As the Khiladi Kumar of Bollywood turns 50 on September 9 (today), we at Box Office India take a look at his glorious career spanning over two decades, boasting over 100 films, and the niche he has carved in the firmament of Bollywood sans any godfathers. We spoke to some of his colleagues, distributors and exhibitors, and asked them to not only share their message for the superstar, who is currently wowing everyone with his out-of the-box films, but also moments they cherish while working with him. Here’s what they had to say to Bhakti Mehta, Suranjana Biswas and Anusha Bhattacharya…
SAJID NADIADWALA, FILMMAKER: How time flies! I remember the first time we met, and now it’s four decades of knowing each other, four decades of friendship, and in the last three decades we’ve made some memorable movies. And with Sethji, I have only delivered successful movies. Our track record is 100 per cent. I am lucky to have known Akshay for so many years as he’s been there with me through thick and thin.
I have watched his growth closely and I know how strong he is. There have been phases where people have tried to pull him down and he would just smile. He knows what’s happening and who is doing what but he is always calm and his work does all the talking.
Akshay is a sheer pleasure to work with. I’m his friend, so obviously it is a cakewalk for me when I produce his films but you can ask any producer about their working relationship with Akshay and they will all tell you that he’s a producer’s actor. He was very professional when he was just a star; and he hasn’t changed a bit since he became a superstar.
Success has not changed Akshay and, having known him for the last 40 years, I can proudly say that this is a new beginning for him. Up until now, you have seen an Akshay Kumar who has been wanting to maintain a grip on Tinsel Town but, during the last few years and from now on, he’s opened a different chapter.
Obliviously, it’s Happy Birthday Sethji, but more than that, Happy New Journey to my friend.
RAJESH THADANI, DISTRIBUTOR: All his films post Airlift have worked at the box office. I think Airlift was a turning point. Of course, ever since Akshay did Baby, his films have worked on and off but his recent movies have all been major successes, going above the ` 100-crore mark. The audience likes the fact that he is a good actor and he gets into the character. He can do any kind of role, whether comedy or action. Basically, I think Akshay chooses the right subjects and slips into his characters perfectly.
AJAY BAGDAI, DISTRIBUTOR: If you look at Akshay Kumar’s record of the last five years, you will notice that most of his films have done well. Baby, Holiday, the Housefull series, Rowdy Rathore, etc., have done good business. Akshay has a different kind of style, he does different kinds of movies, he is a versatile actor and his budgets are lower than those of other star projects, which is good for distributors too. He carries a film on his own strength, and one doesn’t really need a big heroine or a director; he is the pivot.
SANJAY GHAI, DISTRIBUTOR: From the start his films have done well in the theaters. From the Khiladi era to now. Woh aisi machine hai jo aaj tak kharab nahi huyi. First, 1 or 2 films would not do well but now all his films are back-to-back hits. He is on the correct path now. He was doing action first then was doing comedy. Now he is doing more realistic movies and playing roles that are more suitable to his age. He knows that he shouldn’t keep doing the romantic hero roles anymore.
JASPAL DHINGRA, DISTRIBUTOR: If my memory serves me well, all his Khiladi movies, which released in the ‘90s, did very well. Almost all of them minted money, like Sabse Bada Khiladi and Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi. There were only a few which did not do well and, after that, he was on a winning spree again, with films like Special 26 and Holiday putting him back on the map.
Akshay did not experience success like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan did in his first innings but now, in his second innings, Rowdy Rathore, Jolly LLB 2 and the Housefull series have done very well, especially in my territory of North India. His film Gabbar was a pleasant surprise as we didn’t think it would attract the urban audience but it did and became a big hit, thanks to the hype and marketing by Viacom.
All of Akshay’s recent movies have been content-based and his choice is so good that it has not backfired even once. Sometimes, two out of every six films do not do well but not with Akshay Kumar. All his content-based films have done marvellous business. Of course, there have been some, like Patiala House, that did not live up to expectations but they were exceptions.
For Akshay, it all started with Khiladi in the ‘90s and, once again, with Special 26 and now Airlift. With the kind of subjects he is choosing, hats off to this gentleman whose movies are doing very good business. He has a crazy fan base here in the North. He connects with the audience and his lines connect as well. Akshay Kumar will always be a khiladi!
BRIJESH TANDON, DISTRIBUTOR: His biggest hit in the last few years is Rowdy Rathore, which did extremely well in the commercial sector. That doesn’t mean his other films haven’t performed well, especially his recent movies. Akshay has always done right by the audience. He is making good, subjective movies.= So his image, his performance, his choice of roles and how well the films do commercially, have been a blessing. In the beginning, Akshay was an action hero, and right from the Khiladi movies in the ‘90s, he has been doing good work and has seen success. From there to the 2000s, there are only a few films that didn’t do well like Tees Maar Khan and Joker. But the failures are very few and 90 per cent of his films have done well, earning a lot of money. In fact, in the last three to four years, all his films have made it to the 100crore club.
SANJAY MARUDHAR, DISTRIBUTOR: In the last four years, I think most of Akshay Kumar’s films have done very well. This has been great for distributors too. We have distributed all his latest films – Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, Jolly LLB 2, Rustom, Airlift, Housefull 3, Holiday and Gabbar – and they have earned good money. I started distributing his films from Namaste London, Singh Is Kingg, Heyy Baby, etc., and they were all blockbusters in their time. The audience clicked with him in the very beginning but they have a new respect for him in the last three to four years, thanks to his choice of content.
