“I may be wrong but I think talent is in-born. Then there are those who work hard and become good actors with time and experience. I think I’ve got what it takes to be a decent actor. Plus, I work hard. But please, I’m not a brilliant actor or anything. I pass muster.”~Akshaye Khanna
Akshaye Khanna is one of Bollywood’s most well-known and talented actors. He has an aura about him that literally jumps off the screen. Whether in just a special appearance or as a leading man, your eye is always drawn to him, and not only because he has a brooding sensuality. We thought with his new release Gandhi, My Father opening on Friday we would shine the spotlight on this amazing star.
Akshaye Khanna was born in Mumbai in 1975 and comes from an acting family. He is the son of Bollywood star of yesteryear Vinod Khanna, and his brother Rahul is an actor, too. He went to school at Bombay International and then at Lovedale School in Ooty. Even at school he already had the acting bug, performing in many of the school’s plays.
Once Khanna left school, he decided to follow the dream he always had of being an actor. “I thought I could contribute, I could make a mark. I thought I could be good at what I do. And, most of all, I thought I would enjoy it. Being part of the film family, I had a little bit of experience about how the film industry functions. I knew the life, the profession, what it would be like. I liked it. I did not train much. A little bit of dance, fight, acting, just to get the feel of it, but nothing serious. With some people training would have helped but as far as my case goes I don’t think any amount of training will make me a better actor. Acting is not something you can teach. It’s life. When you are acting you are creating or recreating life. You have to have a flair for it and then that flair can be cultivated. But that will be mostly done by yourself. It’s an individual kind of cultivation. It’s internal, not external. I am my best trainer. You have to keep watching yourself and improving.”
His debut role at the age of 22 was as Abhay in Himalayputra. For the film, which was produced by his father, he won the 1998 Screen Weekly Most Promising Newcomer – Male Award. Unfortunately the movie did not do well at the box office. About facing the camera for that first shot Khanna said, “It was great. Life began. I was always quite confident that I could do the job.”
Next came a defining role for Khanna in J.P Dutta’s Border. To Khanna, playing this role was an emotional experience: “The role of Sgt. Dharamveer Singh in Border was far more powerful than any other role I have ever played.” In an article about the star one reporter wrote, “With a stunning characterization of a sensitive soldier who is left dying on the border of Longewala, audiences would have this scene burned into their souls long after the film’s run ended in theatres.” For this film he was nominated for and won many awards including: Lux Zee Cine Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Filmfare Award for Best Newcomer Award. The film was a box-office success and firmly established Khanna as one of the finest actors in Bollywood.
After that success he was in several more movies including Doli Sajake Rakhna and Kudrat. They did not do so well, but in his next film Aa Ab Laut Chalen audiences loved him as Rohan Khanna. About his roles in these films, whether hit or flop, he said, “Being Vinod Khanna’s son was enough to pile on the pressure. It was obvious that people were going to draw comparisons between me and my dad and I couldn’t let them down. It is important to me to choose the right people to work with and, most importantly my role. All the films I’ve done so far, I’ve chosen on the basis of all these factors put together.”
He got rave reviews for his performance in Subhash Ghai’s Taal; one stated “Akshaye demonstrates that he is one of the most sincere actors on the Hindi screen.” The film also starring Aishwarya Rai and Anil Kapoor was a hit with audiences.
The year 2001 saw Akshaye in another tour de force role as Siddharth Sinha in Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai. He was nominated at several awards ceremonies including the Zee Cine Award and the International Film Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. His outstanding performance won him the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor and a special Jury Award for Best Supporting Actor at the Screen Weekly Awards. He won critical acclaim as well with one review saying, “Akshaye Khanna stuns with another subtle and mature performance, and all one can ask is why he does not do more films. (If one had to single out a character and performance that makes the movie the best, Khanna’s is it.)”
In 2002, he got to play “bad guy” Karan Malhotra in Humraaz. All applauded his performance and it earned him a nomination for Best Villain at the FilmFare awards and he won the IIFA’s award for Best Villain. Also that year he was in Deewangee and he received a nomination for the Screen Weekly Award as Best Actor.
Throughout his career, Akshaye has played an array of characters including the romantic hero, dramatic roles and comedy. His comedic talents were brought out in Hungama (2003) and Hulchul (2004) and they both were very well received.
He had leading roles in Shaadi Se Pehle, 36 China Town and Aap Ki Khatir in 2006, but they did not do as well as expected at the box office. Earlier this year his performance stood out in Nikhil Advani’s multi-starrer, Salaam-e-Ishq but that film also failed to charm audiences. Then he had Naqaab, just about a month back, directed by the well-known duo Abbas-Mustan. Taran Adarsh said about Akshaye’s performance, “Naqaab belongs to Akshaye, who delivers yet another powerful performance. He’s splendid, the real scene stealer, the soul of the enterprise.” Even though Akshaye delivered a great performance in the film, it failed to set fire in the box office as well.
All this may change this coming Friday though. The highly anticipated film Gandhi, My Father will be hitting screens then. In this groundbreaking role, Khanna plays Gandhi’s eldest son Harilal and presents the story of their relationship. Producer Anil Kapoor praises the actor saying, “He is born to play this role. You have to see it to believe it, the kind of work he has done.” If word is to be believed, then we can expect to see one of the best performances of the year out of Akshaye Khanna in this film. It is all set to be a landmark film for him, and everyone is anticipating it greatly, since there is so much hype surrounding it. Akshaye’s fortunes are definitely looking good with the release of this film.
Also in the pipeline are the films Race, Shortcut and a special appearance in the Madhuri Dixit comeback film Aaja Nachley.
Some interesting facts:
Once was in a commercial for Godrej Cinethol.
In Bhai Bhai he was an uncredited dancer in the song ‘Tera Naam Loonga’
He once said in an interview, “I want to be the editor of Filmfare magazine.”
He is Bollywood’s ‘shatranj ke khilari’ (player of chess). He loves chess so much that on both the sets of Naqaab and Race he was playing chess with the cast and crew.
For Aap Ki Khatir he is listed as a playback singer.
In his brother’s film Bollywood/Hollywood (2002) he made a guest appearance as himself.
In Naqaab, he and Urvashi Shrama dance the Salsa, an extremely sensual dance: there needs to be chemistry and a comfort level between the dancers. Raju Khan choreographed the dance sequence and said that it was not difficult for him to train Khanna to get the steps right.
For his fans he has this message, “The most difficult thing to do in life is to do what your heart tells you. Be yourself, and do things the way you want to, always go where your heart leads you!”
We have to disagree with Akshaye Khanna when he says he is not a brilliant actor, because he is truly one of the most talented actors in Bollywood. His screen charisma is outstanding but he also is very natural so you do not think he is acting and that is a very hard thing to pull off. He is adored by fans (including this reporter) because of his talent, his mystery and his good looks. Since he is always striving to do more, learn more and be better at his craft we can only imagine that we have just seen the beginnings of excellence in this star.
Reflecting on his decision to become an actor Khanna says, “And now when I think about it, it’s the best decision I made. All I ever want to do is to act. A lot of people spend an entire lifetime in professions they don’t really want to be in. At least I don’t have such grief.”
We whole-heartedly applaud this fine actor and cannot wait to see his new movies and the ones in the years to come!