“I have dabbled with action, romance, dance, emotion, and now comedy. I think I’ve done well in all. It’s important to keep doing something different and reinvent oneself to avoid stagnation.” – Akshay Kumar
The above quote completely defines one of Bollywood’s greatest and most versatile actors, Akshay Kumar. In action films Akki excels… give him a romance and he is brilliant… with a comedic role he is one of the best… and in drama… well, this wonderful actor is equally fantastic. In his career of over eighteen years, he has done it all and is still going strong. With his sparkling eyes and that innocent yet impish smile, he has slain many a heart, and his daredevil stunts have made many a male and female fan cheer. This spotlight would be twenty pages long if we addressed everything, and though I know his fans (including me) would love that, this piece will just highlight some of his best work. So sit back and enjoy a look into Akshay’s amazing performances of the past, present and future.
Akshay Kumar grew up in the Chandni Chowk section in Delhi, and unlike many of his contemporaries in the film industry, he did not come from a filmi background. “I never thought I would become an actor. I remember once when I was in 8th standard I had a little bit of problem with my teacher and was punished in the school for something, which I didn’t do. So parents were summoned to my school. My father came to pick me up. He was angry on me but he didn’t scold me at that point of time. At home he scolded me and asked me what you wanted to become in life. Since I was very disappointed on the whole episode and angry why was I punished because fortunately at that time it wasn’t my mistake. When you are angry you just say anything so I replied I would become a hero. I didn’t mean it at all. I didn’t know it would become true one day.”
Another thing happened while he was in the 8th standard and it was something that would eventually help him in his future roles: he began his training in the Martial Arts. Throughout his school years, Akshay continued studying Karate and his father promised him that if he did well on his board exams he would send him to Bangkok to continue his training. In Bangkok, he studied Martial Arts with Kim Ling Chang and one of his lessons would also help Akshay in his later career as an actor. “He used to take us for a film and ask to watch it carefully. Later he would ask questions like: ‘What was the color of the hero’s shoes?’ or ‘In which hand did the villain pick up the glass of water?’ If we couldn’t answer, he would give us a hard knock on the head. But this training in observation helps me today in acting as well as in life. I do not forget a person or his mannerisms once I meet him.”
Akshay returned to India and did different odd jobs. On his official site he wrote: “I used to go door-to-door selling UNICEF cards, which my father used to get for me, and earn fifty paise per card. At one point, I was even a dancer for the Toko Fogo Nights which were held at Shanmukhananda Hall. At that time, I didn’t have any clear picture of my future. I expected I would continue in the same way all through my life. I believed that some new opportunity would keep coming up. And I knew I was capable of doing any kind of work. I followed a simple principle: whichever offer promised a little more money than my current job, I jumped at it.”
A new opportunity did present itself and it was a modeling job. “Well I was teaching martial arts in Bombay after learning it from Bangkok. I was working hard and earning Rs. 4,000/= per month. And suddenly I got a modeling offer from one of my student who was a model coordinator. He gave me this offer of doing an ad for a furniture showroom. I didn’t know what modeling was. I was asked to reach a certain place and I went over there. There was this room with furniture and a camera. In this modeling assignment I was supposed to give some shots with other models in an A/C room, I was given whatever I want. And after 2 1/2 hrs I received a cheque of Rs. 5,500/= in my hand. Looking at the cheque I said to myself is this fair enough I slog for a month hard teaching martial arts and I earn Rs. 4,000/= and here I relaxed and I am getting more than that in such short time. I am a human being and that made me think a lot. This is fantastic! This line is amazing, what is this modeling I should do it. So I started doing modeling, fashion shows, ramp and after that I came in to films.”
Since he was not from a film family, Akshay had to take the road to stardom sans connections, and his journey began as an assistant to the famous photographer, Jayesh Sheth. In lieu of a salary, Akshay had portfolio pictures taken, which he distributed to producer’s offices. He could not afford to have more shots taken so he would ask for them back! Many times he was told they were lost, so to combat that he had giant prints made. He credits his first role, after only a month as a wannabe, to those un-losable and highly noticeable prints!
