It was early 90’s and a sloppy young gentleman named Rajiv Bhatia arrived in Mumbai aspiring to become an actor. Determined to make a mark, he started off working as an assistant in a photo studio, until one day the tables turned.
Fortune favoured him and Hindi cinema got a new face with a new name: Akshay Kumar. What followed next is 25 years of relentless hard work to become one of Bollywood’s icons. Keeping aside the triumvirate of the Khans, if there is one actor who has been able to redefine success in his lifetime it is Akshay Kumar. Today, Akshay is not only one of the biggest film stars, but an extremely bankable and commercially viable actor.
Hailing from humble beginnings and without a godfather in the industry, it wasn’t an easy journey for Akshay Kumar. After training in martial arts, Kumar started off as a model in Mumbai struggling to get an access to films. He also worked as a background dancer in various films.
One morning he missed his flight for an ad-shoot in Bangalore. Disappointed, he casually visited a film studio with his portfolio. That evening, Kumar got signed for a lead role by producer Pramod Chakravarty for the movie ‘Deedar’.Since then, there has been no looking back.
Kumar made his first appearance as the lead actor opposite Raakhee and Shantipriya in ‘Saugandh’, but the film didn’t do well. It was Abbas Mustan’s suspense thriller‘Khiladi’ that became his breakthrough role.
A series of small films latercame the year that catapulted Akshay Kumar as one of the most promising actors to look up to. In 1994, he played a police inspector in two films: Sameer Malkan directed remake of the Hollywood film ‘The Hard Way’, ‘Main Khiladi Tu Anari’ and Rajiv Rai-directed ‘Mohra’ which were among the highestgrossing films of the year.
Later that year, he starred in the Yash Chopra produced romance, ‘Yeh Dillagi’ opposite Kajol. His role in the film earned Kumar his first nomination for Best Actor at the Filmfare Awards and Star Screen awards. During the same year, Kumar also had success with films like ‘Suhaag’ and the low budget action film ‘Elaan’. Akshay Kumar appeared in 11 feature films in 1994 and was one of the most successful actors of the year.
What followed is Kumar’s dual role in Umesh Mehra directed action thriller, ‘Sabse Bada Khiladi’, which was a commercial success. He also saw success with the Khiladi series and starred in the fourth film of the Khiladi series, ‘Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi’ opposite Rekha and Raveena Tandon. The film was a commercial success. The same year, Kumar also played a supporting role in Yash Chopra directed romance, ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’ (1997), co-starring Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor, for which he received his first nomination for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. But then came a downslide in Akshay Kumar’s career. Back to back films failed at the box office and caused a setback to his film career. Akshay tried experimenting with films like ‘Sangharsh’ which earned him critical acclaim but failed commercially. ‘Jaanwar’ marked his comeback into mainstream Bollywood.
In 2000, Kumar starred in the Priyadarshan directed comedy ‘Hera Pheri’alongside Paresh Rawal and Sunil Shetty. The film which was a remake of Malayalam film ‘Ramji Rao Speaking’ became a commercial success and proved to be a turning point in Kumar’s career. Kumar also starred in the Dharmesh Darshan directed romantic drama ‘Dhadkan’ later that year. His first release in 2001 was Suneel Darshan directed drama ‘Ek Rishtaa: The Bond of Love’. Kumar was praised for his performance in the film. Next, he played a negative role in the Abbas Mustan directed film ‘Ajnabee’ where Kumar was praised for his acting. He played a blind man in Vipul Amrutlal Shah and Shaarang Dev Pandit directed heist film ‘Aankhen’, co-starring Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Aditya Pancholi, Sushmita Sen and Paresh Rawal. His performance in the film was critically acclaimed.Next, he starred in the Vikram Bhattdirected comedy ‘Awara Paagal Deewana’.
Next, he starred in Raj Kanwar directed romantic drama ‘Andaaz’ alongside Priyanka Chopraand Lara Dutta. The film received mixed reviews from critics, but turned out to be a commercial success at the box office and the first universal hit of 2003.
In 2004 Kumar starred in Rajkumar Santoshi’s action drama thriller ‘Khakee’ alongside Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn and Aishwarya Rai. Kumar played the role of inspector Shekhar Verma, acorrupt, morally bankrupt cop who changes himself during a mission to transfer an accused Pakistani spy Dr. Iqbal Ansari (played by Atul Kulkarni) from a remote town in Maharashtra to Mumbai. The film and Kumar’s acting were positively reviewed by critics.He was nominated for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for his role in the film.
