For someone not belonging to any film family, not even remotely connected to anyone in the film industry, having no theatre background, never participated even in school plays, no training from any acting school, the rise of this youngster from a rank ‘outsider’ to the dizzying heights of ‘superstardom’ seems quite unbelievable!
With the idea of making a career as a martial arts instructor, when Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia who grew up in the by-lanes of Chandni Chowk in Delhi stepped into Mumbai, one wonders whether even in his wildest dreams he ever imagined that one day he would become Hindi cinema’s most ‘Versatile Superstar’ !!!
Throughout his career, Akshay never let himself be slotted in any particular image and left his mark in all genres be it action, romance, comedy, villainy, suspense, murder mystery, spy thrillers, vigilante action films, films with social messages, patriotic films, family films or emotional dramas.
It was probably his will to experiment all kinds of roles coupled with his sincerity, hard work and dedication that gave him the confidence to embrace any character on screen and thus he ended up being very convincing in all the roles that he portrayed. He never believed in restricting himself to one film a year or one film in two years. He has no qualms in having 3-4 releases in the same year and never consciously went after the coveted Diwali, Christmas and Eid weekends. Recently he decided to corner the Republic Day/Independence Day weekend as there seemed to be no takers for it. The audience today looks forward to an Akshay Kumar film with enthusiasm and expectation and he has undoubtedly become the most successful box-office star of Bollywood!
FROM RAJEEV BHATIA TO AKSHAY KUMAR
He had admitted in an interview on Rajya Sabha TV that once when his father got upset at his total lack of interest in studies and asked him how he was going to survive in life, Akshay out of sheer rebellion and anger characteristic of that young age had blurted out that he would maybe become a hero! He still does not know what made him say it that day for neither before nor after that incident the thought of a becoming a ‘hero’ was ever mentioned.
Akshay was always drawn towards all kinds of sports right from childhood and not too keen on studies. Inspired by one of his neighbourhood boys who used to ‘show-off’ his karate skills, Akshay also decided to master this art and started learning karate. After finishing his tenth standard exams, he moved to Bangkok and learnt different types of martial arts, Thai-boxing, etc. and also earned a black belt in Taekwondo. On his return he did odd jobs in different cities. He worked in a travel agency in Kolkata, he bought Kundan jewellery from Delhi and sold them at a higher price in Mumbai and he started taking Karate classes for kids in Mumbai. Being the son of an Army officer, at one point he even contemplated joining the armed forces…
But destiny had other plans for him. As luck would have it, the father of one of his students who worked as a model coordinator suggested that Akshay with his good looks and good build should try a hand at modelling for that would help him monetarily also. He took him for a furniture ad and after two hours of shooting ‘still’ pictures, he was paid more than double of what he earned in a full month as an instructor!
Soon Akshay’s interest veered towards modelling and he also did a few ramp shows. He worked with photographer Jayesh Sheth for two years for free and in return got a professional portfolio made which he started taking everywhere. Jayesh Sheth used to shoot film stars and Akshay accompanied him and assisted him in the photo-shoots of film stars.
In 1987, he played the small role of a martial arts instructor in Mahesh Bhatt’s film Aaj, which had Kumar Gaurav playing the hero. It was a miniscule role as a martial arts instructor where Akshay’s face was also not shown. The name of Kumar Gaurav’s character was Akshay and somehow young Rajiv Bhatia got so hooked onto the name that one day he just went to the court and changed his name to Akshay Kumar. He admits that soon after changing his name by coincidence or luck or destiny he was offered two films and then there was no looking back…
AKSHAY THE STAR-ACTOR
It was director Pramod Chakravorthy who signed him up for his first film Deedar in 1991 opposite Karisma Kapoor. However, on the sets of Deedar, he met Raj Sippy who wanted to introduce him in his film Saugandh and that is how Saugandh which released in 1991 became his first film and Deedar which he had signed first was released only in 1992. With Mohra in 1994, he had his first brush with stardom.
Thereafter, this young man with neither any connections in the film industry nor a godfather to guide him, slowly but surely started scripting his unique journey to superstardom. In an industry known for either ‘stars’ who get a huge fan following but end up getting slotted in a particular image or ‘actors’ who are skilled in moulding themselves in any role but seldom whip up the mass hysteria typical of stars, Akshay Kumar remains unique.
Being a ‘Karate’ and’ Taekwando’ champion, he excelled in action sequences and most of the time he insisted on performing all kinds of dangerous stunts in his action films and would not use body doubles. His success in a series of ‘Khiladi’ films ( Khiladi, Main Khiladi Tu Anadi, Sabse Bada Khiladi, International Khiladi, Mr. & Mrs. Khiladi, Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi, Khiladi 420 and Khiladi 786) has also earned him the title of ‘Khiladi Kumar’.
