By any standards, Akshay Kumar remains the most unusual of our six A-list superstars, consistent in his lifestyle and fitness.
Professionally however, Akshay’s dictum has changed. A look at his graph over 25 years shows how the star, from action films, has moved on to comedies and dramas and now evolved towards deeper mainstream cinema.
His filmmakers, with whom he always formed frequent and loyal teams, have reflected his growing status. First, Akshay worked with Raj N. Sippy, Suneel Darshan, Dharmesh Darshan and producer Keshu Ramsay, and was known as the Khiladi.
A second phase saw Priyadarshan and producer Firoz Nadiadwala come in, while the current period sees his closeness to Vipul Amrutal Shah, Anees Bazmee, Neeraj Pandey. He is close to producer Sajid Nadiadwala and even represents the ‘masala’ face of Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Rowdy Rathore, Gabbar Is Back).
Asked to explain this, Akshay replies, “At any point such bonding happens when a filmmaker wants to make a certain kind of film and you want to act in the same kind of movie.”
In 2004, the actor had told me, “Frankly, I am tired of doing both comedy and romance. I want to go somewhere different in terms of the kind of work I do. I really want to keep experimenting!” But when he took on 8 X 10 Tasveer and admitted that it did not fetch audiences, it was back to what Akshay calls the “single-screen movies that are so important.”
In 2012, when he delivered the whoppers Housefull 2 and Rowdy Rathore, in a praiseworthy move, Akshay co-produced and starred in the social movement, OMG – Oh My God!, which in terms of return of investment, became the biggest hit of 2012. Followed Special 26 with Neeraj Pandey. Its success further emboldened Akshay to look at a higher grade of movies.
Is he hungering for the National Award? Akshay admits that wife Twinkle and mother-in-law Dimple Kapadia would love him to get one, and that there is no harm in dreaming, but he cannot forget his loyal masses, or those lower industry workers who benefit when he does multiple entertainers every year.
But Akshay’s tryst with issue-based films is not new. In Namastey London, he went Manoj Kumar-wards, in Bhool Bhulaiya he sent a message that medical science is bigger than superstition, Khatta Meetha was against value erosion and Police Force and Khakee highlighted the tough lives of the police.
But it is only now that he has developed the image of someone who is more than just a skilled entertainer. He was a ruthless soldier in Holiday out to annihilate terrorists. Baby found him on an anti-terrorist mission, highlighting sacrifices of intelligence officers who were not officially on records.
Now Gabbar-Is Back, a Tamil remake, is the story of a simple man driven to extremes by corruption. Airlift is about history’s biggest human evacuation, in which Akshay plays a rich Indian tycoon in Iraq who emerged a hero by saving 170,000 Indians in Kuwait after Iraq invaded.
Akshay has often referred to Aamir Khan in interviews. As much as we can read him, he would perhaps like to emulate Khan’s career with Akshay’s own distinct slant: do mainstream films that impact society and balance them with his entertainers, and enjoy the journey.
And – hopefully – make Twinkle and Dimple happy with a National award or two.
– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music. An Author and Jury Member (58th National Film Awards).
Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar
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