Next, Kumar played ‘Hari Om Patnaik’, an IPS officer in Madhur Bhandarkar directed ‘Aan: Men at Work’. He starred in David Dhawan directed romantic comedy ‘Mujhse Shaadi Karogi’ alongside Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra. Kumar He played the role of Sunny. Sameer (played by Salman Khan)is his room-mate who is in love with Rani (played by Priyanka Chopra) Sameer’s love interest. The film received positive reviews. His next few films included ‘Aitraaz’, ‘Bewafaa’, ‘Garam Masala’, ‘Waqt: The Race Against Time’, ‘Deewane Huy ePaagal’ and ‘Dosti: Friends Forever’.
Kumar’s first release of 2006 was Rajkumar Santoshi directed drama ‘Family – Ties of Blood’ followed by Suneel Darshan’s ‘Mere Jeevan Saathi’ and Raj Kanwar’s ‘Humko Deewana Kar Gaye’. Next, he starred in a sequel to ‘Hera Pheri’ titled ‘Phir Hera Pheri’. As was the former, the sequel became a huge success at the box office. Later that year he starred alongside Salman Khan and Preity Zinta in the Shirish Kunder directed romantic musical film ‘Jaan-E-Mann’. The film was a well anticipated release, and despite receiving positive reviews from critics, it did not do as well as expected at the box office.
2007 proved to be Kumar’s most successful year during his career in the industry, His first release, Vipul Amrutlal Shah directed ‘Namastey London’, was critically and commercially successful and his performance earned him a Best Actor nomination at the Film fare awards. His next two releases, Sajid Khan directed ‘Heyy Babyy’ and Priya darshan’s ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa’, were box office successes as well.In both of these films he starred opposite Vidya Balan. Kumar’s last release of the year, was the Anees Bazmee directed ‘Welcome’, which did extremely well at the box office, receiving a blockbuster status and simultaneously becoming his fifth successive hit.All of Kumar’s films which released that year did well in the overseas market as well. Kumar also appeared in a cameo role in Farah Khan directed ‘Om Shanti Om’. His role was listed as no. 3 on the Top 10 Cameos in Bollywood ever.
In 2008, he starred in Bazmee directed ‘Singh Is Kinng’ in opposite Katrina Kaif that became a huge success at the box office and broke the first week worldwide record of ‘Om Shanti Om’, the previous highest figure. His next film was the animated film ‘Jumbo’, directed by Kompin Kemgumnird. The year also saw Kumar making his small screen debut as the host of the successful show ‘Fear Factor – Khatron Ke Khiladi’. He later returned to host the show’s second season in 2009.
A few forgettable and average films later, he then appeared in the 2010 comedy, ‘Housefull’, directed by Sajid Khan which garnered the second-highest opening weekend collection of all time. Kumar’s next release was ‘Khatta Meetha’, directed by Priya darshan which was an average grosser. The film received negative reviews.
In 2011 he starred in ‘Patiala House’ and ‘Thank You’. His last film of 2011 was Rohit Dhawan directed ‘Desi Boyz’, which co-starred John Abraham, Chitrangada Singh and Deepika Padukone. He also co-produced a film with Russell Peters titled ‘Breakaway’ (dubbed into Hindi as ‘Speedy Singhs’) which is reminiscent of his own ‘Patiala House’. ‘Breakaway’ became the highest-grossing cross-cultural movie of 2011 in Canada. Kumar dubbed for the role of Optimus Prime in the Hindi version of Hollywood, action blockbuster ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’. He took the dubbing role for his son, Aarav, and did so for free.
His first release of 2012 was ‘Housefull 2’, a sequel of his earlier comedy film ‘Housefull’. The film received mixed reviews from critics but was very successful at the box office. It was also a huge hit in overseas market and the biggest Bollywoodgrosser in New Zealand.
Kumar’s next film was the Prabhudev adirected action drama ‘Rowdy Rathore’ in which he played a double role opposite Sonakshi Sinha.The film earned more than INR1.3 billion (US$20 million) in India and was a huge box office success, being declared a “blockbuster”. Both of these films grossed over INR 100 crore (US$16 million) at the box office. Although the former film received mixed reviews; Kumar’s performance in it was praised.
In 2012, he founded another production company called Grazing Goat Pictures Pvt Ltd. His later release was ‘Oh My God’ which he produced and starred along with Paresh Rawal. It had a slow opening but because of word of mouth it picked up and then was declared a super hit
His first release in 2013 was ‘Special Chabbis’ which earned a positive critical reception and was moderately successful at the box office. Although the movie earned him positive reviews and commercial success, trade analysts noted that the movie could have done much better business due to its good content and Kumar’s superstar status. Milan Luthria chose Kumar to play the character of Shoaib Khan (based on Dawood Ibrahim) in the gangster film ‘Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobaara!’, sequel to ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai’. It proved to be a below average at the box office.