He soon turned to explore his talent in comedy and was part of laugh riots like Hera Pheri series, Housefull series, Welcome, Garam Masala, Bhagam Bhag, etc. He also teamed up with Amitabh Bachchan in many films of which Aankhen where he plays a blind man who helps to rob a bank was outstanding. His charming smile and a pleasant personality made him shine in romantic films as well- Aitraaz, Dhadkan, Yeh Dillagi, Jaaneman, Namastey London, Andaz, Bewafa, etc. He has played double role also in films like Rowdy Rathore, Jai-Kishen, 8×10 Tasveer, etc.
He has always excelled in energetic dance numbers and has also had many melodious love songs picturized on him.
Now he has two more aces up his sleeve. He is gearing up for the release of his upcoming film 2.0 (sequel to Robot) where he plays a villain and will take on none other than southern superstar Rajnikant! That is certainly going to be a clash to watch out for! He is also going to be a part of a sports drama which highlights the journey of the Hockey player Balbir Singh who was part of the team that won the historic first Olympic medal for India as a free nation. The poster of the film titled Gold has been released today- on his 50th birthday and the film is scheduled for release on 5th August 2018.
TUNING WITH CO-STARS
Akshay Kumar has never had problem sharing screen space with any other hero or character artiste during his long career of twenty-six years. He had a brilliant tuning with all of them. He has done maximum films (twenty-three) with Paresh Rawal, followed by Anupam Kher (sixteen). He has acted with Sunil Shetty in more than a dozen films, and also had good camaraderie with Saif Ali Khan and John Abraham. There are many other good co-stars as well and acting with these excellent artistes made him give his best in the face of such tough competition.
His chemistry with all his heroines has also been laudable. Be it Raveena Tandon, Shilpa Shetty, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Karisma Kapoor, Asin, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta or youngsters like Sonakshi Sinha, Deepika Padukone, Huma Quereshi, Kajal Aggarwal, Taapsee Pannu or Bhumi Pednekar ,their pairing has been spot-on.
Both he and Ajay Devgn made their debut in 1991 but have starred in only three films together – Suhaag, Insaan and Khakee. With Salman, he did an interesting comedy Mujhse Shaadi Karoge and a love triangle Jaaneman. He has done cameos in two Shah Rukh Khan films but there was hardly any scene together.He has yet to do a film with Aamir Khan.
Akshay Kumar leaves a mark in his cameo roles as well. Recently his act as a gay gangster in Dishoom left his fans surprised but thrilled. He was so brilliant in that five-minute sequence that he not only stole the thunder from the film’s heroes John Abraham and Varun Dhawan but the scene became the highlight of the film. He also had small roles in Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Chalo Dilli, Om Shanti Om, Naam Shabana, etc.
AKSHAY ON TELEVISION
Akshay Kumar has hosted Season 1, 2 and 4 of the show ‘Fear Factor – ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ on Colours channel and ‘Dare to Dance’ a dance show on Life-OK. Season 1 of Master Chef India was also hosted by him as he had also worked as a chef in Bangkok before his acting career had begun.
AKSHAY THE PRODUCER
In 2008 Akshay Kumar started his own production company ‘Hari Om Productions‘ named after his father Hari Om Bhatia and has produced several films starting with Singh is King in 2008, Action Replay in 2010, Patiala House in 2011, Holiday-A Soldier is Never Off-Duty in 2014, to the recent Airlift and Rustom in 2016.
In 2011 he launched ‘Grazing Goat Picture’- an Indian film and TV production house along with Ashvini Yardi and the first film under this banner was the super-hit ‘OMG – Oh My God!’ This company has also produced many regional films.
Grazing Goat Pictures also produced their first Hindi soap opera ‘Jamai Raja’ which was aired on Zee TV for a period of three years from 2014-2017.
In 2013 Grazing Goat Pictures launched its Internet division Grazing Goats Digital and its first venture has been a Hindi fashion channel on YouTube called ‘FOMO‘ (Fashion on my own). Aimed at trend-conscious women, this YouTube channel provides online tutorials on various fashion subjects.
A FEW SOCIAL CAUSES ASSOCIATED WITH AKSHAY
Akshay Kumar, along with Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray, runs free martial arts classes for women in the city at the Andheri Sports Complex. Now, the duo plans to take these self-defence classes to other parts of the country. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/bollywood/akshay-kumar-to-open-100-martial-arts-training-centres-across-india/story-IWma66l91QGKxOUsFcUiGP.html)
The actor opened free martial arts classes for women and also offered financial assistance to families of farmers who committed suicide in the drought-hit region of Marathwada.
With help and co-operation from the Government of India, Akshay Kumar has also launched a donation portal –app and website titled ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ for families of soldiers killed in action.
Having been a stuntman himself he understands the risks involved and has started an ‘Insurance Scheme for Stuntmen and Stuntwomen’- to secure the lives of these unsung people who seldom find any acknowledgement.
He has won several awards in various categories- Best Actor, Best Comedian, Best Villain, Best Supporting Actor, Entertainer of the Year, etc. In 2009, he was awarded the coveted Padma Shri by the Government of India. This year he won the prestigious National Award for Best Actor for his performance in Rustom.
Here’s wishing this amazing superstar a very Happy Birthday and an equally exciting and rewarding journey as he enters the next phase of his career…
JOLLY LLB 2