That first role was in Pramod Chakravorty’s film Deedar in 1991, although the first film he actually began shooting was Saughand. In an interview he talked about his first shot, “My first scene was with Rakheeji such a senior actress. I remember I was sick that day. I was thinking how will I do all this. My makeup man, fortunately for me he is not just a makeup man he is also a doctor, an ayurvedic doctor. He made me comfortable but it was difficult and hard for me to shoot.” Though that is not a good memory, he does have one after the film completed and they had a screening of Saugandh for his family. “lt was just after the completion of Saugandh. We had a special screening of the film and my relatives came down especially from Delhi to watch it with my family. And the pride and happiness on their faces later, clearly spelt it out that I had become famous.”
Akshay was once asked how he prepared himself to go into this new field and he told this wonderful story: “I remember it very well when I came into this line I wanted to learn acting. I thought acting must be something like learning cooking so I went to buy a book. I was sure there must be some book. I searched all of book vendors at Churchgate in Bombay where they sell these old books. I started searching at 9 o’clock in the morning and I found one very good book at 4 o’clock. I asked for the price and learnt it was 125 and I had only 110 with me. The first page had a quote, ‘if you want to be a good actor you need to be a good human being’. I think that’s more than enough to be a good actor.”
Though his first film did not make a huge splash at the box office, his next role would be one that would define his career for many years to come. That role was Raj Malhotra in 1992’s Khiladi. Akshay said, “It was a great experience. I had never tasted that kind of success. I never knew I will be walking down the street and people will recognize me and call me ‘Khiladi’. It is very hard for me to express that feeling.” He is still known by that nickname today. Throughout the next several years he would star in several more films in the Khiladi series – each one would establish him further as THE action star.
A series of action flicks in 1993 were not quite as successful. In 1994, he took a role in Yeh Dillagi, with Kajol and Saif Ali Khan. that showed him in a totally new avatar. In this remake of the Hollywood classic Sabrina, his terrific performance showed he could play the romantic hero as well. The film was a big success, and Akshay received nominations for Best Actor at both the Filmfare and Star Screen Awards. Also in 1994, among other films, he was seen in Mohra and Main Khiladi Tu Anari. Both had Akshay back to his action daredevil avatar and they were the two highest grossing films of the year.
As I said, to go through every Akshay movie would make this article twenty pages long, so we will make a quick stop to highlight a 1997 supporting role in Dil to Pagal Hai. His performance was so nuanced, sweet, and romantic; that if this was the first movie you saw him in, you would never believe he was mainly known for his action films. Even with the powerhouse performances of Shah Rukh and Madhuri, his performance as Ajay stood out, and he received a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Now let’s jump to 2000. After years of doing the action/daredevil thing, Akshay was ready to don a romantic cloak in Dhadkan. He again excelled, and one review said, “Akshay Kumar shows vast improvement as an actor. He is very controlled and handles this difficult role with sincerity.” Dhadkan was a success at the box office, and firmly established him as a star that could play the romantic hero.
Also in 2000, Akshay decided to try a new genre and starred in the master of comedy, Priyadarshan’s Hera Pheri. The film was a huge box office success and proved that whatever Akshay tries he can do! On why he decided to take a break from action films Akshay said, “But that is mainly because people thought I could do only action till I did Yeh Dillagi and Dhadkan with dramatic roles followed by a comedy like Hera Pheri. It is like reinventing yourself each time. That is precisely what the audience is looking for. It wants you to keep offering interesting and varied stuff, which can only happen with a bit of planning and a lot of hard work. I want to be someone to look up to and make oneself believe that – if he can do it, so can I.” For his hilarious performance in Hera Pheri, he won the Bollywood Movie Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Akshay took on an evil role in 2001 for the first time, and for his performance as the villainous Vikram Bajaj in Ajnabee, he was honored with several awards including the Filmfare, IIFA, Stardust and Sansui Viewer Choice Awards for Best Actor in a Villainous Role.
