talk about ‘acting kaisi thi?’ Then when I was 12-13 years old, I started doing theatre locally.

Growing up in New Jersey amongst a bunch of white people, I always felt like a misfit. Like there’s something about me, why I’m not being cast and I can’t play every part. I always felt limited. My father was a staunch Indian so we couldn’t speak in English at home, only Hindi. I think that’s the initial part of my journey, that’s what started the whole thing of ‘I’ll come to India and I’ll act‘.

Do you think theater plays an important role in learning and growing in acting?

Definitely, 100%, It opens you up. Performing in front of an audience gives you live feedback. With films and OTT, you don’t get immediate feedback. I can read what critics write, what audiences write, and the comments on Instagram, but in theater, you have a live audience telling you if you sank or swam tonight and how can you better your performance.

Also, it’s an actor’s medium, so no director is sitting behind and saying cut, do it again. It’s two hours of just you. Theatre really helps in learning dialogue pretty fast too. So yes, I think it’s a great toolkit for an actor. It really helped me in my journey.

How much of a role does social media play in an actor’s life? 

Is it important? Absolutely important. I’m not very good at it, so I’m trying to learn because you can’t avoid it. I can’t sit here and say, main toh saraf acting karunga. For me to do the job I want to do and to do it as best as I can, with the best of filmmakers, and the best scripts, I also need to have this part of the thing solved. Because people open social media and they say, ‘Iske kitne followers hai? Itne hi hai? Nahi nahi, isko mat bulao,’ That does happen so it’s important to get your voice across and be in touch with people who like your work, your fans.

OTT releases are at an all-time high. What’s your take on it? Do you think it has opened a new avenue for actors?

Main idhar yahan baitha nahi hota agar OTT nahi hota. But dhandha hai yaar ye industry, agar aapki filmein nahi chalti hai toh aapko aur filmein nahi milti hai. But in order to improve as an actor, you’ve got to keep working. When OTT came, I was one of the first actors who jumped at it. I remember people would tell me ‘Tum kya kar rahe ho? Tum film ke actor ho ye sab mat karo‘, which was just ridiculous. It opened up so many doors for me. I love this space and will continue to work in it.

Hasn’t Hrithik Roshan been your inspiration? Tell us about that.

When Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai came out, I was 14-15 years old. My father took me to see the movie and I remember being like, ‘oh, that’s what I want to do!’ Even though Hrithik Roshan was so inaccessible, being this great dancer, that eye colour, an amazing actor with six-pack abs and a huge body, I somewhere felt connected to him. Leaving the theatre I told my Dad ‘Mujhe actor ban na hai.’

What has your journey till “Fighter” been like? 

Fighter feels like life came full circle. I had this whole journey that led up to Fighter. All the films that came, that flopped, that didn’t work, that nobody watched, that people watched later. I always kind of felt a bit of angst. All my work was critically acclaimed. Thankfully, I don’t think there are a lot of performances of mine that you can find where critics have bashed me.

I always felt like, ‘but koi nahi dekh raha, filmein release hoti hain aur phir 1.5-2 saal baad jab wo OTT pe aati hain tab log dekhte hain.’ I think Laal Rang and Gurgaon were some of those movies that people watched a year later. So there was always this angst of ‘why does this keep happening to me?‘ And it used to feel very strange, but then you connect the dots and realize that all this led up to the present. There were all these lessons destiny and life had to teach me.

I had to fail to value, understand, and appreciate what I have. Destiny has a very interesting way of giving you what you need at the right time. You just have to follow the signs. I’ve been to a theater so many times when my film is released and koi nahi baith ta tha audience mein. But Fighter feels incredible because it is such a huge movie and people are hooting and hollering at your scene.

Then you really appreciate it like, ‘Ah, this is what I’ve been waiting 14 years for!‘ I keep saying, I don’t know what I deserve but I know I earned it, and that is such an important thing to me that no one can take that away. So if I’m on screen standing next to Hrithik Roshan, Anil Kapoor, and Deepika Padukone, it’s not because my father is someone, or because I paid something, or because I know somebody, it’s because I slogged to earn it.

What was your 2023 like? What are you looking forward to in 2024?

2023 was great man I shot Fighter which was so much fun. To play an Indian Air Force pilot role with those Sukhoi 30s on the Air Force base of Tejpur was just magical. It was like a childhood dream come true. I also did four other projects besides Fighter so I was working a lot last year. I love acting. I feel very depressed when I’m not acting or not in front of a camera. And I hope 2024 gives me the same love.

So I’ve been working in a show called “Illegal” with Neha Sharma and Piyush Mishra for a few years. We have a season three coming this year. Then there’s a show called “Broken News” which has Jaideep Ahlawat, Shriya Pilgaonkar, and Sonali Bendre. I’m entering the second season of the show. “Varchaswa” is a film about the coal district in Bihar with me and Ravi Kishan. It’s a rags-to-riches story.

Then I did a film called “Tu Chahiye” directed by Ratana Sinha which I’m quite excited about. Next, I play a terrorist in the movie “2014“. I was just shooting for it in Bhuj with the OG Jackie Shroff who plays a CBI officer. There’s one more film called “Dil Hai Grey” which is a Tamil remake directed by Susie Ganesan, starring Urvashi Rautela and Vinit Kumar Singh. I had so much fun playing the antagonist in it.

As someone who has been a part of the industry for more than a decade now, what is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who is just stepping foot in the entertainment industry?

This is a great time to enter the industry. There’s a lot of work happening, and a lot of content being made. Put your head down and work very very very hard. Forget the result because it’s not in your hand or your control. Don’t get frustrated, and don’t seek instant gratification. Instagram has a way of spoiling us – we get likes immediately and we keep checking. You can’t get into that habit. Acting is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you haven’t watched Fighter yet then what are you even doing? Go catch it while it’s still in theatres currently and witness the brilliance of Akshay Oberoi on the big screen! We look forward to watching him in many more bigger projects in the coming future!