Although I was born in Amritsar, Punjab, I lived and grew up in Delhi-6 — commonly known as Chandni Chowk — before moving to Mumbai, where I lived in Koliwada. It was largely a Punjabi-dominated area, at least at that time. But I strongly believe that my journey to Mumbai — the ‘city of dreams’ — has been nothing less than life-changing. As everyone knows, Mumbai has given me a new life — a life that I never dreamt of, and one that I cannot imagine my existence without now.
While Delhi will always be home, Mumbai is now my home away from home. I have been in the Hindi film industry for over 25 years, and I can confidently say it has been a mixed bag of highs and lows that has kept me on my feet after all these years in the industry. I wouldn’t change a single thing that happened to me during my journey. I’m completely satisfied and at peace with everything.
Many might feel or as the popular perception goes that Mumbai is a tough city to survive in. If you ask me, I will agree and say, “Well, of course, it is a tough city to survive in, and it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.” Mumbai has a pace of its own, and not everyone can match up to it. It can really test you and rattle you, especially if you don’t belong to the city. But once you get the hang of it, the ‘city of dreams’ can be equally welcoming.
I strongly feel that the trick lies in how fast you can change yourself, because the sooner you adapt to it (the fast pace of the city), the better it is. Remember, perseverance is the key [to survive] in this city.
I haven’t lived in Delhi for over two decades now, but there’s something about the city that makes it distinct. I grew up and spent most of my formative years there. So, of course, it holds a special place in my heart. It is like your first crush or love, who you can never forget.
Mumbai has been popularly called ‘the city of dreams’, but, for me, it hasn’t been about ‘dreams’ because honestly speaking, I never harboured dreams. I never even had the ambition to become an actor. It (acting career) just happened to me. I’m glad it happened though. Now when I think about it, I can’t imagine a day when I’m not facing the camera. On days when I am not in front of the camera or on the sets, I long to go back to work. So yes, in a way, Mumbai has fulfilled my dreams, just as it has for millions before me.
- As told to Prashant Singh
(Akshay Kumar has been a part of Bollywood for over 25 years. He has acted in a variety of films, and is considered one of the most bankable stars in the film industry)