Other outstanding performances by Akshay have been Ek Rishtaa (2001), Aankhen (2002), Awara Paagal Deewana (2002) for which he won a Bollywood Movie Award, and Andaaz, which also starred Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra. Regarding the film, Akshay said, “I play an air force officer. And boy, I love it! I have always dreamt of a life in the army or air force. Now I am finally getting to play an air force officer. That is why I love acting. It lets me fulfill all my secret fantasies. In Andaz, I have done everything according to what the role requires. I have made sure I looked like an air force officer — I cut my hair into a crew cut. I also streaked my hair in Andaz. The South African government provided us MiGs and jets. We were allowed to shoot their air show and I got to sit in their planes. They supported us completely. It was a very fulfilling experience.” The film was a commercial success.
2004 was a very good year for Akshay. He appeared in the multi-starrer Khakee with Aishwarya Rai, Ajay Devgan, and Amitabh Bachchan. His performance was critically acclaimed, and one reviewer said, “Akshay Kumar exposes his flair for comedy and doesn’t disappoint! His action sequences are, as always, perfect. He is in his best form in the pre-interval scene.” He was nominated for a Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the Filmfare Awards for his role as Sr. Inspector Shekhar Verma.
Also in 2004 came the very funny Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. The film also starred Priyanka Chopra, and was the first time Akshay was paired up against Salman Khan. About working with Salman: “In Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, everything seems perfect, especially the chemistry between Salman and me. We are together for the first time. The audiences should find our combination interesting. I enjoyed shooting with Salman. Let’s hope the audience feels the same way.” The audience and critics loved his performance and he was nominated for both Best Actor in a Comic role, as well as, Best Actor in a Supporting role at the Filmfare Award and Zee Cine Awards. He was nominated for Best Actor in a Comic Role at the Stardust and Star Screen Awards and won at IIFA. He also won at GIFA for Best Actor in Supporting Role.
In 2005, Akshay took on the role of producer as well as an actor for the film Waqt: The Race Against Time. This film holds a special place in Akshay’s heart: “I lost my father to cancer. I decided to dedicate this film to him. I intend to give away my earnings to various cancer hospitals. It’s just a small gift from a son to his father.” He also said “I want people to go and watch this film not because I am the distributor and so it will earn money. I’ve decided to donate most of my earnings from this film to charitable organizations. Through this film I want to remind the audience of the importance of that man in their life whom they call ‘Father’. Every father slogs so hard for his children – and my dad was no exception. He gave me everything, even things he couldn’t afford. Also, it’s important to spend a lot of time with your parents, because once you lose them, you’ve lost a lot. And that you’ll realize only once they are gone.” He won the Stardust Star of the Year Award for his performance in Waqt – The Race Against Time.
In Garam Masala, another Priyadarshan comedy, Akshay starred with John Abraham. For many, this is one of their favorite Akshay performances and he and John together made a great comic team. Akshay was praised for his performance with one review saying, “Akshay Kumar is fast emerging as an actor with quite a comic flair. His facial expressions, his dialogue delivery, his tonal intonations and the humorous, self-deprecatory touch he brings to his character – all this invokes laughter and is worth praise.” He won the Filmfare and Star Screen Awards for Best Actor in a Comic Role and he was nominated at IIFA. He also won Actor of the Year at Stardust and won the Best Comedic Performance at the Bollywood Peoples Choice Awards.
Akshay continued his comedy streak in 2006; a couple of his films that year were total laugh riots. “A light atmosphere on the sets is always welcome. I like to see people laugh. And actually that’s the reason I’m signing on lighter comedies like Phir Hera Pheri and Garam Masala. In today’s world, that’s so filled with stress, it takes just as much as a pinch to make someone cry. But to make people laugh is a tough job. And I intend to do just that, on and off screen.”
