Minutes before heading out to collect his Padma Shri, an elated Akshay Kumar said he was still trying to work out what earned him the high honour.
Dedicating the award to his mum and his fans “without whom I would not be where I am”, the actor, who is riding a wave of commercial success, said that the national honour makes the picture complete. He shared his euphoria with HT City shortly before receiving the award from President Pratibha Patil in a glittering ceremony in Delhi yesterday. “This honour is very special and different from the awards we get at filmi functions,” said the actor. “I’m amazed at the planning that goes into such a ceremony — who will sit where, where to get on to the stage from, how to greet the President — all of this fascinates me.”
Wife Twinkle and six-year-old son Arav were in Delhi with the star, but Arav had to stay at the hotel while his father was feted at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Akshay’s sister Alka came with him from Mumbai as well.
We asked him if he feels that the honour should have come to him sooner, and he replied with a smile, “I’m not sure why it has come to me now. The government says it’s because I’ve been the ‘best entertainer’. It may be because I brought over Rs 1,500 crore to the industry in the past year. So it feels nice.”
The star would have celebrated the award in Delhi, but he had to leave almost immediately after the ceremony, as he was to fly to South Africa for a TV show.
This year, the Padma Shri has also been awarded to actress Aishwarya Rai. The entire Bachchan clan, including Amitabh, was at Rashtrapati Bhavan. How would it feel to have Amitabh watch him receive the award? “Oh, it’s a great feeling,” said Akshay, setting the cuff right on the pin-stripe black Armani suit he had chosen for the function.
“I first met Mr Bachchan when I was six or seven years old, and he was shooting in Pahalgam. My mum prompted me to take an autograph, while I was keener on checking out something delicious that he was eating. He still doesn’t know that without asking him, I picked something from his plate and quickly ate it.” Oh, well, the secret is out now.