Born on 9 September 1967, Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia was born in Delhi and later his family shifted to Sion Koliwada in Mumbai. As a young man he became very interested in karate and his father encouraged his interest by sending him to Bangkok, Thailand to learn martial arts. To make ends meet, he worked as a chef at the Metro Guest House. He trained in Thai boxing and Tai Chi and became a six-degree black belt holder.
When he was 22, he returned to Mumbai to teach martial arts. He was offered a modelling job and and also became part of a dance group. This lead to a career in acting. He changed his name to Akshay Kumar and leveraged his martial arts skills to perform his own death-defying stunts. He soon became known as "India's Jackie Chan." In an IBNLive.com interview, he described one of his most famous stunts:
"There was a film called Khiladi 420. I had to catch this running plane and climb it. People are scared of sitting inside a plane, and like a stupid man I am standing on top of a plane. And then I’m supposed to jump from that plane, after it is a thousand feet up in the air, onto a hot air balloon. I did it in one shot. I was wearing a parachute. After that, I promised myself that I will never do such a thing. It’s not a great thing to do. I did it because maybe there was something loose inside my head."
Akshay decided to shift focus away from action films, taking on more dramatic or comedic roles. One of the reasons he continues to be appreciated by fans and co-stars is his ability to make people laugh. In a rediff.com interview, he explains:
"I feel very good when I make anybody laugh. When people ask my co-actors what working with Akshay was like, and they say he makes us laugh all the time, it makes me feel very good. The fact you have the knack to make people laugh is a very big thing. I believe laughter is the best medicine. This means I am carrying a medicine around with me that allows me to make people happy."
In his 25-year career, he has starred in over 100 films. He has received a Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award from the Government of India, a Rajiv Gandhi Award for his Outstanding achievement in Bollywood, and numerous film awards.
If you are new to Bollywood, here are five Akshay Kumar films to watch.
Description: Drama. Ishwar Sharawat (Amitabh Bachchan) hopes that marriage will make his son Aditya (Akshay Kumar) a more responsible man, but he is disappointed. One thing leads to another and Ishwar forces Aditya out of the house to live on his own. Aditya is shocked that the same doting father is now behaving in this fashion towards him and his now pregnant wife. Aditya starts working as freelance stuntman and at the same time prepares for a star search contest. As he becomes independent, the rift in the relationship between father and son grows. What Aditya doesn't know is that his father is hiding a secret.
Why I Love This Film: The relationship that father and son have in this film is fun, deep and emotionally draining. The journey Aditya takes as he evolves from a happy-go-lucky young man into a mature adult is difficult but necessary. The resolution of the misunderstandings and heartache experienced as father and son work through the turmoil they've created ultimately leads to a satisfying, but bittersweet, conclusion.
Akshay was very close to his father, who passed away in 2000. The emotionally stirring subject of Waqt, prompted Akshay to acquire the Mumbai distribution rights to the film and to include this dedication:
My Father ... My Hero. This Film is dedicated to my Father who taught me how to fly .... Rajiv Bhatia.
Recognition: Nominated, Stardust Star of the Year Award - Male; Nominated, Apsara Film & Television Producers Guild Best Actor Award; Nominated, Zee Cine Award for Best Actor – Male.
Description: Romantic comedy. Manmohan Malhotra (Rishi Kapoor) takes his thoroughly-British daughter Jasmeet (Katrina Kaif) - a.k.a. "Jazz" - to India where he arranges a marriage to Arjun Singh (Akshay Kumar) - someone she considers a fool. Jazz attempts to outwit them, but Arjun quietly and patiently hatches his own plan.
Why I Love This Film: As Jazz is introduced to India, we go along for the ride. As the Punjabi boy Arjun works to win Jazz's heart, he wins our hearts as well. When Arjun confronts Jasmeet after she turns her back on him, he does it with honesty, gentleness, and love. In a 2007 IBNLive.com interview, Akshay Kumar explained what made this film unique:
"For me Namastey London is about being comfortable with who you are and your roots. It’s also about being proud the country that you belong to. One should not change his culture just because you are in a different country. The movie is all about not forgetting your roots. The film is a real story and it happened to a friend of mine."