Phir Hera Pheri was a sequel to Hera Pheri and it not only pleased critics, it wowed audiences as well and it was a huge hit at the box office. Also in 2006, he was seen in Bhagam Bhag and again was praised for his comic timing: “. . . none matches the superb comic timing of Akshay Kumar. The actor is relentlessly getting better and better at comedy. Right from the first scene when he prods Govinda into telling about the hot moment shared with actress (Tanushree), to the second half when he speaks in broken English with an air travel company executive, Akshay is simply superlative. He is the reason you can watch this movie.”
I have to mention 2006’s Jaane-E-Maan, because his performance completely changed my idea of Akshay, the actor. He stole the show from both Preity and Salman, which is a hard thing to do. The scene that really stood out was when he realized that he is trying to be someone he’s not – he does not say a word, but his performance is so powerful. Seeing that I thought, wow! I was a fan before, but after this film I was a huge fan of his acting ability, if that makes sense. He won the Best Comedian Award at the AIFA Awards. The film was not a success but to me he made the movie!
Though he had already many, many hits to his name, 2007 was Akshay’s year! He had four hits in a row and became one of the kings of the box office, not only in India but also overseas.
First to release was Namastey London. This is one of my favorite Akki performances and it shows off his strength both as a comedic, as well as, a dramatic actor. This was his second film with Katrina Kaif and boy, did audiences love the two of them together. Our reviewer wrote, “After playing a variety of comic roles, Akshay Kumar is in tremendous form and essays the role of the sober and sensitive Punjabi boy with finesse. His love for Jazz can clearly be felt. It was refreshing to see him move away from his usual Garam Masala/Bhagam Bhag type roles.” He was nominated as Best Actor at the IIFA and Zee Cine Awards. For this and his next movie Heyy Babyy, he won the Star of the Year at the Stardust Awards.
Heyy Babyy was the second hit in his winning streak at the ticket counters. One review praised him saying, “Akshay Kumar is the life of the film. We all know that he’s a pure genius at comedy and, no doubt, his comic timing is spot-on this time around too! His expressions and dialogues are just hilarious, and not only does he make you laugh, but he also manages to get you very emotional at the same time – which is not at all an easy thing to do, and only an actor par excellence can do that.”
Also in the Hit column for 2007 were the supernatural thriller Bhool Bhulaiyaa and the comedy Welcome!
His next few films coming up in 2008 have blockbuster written all over them. First up, we have the highly anticipated Singh is Kinng which releases on 08-08-08. Akshay is paired up once again with Katrina Kaif, and in an interview Akshay revealed what he thinks is the USP (Unique Selling Point) of the film, “The film has the most dynamic and state-of-the-art action sequences, a wonderful cast, there is the collaboration with Snoop Dogg and R.D.B for one of the film’s title songs, there’s the breathtaking Miss Katrina Kaif, outstanding songs for all music lovers and the uncanny comedy done by yours truly. I think it’s a safe bet that someone out there is gonna like it. If not, I’ll still stand there proud and say I promise to do better next time …”
About his role as Happy Singh, Akshay said, “I’ve always tried to break the mould. My heart beats for films and my heart told me that I must make a difference and show my true Punjabi colors in a lovable manner. I wanted to play a Sikh who can stamp his love on people’s mind. I got the title for the film from the back end of a truck so in a way you can say that people of India gave me the story.” The film looks to be another mark in the super hit column with pre-ticket sales already selling out and the soundtrack being a huge hit on the charts.
Coming up later this year is his film Chandni Chowk To China, directed by Nikhil Advani. Much of the story is taken from Akshay’s real life, so you may recognize some things from this spotlight. (Well, from his life, not really from this spotlight). Akshay talked about the film saying, “It marks the Hindi film debut of Warner Brothers and that is exciting enough for me. In the film, my role is that of a lowly Mumbai cook who is mistaken for a martial arts hero – close to my life story because I began as a cook in Bangkok and became a martial arts expert. I have Deepika Padukone opposite me. The film will give me a platform to showcase my expertise in Parkour – a physical activity that focuses on efficient movement of the body in getting across obstacles in one’s path. I first did this in a Thums Up ad last year. I am really excited about action flicks because I have returned to action after a long time.”
