'Akshay Kumar is like my older brother'
Vinay Virmani, who plays the lead in Akshay Kumar's first international film Breakaway, feels very passionately about the film's subject. The shooting for the cross-cultural film began in Toronto on September 20.
"This is my first feature film," Virmani, 25, told India Abroad between shots at the Goerge Bell Arena. "The film is close to my heart. What's so special about this film is that it crosses cultural boundaries and I feel it will bring people together, as emotions are universal -- regardless of what race you are, what religion you are, where you come from. We will all be able to relate to the story."
"It is a film that looks at the generation gap," he added. "The film looks at how the second generation (of immigrants) deals with parents and understanding each other. It deals with things that are changing, but it is done in a way that will make everybody laugh, cry; you feel something when you see the film."
The primary language of the film is English, with a sprinkling of Punjabi, as the story is about a Punjabi boy who wants to play ice hockey and how that puts him on a collision course with his family. Does the lead end up compromising or does his family come around?
"You will have to see the film for that answer," the ice-hockey-player-turned-actor said. "Hopefully, people will learn something."
Virmani has an under-graduate business degree, but spent one year at the Lee Strasburg Institute in New York learning acting, followed by some training in Toronto too.
"I have been interested in films for a long time," he said. "I love the ability to tell a story and bring the character to life, make an audience really feel something. It is a powerful medium and has the ability to teach, motivate and influence people. In two hours you can change the way someone thinks, teach something. My father (Ajay Virmani, whose First Take Entertainment Ltd is co-producing the film) shares my passion for films, and Akshay has affected me emotionally too."
"Akshay is my mentor; he's like my older brother," Vinay Virmani added. "I have so much of respect for him. He's so disciplined and leads such a simple life. He's such a beautiful, down-to-earth human being."
Image: Vinay Virmani
'Breakaway doesn't belong to Bollywood or Hollywood'
Though Akshay says he is producing his first Hollywood movie, Virmani calls it "an international film."
"It doesn't belong to Bollywood or Hollywood," he said. "It is truly a global film. We have created something very special."
Breakaway, he added, was "an integration of the world's top talents, a fusion of Bollywood and Hollywood."
"It is a beautiful coming together of different people, beautiful stories," he said. "Someone is from Canada, someone is from India, someone from the United States. We can all relate to the story. Whether you are Hindu, Punjabi, Canadian, European, whatever nationality you are, each household will be able to understand the emotions."
Virmani said he was lucky to have Robert Lieberman direct the film.
"He is Canadian, but he has worked for 40 years in Hollywood, and he has become such a beautiful story teller," he said.
"He has brought out this beautiful story in such a wonderful and colorful way. Every shot looks beautiful and detailed. He is a master and he knows how to get us into the character and make us feel. He also gives us creative freedom. I couldn't have been luckier when it came to a director for the film."
Comedian Russell Peters, who plays a pivotal supporting role in the film, said, "I grew up in Brampton, where Breakaway is set and I know the characters in this movie first hand. This is a great story about an Indian kid with a dream to do his own thing... something I know a thing or two about."
Image: Vinay Virmani, A R Rahman and Camilla Belle
'A beautiful story of equality and perseverance'
Camilla Belle, another star in the film, deems it a privilege 'to be a part of a film that celebrates the Sikh culture and tells a beautiful story of equality and perseverance.'
'Coming from a multicultural background, this script truly touched me and I believe it will move people around the world, regardless of their background,' she said in a statement.
"My goal at this stage is to do good work that has a very strong message; work that means something to me," Virmani added.
"Right now my energy is focused on making this film successful, making a film I am proud of, and one that others will be proud of and learn from."
Image: Camilla Belle