Recognition: Nominated, Filmfare Best Actor Award; Won, Stardust Star of the Year Award - Male; Nominated, Zee Cine Award for Best Actor – Male.
Description: Psychological comedy horror. When U.S.-based Siddharth Chaturvedi (Shiney Ahuja) visits his Indian home town with his new wife, he insists they stay at the ancestral home. As unexplained and terrifying occurrences arise, Siddharth calls on his friend, psychiatrist Dr. Aditya Shrivastav (Akshay Kumar), to help solve the mystery.
Why I Love This Film: Aditya arrives on the scene with abundant energy and practicality. He encounters people who have experienced a very strange set of circumstances and have a variety of different responses. He takes his time assessing the situation and exploring the background and motives of everyone involved. In an apunkachoice.com article, Akshay Kumar explains:
"The film is actually a tug of war between the superstition and science and an attempt to educate people about superstition."
The film doesn't lump religion into superstition, as evinced by the respect that Aditya the man of science shows the local religious leader - even going so far as to partner with him to bring resolution to the situation.
Recognition: Nominated, International Indian Film Best Actor Award; Nominated, Best Actor in a Comic Role.
Description: Comedy. Aarush (Akshay Kumar) is the world's unluckiest man. He believes his bad luck will vanish if he finds and marries his true love. In his quest he moves in with his friend Bob (Ritesh Deshmukh) and his wife, Hetal (Lara Dutta). To get him out of their house, they try their hand at matchmaking, pairing him with their boss' daughter Devika Samtani (Jiah Khan). However, honest Aarush's bad luck continues until he meets Sandy (Deepika Padukone) and they fall in love. Unbeknownst to them, their love sits on a bed of lies and soon one lie leads to another and when Hetal's father Batuk Patel (Boman Irani) and Sandy's brother Rao (Arjun Rampal) come for a visit, total chaos and mayhem ensue.
Why I Love This Film: This story is designed to be pure comedic entertainment and has a number of truly laugh-out-loud moments. Aarush is honest and sincere as the world seems to spin crazily around him. As new challenges arise, he maintains a genuine integrity that makes the film all that more enjoyable. In a Birmingham Mail interview, Akshay explains what makes this role unique:
"I’m innocent, I’m real, I’m unlucky, I’m like any other brick in the wall, except I’m the brick that falls off the wall. My role was simple. I didn’t have to try hard, I was just an unfortunate loser. The events surrounding my character are what made the scenes funny, and yet you can’t help but feel sorry for me."
Watch for the funny over-the-top performance by Chunkey Pandey as the Italian hotel owner Aakhri Pasta who is always "just joking."
Recognition: Won, Stardust Star of the Year Award - Male; Won, Stardust Best Actor – Comedy/Romance; Nominated, Zee Cine Award for Best Actor – Male.
Description: Thriller heist film. Based on true incidents during 1980s, a group of four men (Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Rajesh Sharma and Kishor Kadam) plan very clever robberies. They pretend to be government officials and plan Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Income Tax raids on different locations of India. And finally they plan big, big ever raid and even for the last time of their lives, when the real CBI gets aware of their game, investigate and follow them.
Why I Love This Film: This cat-and-mouse game is complex and entertaining, the performances excellent. The interview scenes for the Chabbis team are delightful. In an interview posted via ArabianIndustry.com, Akshay Kumar explained why he took this role:
"When I first read the script, I was totally bowled over. The film is based on a real life story of the Mumbai Opera House heist which took place in 1987 in India, where 26 conmen posed as Central Bureau of Investigation officers on a raid and walked away with jewellery worth millions of rupees. It was one of the biggest cons in Indian history. Like every film, Special Chabbis also has a strong moral: the public need to be particularly alert in life so that they never find themselves in a situation where they have been conned or have been taken for a ride."
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features videos about each of these films. Enjoy!
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