It’s no wonder Akshay Kumar’s name has always been associated with action. In the late ’80s, the actor bagged a black belt in Taekwondo before studying martial arts and Muay Thai in Bangkok (Thailand). And upon his return to Mumbai, he started teaching martial arts before becoming an actor. Even his journey in B-Town started off as an action hero with Saugandh (1991), and later, the Khiladi movies.
Now, Akshay’s life seems to have come full circle, as the actor has set up a unique initiative — an insurance scheme for the stuntmen and stuntwomen of Bollywood. A source says, “It’s going to be the first-of-its-kind stuntmen insurance system in India. The scheme is the brainchild of Akshay and noted cardiac surgeon Dr Ramakanta Panda, who operated on ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009.”
Akshay has always maintained that he is a “stuntman first and then an actor”. “He strongly believes that stuntmen work very hard and take life-threatening risks, so it’s high time they got insured. It’s only going to motivate stuntmen to be more passionate about their work,” says the source. The insurance scheme is going to cover 380 stuntmen and women between 18 and 55 years of age.
Until now, there have been no such insurance schemes for stuntmen and women across any film industry in the country. “Akshay, along with Dr Panda and others, has been working on the scheme for about four to five months, and the actor is happy that he has managed to do it quickly,” the source added.
Ejaz Gulab, the general secretary of Movie Stunt Artist Association, says Akshay has “somehow made the impossible possible”. “Over the years, we had approached a number of producers and insurance companies, but they didn’t agree to provide insurance to us. It was very demoralising, but we don’t know what magic wand Akshayji has used. We can’t thank him enough, as it has come as great news for us,” he says.
As per the policy, in case of hospitalisation due to any physical injury or accident while doing stunts, a stuntman will be covered for Rs six lakh at about 4,000 hospitals through a cashless system. “Even if they get into a hospital that’s not a part of the network, they can still avail of the benefit through reimbursements,” says the source. And in case of death, there’s a provision of Rs 10 lakh, which will be given to whoever the stuntman chooses as their nominee.
Gulab feels that it [the insurance] should have happened long ago. “Stuntmen are also human beings and they also have families. If they are insured, they can also be more confident and put in their best without holding themselves back. This scheme is only going to motivate them further,” says a source.
Despite repeated attempts, Akshay couldn’t be reached for a comment, but sources close to the actor insist that he feels he has earned a lot of money and respect in people’s eyes, and it’s now time for him to “give back in whatever way” he can. “It’s a huge move for stuntmen, as they are taking risks on a daily basis,” says the source.
Akshay recently also launched an app and a website, Bharat Ke Veer, to help people donate money directly to the families of martyred army jawans. He came up with the app within three months with help from the government.
During the launch, an emotional Akshay had said: “Everybody wants to connect to people in uniform in their pain. It was a small dream, and to fulfill this dream, our government really helped us. I want to thank everybody... My father (the late Hari Om Bhatia) was in Army, and I am here as his son.”