He is currently filming for Kambakkth Ishq with Kareena Kapoor, and that is scheduled for release in December. Also in the works is Eight by Ten (Tasveer), which won’t release until 2009. He has several more films in the pipeline for 2009 including International Hera Pheri, Action Replay, Blue, Housefull, Purab ki Laila Paschim ka Chaila and Aise Ko Taisa. With all these wonderful projects in store, Akshay fans will have plenty of movies to get their Akki fix.
“I’d rather be a Jack of all trades than a master of one. I want to be known as a hero in the truest sense of the word. A hero can dance, perform stunts, as well as, be a good actor. Like Dharamji, for example. I’d love to emulate him, if possible. So you see, I prefer being an all-rounder.”
Akshay Kumar certainly is an all-rounder and has thrilled fans, made them cry, made them cheer, made them dance and certainly has made them fall in love with his amazing performances throughout his long career. He is one of the best actors in Bollywood, but because he has done many comedic and action roles, he is not always considered one of the Best. However, He Is! He can do it all, and does it all with energy, joy and fabulous talent. He has much more in store for audiences this year, next year and we hope for many more years to come. For now all we can say is Thank You for all the wonderful hours we have spent watching you and we cannot wait to spend some more!
His real name is Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia. He changed it to Akshay Kumar when he started to model. “I had seen an old film, I don’t remember the name now, but I liked the hero’s character in it. Since the character’s name was Akshay I chose the name.”
Nicknames: “Akki”, “Raju”, “Rajiv”, “Khiladi”
Akshay is married to Twinkle Khanna and they have one son, Arav.
Wishes he were 2 inches taller than his 6’1 height. His shoe size is 12!!
Was a playback singer on Ajnabee and Tashan.
Is a hero in real life. He drove Aishwarya to the hospital after a jeep ran over her foot on the set of Khakee. He also saved Lara Dutta’s life during the shooting of Andaaz. The two were shooting for a song in Cape Town along the shore and were pulled under the water. Akshay helped Lara to shore.
Supposedly since his birthday and month are both the number 9 he considers it to be his lucky number. His house number and his car number always add up to 9.
His dad saw Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi 13 times.
He fought the WWE Wrestler, Undertaker, in Khildaiyon Ka Khiladi.
To support himself in Bangkok, he was a chef.
His sister is his biggest critic. He shows her all his films and sometimes even the script before he signs a film.
He was originally supposed to do Phool Aur Kaante, but dates for another film interfered so Ajay Devgan got Phool and Akshay got Khiladi.
He learned how to do stunts with Ajay from Ajay’s father who was the brilliant stunt director Veeru Devgan.
Was part of the Heat 2006 World Tour. Also in the show were Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta, Sushmita Sen and Celina Jaitley.
Part of this year’s Unforgettable Tour and thrilled audiences in Toronto!
He still has his first car, a 1956 model Fiat…he still drives it sometimes.
A Khiladi memory: “A beggar came up to my car at the traffic signal, tapped on the window and asked for ten rupees.”Why ten rupees?” I ask him. He said: Sir, aapki picture dekhni hai” (Sir, I want to watch your movie). I liked his style of begging! So I gave him fifteen rupees and told him to eat “samosas” in the interval too.”
Likes to go to the beach early in the morning and also loves to take long walks in the wilderness. “I have learnt a lot from nature which has helped me in my personal life as well as in my career. To date, I have used only natural medicines like herbs or ayurvedic prescriptions. I have never used allopathic medicines. I think we can all learn a lot by watching the nature. When I am alone with the sea, or the mountains, I am most at ease with life.”
Once said, “There is a Chinese saying: If you want the Gods to laugh, you must talk to them of your plans for the future. So I prefer not to make any plans. I would like to have the last laugh.”
To keep in shape he says, “Well I train myself every morning for 1