His next release was Anthony D Souza’s ‘Boss’ alongside Shiv Pandit and Aditi Rao Hydari. The movie received average to good reviews however turned out to be a failure at box office grossing INR 54 crore nett domestically. Kumar came back strongly with ‘Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty’, the Hindi remake of the 2012 Tamil film ‘Thuppakki’. This action drama earned both critical and commercial success entering the INR 100 crore elite club and became the highest grosser of 2014. The film received critical acclaim and is Kumar’s third film to gross over INR 1 billion (US$16 million) at the box office. Kumar has sung a song for his film ‘It’s Entertainment’. Making of the song has been uploaded on YouTube.His last film of 2014 was The Shaukeens. He appeared as himself and produced it. He played the lead role in the thriller ‘Baby’ and ‘Gabbar is Back’. Kumar’s first collaboration with Karan Johar, ‘Brothers’ was released on 14th August 2015.His next release was ‘Singh is Bling’ released on 2nd October 2015, produced by Grazing Goats Pictures.
His first release in 2016 was ‘Airlift’ that was critically and commercially successful. Then came ‘Housefull 3’ which was released on 3rd June 2016. ‘Rustom’ which was produced by Neera jPandey, marked his 3rd release of 2016. Akshay was praised for his performance in ‘Rustom’ which garnered him numerous award nominations. Rustom grossed more than INR 200 crores at the box office.
His only release in 2017 was ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’. This film depicted the serious issue of Toilets in certain regions of the country. Akshay’s performance was praised. Akshay Kumar dug a toilet in Madhya Pradesh to promote the film.The movie trailer was released on 11th June 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it a good effort to further the message of cleanliness, as per Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Fans are eagerly awaiting his latest flick for 2018 ‘Pad Man’ alongside Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte that releases on 9thFebruary. Kumar will feature opposite Parineeti Chopra in Karan Johar’s film ‘Kesari’ that will be based on the story of the Battle of Saragarh. He also has other projects one of them being the trilingual film ‘2.0’directed by S. Shankar.
‘Pad Man’ was envisioned to an be awareness film without focusing too much at the commercial aspect. The producers’ main agenda was to reach out to a wide audience to create awareness and eradicate the superstitions surrounding sanitary pads that’s prevalent and practiced in India till today. As with Kumar’s previous film, ‘Toilet: EkPrem Katha’, they hoped to educate the masses, both women and men, about menstrual hygiene and to stop labelling it as stigma or taboo in the society. Furthermore, it was plea towards politicians to drive their attention towards sanitary pads and making it mandatory across institutions.
The idea to adapt Murugan’s life began in 2015 when Twinkle Khanna came across his story while doing a research for a column in The Times of India. Inspired and moved by his persistence and determination, she wrote about him in her book, ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’ (2016). Later, she felt the need to adapt his life to the big screen as she believed it would reach out to more audiences by adapting it into a full-length feature film as “our world is filled with viewers, not readers.”Khanna, who also serves as a producer on the film, said she was drawn to the project due to its relevant yet underrated subject about menstruation and Muruganantham’s determination.
R. Balki was Khanna’s first choice to direct the film. She had previously seen Balki’s work and appreciated how sensitive he is when it comes to filmmaking.
In November 2017, Sony Pictures became the global distributor for the film. Akshay Kumar plays ArunachalamMuruganantham, also known as “India’s Menstrual Man”. Kumar was not the first choice to play the role. Khanna thought of a few actors but she eventually handed it to Kumar after Murugan’s insistence and because she thought it would be a game-changing event if Kumar, who the Indian public idolises and men look up to, wore sanitary pad.
Pad Man is the only second Bollywood film to be granted access to shoot the film inside the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City after ‘Half Girlfriend’ in 2016.
Pre-production began in March 2017, and principal photography commenced on 14thMarch. Filming moved to Delhi in April. Murugan worked closely with Kumar and Khanna on set in India, making sure every detail was accurate from the way he built his machine, to how to operate it, even his own posture.
After filming ended in India, the team travelled to New York City where pivotal scenes were filmed in Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and Jazz at Lincoln Center,as well as the United Nations headquarter. It is the second Bollywood film to be shot at the site following ‘Half Girlfriend’ while Hollywood film ‘The Interpreter’ was the first.