In Part I of this special feature, we had a look at Akshay Kumar’s eventful beginning in Bollywood followed by a huge rush that he found himself in. Here is detailing his not-so-impressive middle innings followed by a revival that brought him in an altogether different bracket.
Not quite the same luck
It was obvious that law of averages would soon catch up Akshay. Perhaps Akshay too knew this and hence he continued to sign films on a relentless pace. The strike rate of successful films did go down but he continued to have at least one or two hits every year. For every Paandav or Nazar Ke Saamne that didn’t work, he had a Sabse Bada Khiladi. For every Lahu Ke Do Rang and Insaaf, he had a Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi. The disappointment of a Daava or Taraazu not turning out to be a smash hit was compensated by a Tu Chor Main Sipahi.
However, the need of the hour for Akshay was to reinvent himself. Really, with half a dozen odd action films of his releasing every year, there was stagnation coming in. Akshay wasn’t getting burnt out but audience for sure wanted to see something new. No wonder, they didn’t whole-heartedly lap up his subsequent films like Keemat, Angaarey, Barood and Zulmi. Akshay did go through an image change by working in a negative role in Aflatoon which was complimented by some dare devil stunts in the film. The audiences had made up their mind though. Something new had to be done pronto and it was coming together of four totally different films that eventually did the trick – Sangharsh, Jaanwar, Hera Pheri and Dhadkan.
Akshay had taken the bold step of moving out of his comfort zone and for the first time in his career, he worked with a female director (Tanuja Chandra) in a sensitive dramatic fare Sangharsh. A Mahesh Bhatt film, it showed Akshay in a totally different light and though the film did just about decent business at the box office, the ‘actor’ managed to fetch audience’s attention. Yes, finally after being in the business for a decade, Akshay was recognised as an actor with Sangharsh.
However, the great revival happened with none other than Jaanwar, a film which will go down in the annals of Bollywood history as that one event which changed the course of Akshay’s career. In an emotionally ridden film where Akshay was seen as a protective father, the tagline of ‘actor’ was now firmly clipped to his persona. The industry saw a totally different Akshay and he was yet again back in business. The subsequent release of Hera Pheri meant that Akshay could do comedy as well. With Akshay refraining from kicks and punches for this Priyadarshan affair, the film grew quite strongly from very positive word of mouth. Hailed as a cult comedy today, Hera Pheri was a laugh riot that also resulted in Akshay laughing all the way to the bank. And if there was something that female audience were missing from Akshay, they got that in Dhadkan which turned out to be his first out and out romantic role.
The new Millennium had kick started for Akshay in a major way and gone were the B affairs that he had willingly been a part of his in his formative years. After being in the business for a decade, Akshay had finally taken complete charge of his career which he could now shape it as per his will. No, he didn’t cut down on work but now there were big films that were planned with him. Ek Rishta with Amitabh Bachchan stays on to be one of his most high quality films till date and showed an emotional side of him. A success, it was followed by Ajnabee where he went mean and found accolades coming his way. He did have a couple of non-starters in Haan Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya and Talaash but they were not threatening enough to qualify as setbacks.
Meanwhile, he didn’t quite hang up his action boots. His Awara Paagal Deewana, an action comedy, was a hit while his Khakee as well as Aankhen, both being dramatic affairs, won him much appreciation as a total ‘paisa vasool’ hero. Aitraaz, a ‘desi’ take on Disclosure was yet another success up his sleeves and it was clear that the direction that he was pretty much headed towards now was towards the top.
The loyalty factor
In the middle of this immense high that Akshay was enjoying, he never forgot the people who were responsible in giving a fillip to his career. While the world believes today that he works mainly with Priyadarshan, courtesy his half a dozen films with him like Hera Pheri, Garam Masala, Bhagam Bhag, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, De Dana Dan and Khatta Meetha, the fact remains that he has worked most with another film maker who is the most unsuspecting of the lot. It is Keshu Ramsay, the man who started it all for Akshay with a lesser known film – Mr. Bond. Ever since then, he has worked him in 10 more films – Ashant, Paandav, Sabse Bada Khiladi, Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi, Mr And Mrs Khiladi, International Khiladi, Khiladi 420, Khakee, Insan and Family – Ties Of Blood.
With Akshay having worked in close to 90 films in a career spanning 20 years, 11 films with a single filmmaker is a big deal in itself. However, there are many others who have enjoyed close to half a dozen films each with Akshay. Suneel Darshan has made Jaanwar, Ek Rishta, Haan Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya, Andaaz, Dosti – Friends Forever and Mere Jeeven Saathi with Akshay. Vipul Shah, with an exception of London Dreams, has worked mainly with Akshay, case in point being Aankhen, Waqt, Namastey London, Singh Is Kinng and Action Replayy. Even Raj Sippy, who gave him a break with Saugandh, has worked with Akshay repeatedly in his initial years with Amaanat, Mr. Bond, Ikke Pe Ikka and Paandav arriving one after another.