Akshay Kumar received the National Film Award for Best Actor today, from the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. The moment set aside over 26 years of trials and tribulations that he may have faced in Hindi cinema.
Notwithstanding the huge box-office success that most of the 49-year-old actor’s 135 films have seen, the absence of recognition in the form of awards nagged somewhere. “Not anymore,” says a triumphant Akshay, moments after receiving Indian cinema’s most coveted honour at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan on Wednesday evening.
Dressed in Indian attire — a bandhgala by designer Manish Malhotra — for the occasion, Akshay was accompanied by a very proud spouse, author Twinkle Khanna, and their 14-year-old son Aarav, who got as much attention as his award-winner dad. “To finally take my last few steps towards the President of India to receive my National Award felt almost unreal,” says Akshay. “I’ve never felt so light and so humbled at the same time. When one works day in and day out, as I do, something like this isn’t just an honour, it’s a moment in time where everything makes sense. No matter how hard the journey may have been, to stand here now, in front of my family, is the cherry on this almighty cake we call life.”
The announcement of the award last month was followed by much brouhaha on social media over Akshay’s deservedness for it. Especially when his films Rustom and Airlift were preferred by the jury over the popular favourite, Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal, and the critically acclaimed Aligarh.
Did the criticism mar his proud moment in any way? “Never,” he replies emphatically. “Nothing can taint this moment. Our country and its people deserve their voice and their opinion. Just like I know I deserve this award. I’ve never felt more proud of my efforts than I do today. No amount of cyber bashing will ever change this day for me. In fact, it has been quite entertaining listening to people get their knickers in such a twist about something over which I had no control.” He is quick to add, “But that’s also the power of your true fans. They will always want their own Idol to be honoured the most. I will never disrespect the love people have for their favourite star. Whether they are with me or against me, I’m happy with what I’ve got and how I’ve got here.”
Apart from his films, Akshay has, of late, hit headlines for lending his voice to a range of social causes. We ask if there’s a cause that’s closer to his heart than the others. “Every cause is extremely close to me; otherwise, I wouldn’t be caring for it in the way I do,” he replies. “In my eyes, the whole idea of becoming famous and successful was that one day, with the power I’ve created by doing my job well, I’d be giving back in as many ways as possible.”
The philosopher in Akshay suddenly takes over with a glint in his eye. He says, “I’ve believed that God has given me so much knowing that I’d do all I could, to do good for the people. If one has a voice, it should be heard. If one has good intentions, one should do whatever it takes to act upon them.
“If one has the power to change unfortunate circumstances, then one should fight to the very end to change them. I have all this and more. I feel it’s my destiny to give back to those whom my journey can inspire. Because I never forget my humble beginnings. I’ll always remember I am a Bhatia before I became a Kumar!”