If there's one person who can match the Khans in star power as well as assure a blockbuster on the box office, it is Akshay Kumar. The actor, who was a waiter once, turns 48 on Wednesday and has over time become a name to reckon with in tinsel town. Born as Rajiv Hari Bhatia, Akshay began his acting career with Saugandh in 1991 but the film turned out to be an absolute dud. Down, but not out by any stretch of imagination, he gradually made his mark in the industry as an action hero.
Since then, Akshay has never failed to charm and impress onscreen with his expertise in martial arts in Khiladi movies or tickling his fans' funny bones with comic series like Hera Pheri and Housefull.
We bring his seven onscreen avatars that have endeared him to his fans.
New-age Bharat Kumar
A close look at Akshay's characters in his recent films reveals how he has become the face of the patriotic Indian on the silver screen of late. Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty, Baby or Gabbar Is Back - all of them weave in new-age patriotism, sans the jingoism common in Hindi cinema.
In Bollywood, we saw a dose of patriotism last with Manoj Kumar who starred in films that glorified the Indian culture and its values as opposed to the West and thus earning his nickname Bharat Kumar. Akshay is clearly cast in a different avatar but the pro-India ethos in his films is definitely there. His characters do not wage war against enemies from outside, instead they cleanse the system of existing malpractices.
Akshay Kumar in a still from Baby.
Scriptwriter Jaideep Sahni, who worked with Akshay in Neeraj Pandey's Special 26, says, "I believe Akshay has certain awareness and there is a social responsibility that he carries with his persona; he has even taken initiatives like promoting self-defence for women and saving the girl child."
In an earlier interview to HT, Akshay had said that his dad (Hari Om Bhatia) was an army officer and that's why the love for the country and patriotism runs in his blood.
Akshay has played the conman with cool quotient in several films. In Ajnabee (2001), he outdid Bobby Deol while in Tashan (2008) he stood against Anil Kapoor. Neeraj Pandey showed Akshay in one of his most impressive avatars with Special 26 (2013).
With his action hero image in several Khiladi films, he successfully made a mark as the macho man and earned the nickname Khiladi Kumar. Starting with Ayesha Jhulkha-Deepak Tijori-starrer Khiladi, Akshay acted in films such as Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994) with Saif Ali Khan and Shilpa Shetty. Then came Sabse Bada Khiladi (1995), Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996), Mr and Mrs Khiladi (1997), International Khiladi (1999), Khiladi 420 (2000) and Khiladi 786 (2012).
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Around 2000 on, Akshay re-invented himself as the action hero with the perfect comic timing. Priyadarshan's Hera Pheri (2000) was just the beginning of his successful stint with comedy. The comic saga continued with films like Garam Masala (2005), Bhagam Bhaag (2006), Welcome (2007), Phir Hera Pheri (2006) and Housefull (2010).
The hero in uniform
Akshay has also donned the uniform with elan in a few of his movies. In Khakee (2004) and Aan: Men at Work (2004), he played a cop while he essayed the role of an army man in Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo (2004).
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He may not be a romantic figure to reckon with, but Akshay has had his share of films that offer an overdose of romance and love. Dhadkan (2000), Humko Deewana Kar Gaye (2006) and Namaste London (2007) had Akshay playing the lover boy.
After Salman Khan, Akshay is the only Bollywood hero who can pull off completely nonsensical action sequences and play Robinhood with much ease and make cash registers ring at the box office. Akshay's masala blockbusters include Singh Is King (2008), Rowdy Rathore (2012), Boss (2014), Entertainment (2014), among others.
Which one of Akshay's onscreen persona is your favourite? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.