Picture this. It's the late 90s again, Team India is in trouble and someone has to walk through fire. Who would you turn to? Unanimous answer: Rahul Dravid. And imagine this -- it's Monday, your boss has yelled at you and someone has to take the onus to make your day, whose movie will you turn to? Unanimous answer: Akshay Kumar.
“Na hum Amitabh, na Dilip Kumar, na kisi hero ke bachchey. Hum hain seedhey saadhey Akshay [Neither am I Amitabh and Dilip Kumar nor a star kid, I am the humble Akshay]," he once sang to a gathering in Khiladiyon ka Khiladi and to the hearts of many who acknowledged the no-filmy-connection of this star who consistently, and continually just has been there -- in endorsements, at high-end wedding ceremonies, in films, in TV shows, just everywhere. And how!
Only less than a decade ago, Akshay Kumar had reached an interlude -- unsure of where he would go from there. He had had a string of a few unsuccessful outings at the Box Office -- with Priyadarshan's Hera Pheri being the only silver lining in the cloud. But the lesser known OMG: Oh My God, considered way better than Aamir Khan's PK, in the subsequent years pushed him to the brink of superstardom only a few have seen in the Hindi film industry. So much so, that he came to be known as the modern-day Rahul Dravid of Bollywood. Modern day, because he hasn't ever been traditional in his technique, unlike Jammie. But like him, he was, and continues to be, Mr Dependable for his audience and producers alike -- a bankable star, who can clock millions even with his weird expressions.
When he entered the film industry in the late 80s, Akshay was often criticised for his weak voice and weaker dialogue delivery. But ours was a Khiladi in the making -- and a Khiladi never falters. He strived and thrived to reach where he is currently.
2013 was his breakout year -- by many ways, more so his Kolkata, where he emerged out of the shadows of the three Khans and introduced to the world his versatility. His Special 26 was as special to his fans as it was to the world -- because it then saw the emergence of one of the most shocking, yet humbling, success stories of the decade.
A lot of the credit for this success goes to his appetite for being who he is rather than becoming someone he never was -- or fitting into a mould -- something many actors of his generation have been accused of resorting to in order to survive. Akshay Kumar is still the guy who goes to bed early, wakes up early and does everything on time -- because that is how he plans to survive longer that most of the actors would do -- by sheer hard work, health and time management.
His discipline is at par with megastar Amitabh Bachchan, wit with Shah Rukh Khan, charisma with Salman Khan, genius with Aamir Khan and suaveness with Ajay Devgn. To this end, film analyst Girish Johar had once quipped about him: "Akshay Kumar is one of the pillars of the film industry and there are no two ways about it. While the other superstars do one film in one year or one film in two years, he comes thrice or four times annually. The best part is that he has been doing it consistently for many years now. In that context, he is the Rahul Dravid of Bollywood."
Insipid comedies, jingoistic patriotism, beyond-physics action and short social messaging -- Kumar has been there and done all. And emerged as the quintessential go-to man for every filmmaker. Like Dravid was for all captains he played under. Akshay's loving, caring, and proactive husband in Padman got him the well-deserved accolades. So much so that a movie like Mission Mangal, where the bulk of space research is done by female scientists, needed him besides the team of super-talented actresses -- Vidya Balan and Taapsee Pannu among others.
The icing on the cake had, no doubt, been his National Award for Rustom, a first in a long, and rather award-less, career.
Besides the national honour, the actor is a recipient of two Filmfare Awards among other recognitions. Once he did get an award but he was humble enough to hand it over to fellow actor and friend Aamir Khan.
This happened in the year 2009 when Akshay was awarded the Best Actor for his performance in Singh Is Kinng. The actor in his speech, however, refused to accept the award.
Akshay said it belonged to Aamir for his work in the movie Ghajini.
"It hurts me to say it really does -- I thank you from all my heart but Aamir, this one is for you. You deserve it so I would request you and it will be an honour if you could take this award because this belongs to you. I would love it," he said.
The incident sums up what mettle Kumar is made of -- honesty, humility, integrity and discipline. 10 years on, the actor has a National Awards in his kitty and is raking in moolah -- he is touted to be one of the highest tax-payers of the country, but his humility is what everyone swears by.
Today, when he turns 52, the world expected him to throw a lavish party and flaunt his newly acquired status of a crowd-puller, more sustained than the Khans, but the man of the moment is in London with his family -- because noone does "family" better than him.
Aah! A complete man! Do they make men like that any more? Well, they certainly do transform a few into them. Akshay Kumar is the example.
IndiaTVNews.com wishes Khiladi Kumar a very happy birthday and greatest years ahead.