By: Keyur Seta
When we think of biggest Bollywood superstars, we think of Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. But now, it is slowly becoming evident that this elite list would be incomplete without the mention of Akshay Kumar. The Khiladi, as he is known, has slowly gained support even of the sensible audience through his choice of films and performances. While doing this, Akshay has also transformed into a versatile actor.
On his 49th Birthday, let’s have a look at his road to versatility starting from the start of his career.
Akshay Kumar entered the Hindi film arena with Mahesh Bhatt’s Aaj (1987), where he made an appearance as a Karate instructor. His full-fledged debut happened with Saugandh (1991). But he hasted success for the first time with Abbas-Mustan’s Khiladi (1992). He wouldn’t have expected then that the title would stay with him for the rest of his career. From here onwards, he came to be known as Bollywood’s action hero. While Sunny Deol too shares this title, Akshay is much more than physical fight sequences. He is also known for performing dangerous stunts all by himself.
Funnily enough, after Khiladi, there has been only two occasions where a film with ‘Khiladi’ in the title has worked for him – Sameer Malkan’s Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994) and David Dhawan’s Mr & Mrs Khiladi (1997). Even Khiladi 786, which released when he was an established superstar in 2012, didn’t work at the box-office. But somehow, the Khiladi tag is always attached to him with respect.
The romantic phase:
During Akshay’s Khiladi phase, very few would have related him with romantic characters. But he ventured in this territory with a considerable amount of success. It all started with Yash Chopra’s production, Yeh Dillagi (1994). But nobody would have expected him to appear in Yash Chopra’s romantic blockbuster, Dil Toh Pagal Hai (1997). In fact, he also got the honour of singing the title song of the film.
But it was in 2000 that his biggest success as a romantic hero came with Dharmesh Darshan’s Dhadkan. His love affair (literally) continued with films like Ek Rishtaa – The Bond Of Love (2001), Haan Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya (2002), Bewafa (2005), Waqt – The Race Against Time (2005), Jaan-E-Mann (2006), Namastey London (2007), etc.
Interest in conflict:
Akshay also kept getting opportunities to act in the drama genre. These are films about conflict basically, sometimes based on some social issue. He quietly made a mark in this genre in the late 1990s and early 2000s with, Angaaray (1998), Sangharsh (1999), Jaanwar (1999), Ek Rishtaa (2001), etc. But what can be considered a landmark film in this genre, not only for Akshay but for commercial Hindi cinema, was Abbas-Mustan’s Aitraaz (2004). Films with such bold themes were unheard of in that era. Perhaps it would have done even better had it not released with Yash Chopra’s directorial, Veer-Zaara.
King of comedy:
Although Akshay had displayed his comic timing in a large number of films, his first full-fledged comedy was Priyadarshan’s Hera Pheri (2000). But his proper comedy phase began in 2007 when he did Heyy Baby and Welcome. This was followed with Singh Kinng (2008), Kambakkht Ishq (2009), De Dana Dan (2009) and Housefull (2010) in the coming years. Hence, he became the torch bearer of this whacky comedy genre that had emerged then.
In the modern era, Sunny Deol became the king of patriotic films with his hardcore and loud actions films like Gadar – Ek Prem Katha (2001), Indian (2001) and Maa Tujhe Salaam (2002). In the last few years, he has been replaced by Akshay. But there is a huge difference between the patriotism of both actors. While Sunny replied on loud monologues and rhetoric, Akshay is a cool-minded patriot. He creates the effect through his mature acting skills and the content of his films.
This phase arrived simply out-of-the-blue. His hero-centric masala entertainers weren’t scoring high at the box-office [(Joker, 2012), (Khiladi 786, 2012), (Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara, 2013) and (Boss, 2013)], although his thriller Special 26 (2013) succeeded. But A R Murugadoss’ Holiday – A Soldier Is Never Off Duty (2014) brought a positive change for him. He acquired an image of patriotic star with, Baby (2015), Gabbar Is Back (2015), Airlift (2016) and last month’s Rustom (2016).
These films also succeeded in overtaking some average box-office performers like, It’s Entertainment (2014), The Shaukeens (2014), Brothers (2015) and Singh Is Bliing (2015).