People believe he is making a difference by making issue-based films like Toilet – Ek Prem Katha. I think they are connecting with Akshay Kumar even more after his last few content-driven roles. Akshay has a special knack for becoming his character, whether it is a comedy film, a serious role or action scenes. Akshay Kumar has had a very good career and I am a lucky distributor, who has been associated with all his big films.
BHUSHAN KUMAR, PRODUCER: Akshay has been a friend and like family for many years. We have been the music label of his films. He has been a part of many of my home productions as well. He is very passionate towards his work and, for him, his family is his world. Akshay is one of the most honest and humble human beings I have ever encountered. He has excelled in his craft and has been breaking barriers with the films he chooses to back, act in or support.
He is an inspiration to the young and old, for his dedication, passion, seriousness and obedience to anything he chooses to do. I am fortunate to have worked closely with Akshay and our association continues as he will portray my father in Mogul, the biopic we are making on his journey to success. He is so similar to my father and no one other than Akshay can do justice to the part. On Akshay’s birthday, all I pray is for his well-being and success. I hope he grows to inspire more and more people.
SUNIL BANSAL, DISTRIBUTOR: Akshay Kumar tries to reinvent himself from time to time and, now, he has started playing his age. He is also acutely aware of the kind of roles his fans and the public will accept him in. In the last few films, Akshay has played roles suited to his age with subtlety.
Movies like Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, Rustom and Airlift have done well commercially in every territory. He is a good actor and a good planner and he immerses himself in the characters he plays. He is doing a variety of roles now and everybody is accepting this because he does such a good job! He does his homework and justifies the character perfectly well. From a distributor’s perspective, all his recent releases have made money and ended in the green, which is rare.
JEETU KHANDELWAL, DISTRIBUTOR: Starting with his debut film Saugandh, Akshay has done a brilliant job. But the most striking performance in his entire career was the one in Abbas and Mastaan’s Khiladi and the film’s box office collections were phenomenal for that time. Then came Prabhudeva’s Rowdy Rathore, which according to me has also done tremendous business. Then, he has other ` 100-crore movies to his credit, like Rustom, Baby and Special 26. In my opinion, the Khiladi series and Rowdy Rathore have done the best business of all his films.
DEBASHISH DEY, DISTRIBUTOR: If you look at Akshay’s career graph, it all started with Khiladi, followed by Mohra, which were huge hits in their time. Then there are films like Airlift, Baby, Rustom, Special 26 and Rowdy Rathore and there will probably more in the near future.
B H BASHA, DISTRIBUTOR: His career really took off with the super hit Khiladi, which had a Western feel to it. But, in my opinion, his earlier films were not as good as those he is doing now. The subjects of his recent movies are nation-centric as he is a mature actor now. I have distributed many of his films, like Housefull and Gabbar but the profits from films like Rustom, Airlift and Toilet – Ek Prem Katha are phenomenal.
VIPUL SHAH, PRODUCER-DIRECTOR: In many ways, Akshay is a visionary. He has evolved over time, and has always striven to become better. As a result, he is one of the most complete actors and dependable stars we have today. That is due to the tremendous hard work and dedication towards his work. He is a thorough professional, and, throughout his life, he has maintained discipline, with regard to eating, sleeping, maintaining his body and the way he looks. He has worked very hard on every aspect of his career, to reach where he is today. And I believe he deserves every bit of it.
The way his career is growing, it seems a new innings is waiting for him. It almost looks like the beginning of his career. He is already a superstar but he is going to become even bigger than that. This is a fantastic achievement after a long and industrious career.
Apart from that, Akshay has been a part of many social causes too… helping the Army, supporting farmers and others. Earlier, he wouldn’t talk about it but now he makes sure people are aware of these issues and this is commendable.For his birthday, I would just like to say that age is just a number for him, and he will continue doing good work.
MADHUR BHANDARKAR, DIRECTOR: Akshay is a nice guy, very downto- earth. He is very non-filmy and a very hardworking actor. That is what keeps him going. The one thing I like best about Akshay is that he has made it on his own. He doesn’t belong to any camp and has consistently maintained this approach. He has also evolved as an actor, and this is evident from his choice of scripts in the last five years. He has made realistic films with better subjects and issues. His commercial movies too have a message. I think Akshay is one of the most successful, commercial actors we have today. More power to him! Keep rocking, Akshay!
RAVI MACHCHAR, DISTRIBUTOR: Akshay has been known for his action roles since the beginning of his career, from Khiladi to Rowdy Rathore. After that, he did Special 26, which converted his single-screen audience to a multiplex audience. That was the beginning of his golden period, when his films started hitting the ` 100crore mark at the box office. This benefited producers, distributors, exhibitors and also himself. After Special 26, he has done movies like Rustom, Airlift, Baby and now Toilet – Ek Prem Katha. These are fantastic movies with a social cause, which helped him gain a multiplex following. In fact, these films have expanded his fan base. This is because his films reflect his love for his country.
ARVIND GUPTA, THEATRE OWNER, VIJAY, SAHARANPUR: Akshay has so many hits to his credit, and among them are Mohra and Andaaz, which did exceptionally well here in Saharanpur. In recent times, I would say that Rustom has been received really well by the audience.
SANJEEV DUBEY THEATRE OWNER, PRAKASH, ETAWAH: Rustom did very well. Even Singh Is Kinng did remarkable business.
HIMESH RESHAMMIYA, MUSIC COMPOSER, SINGER, ACTOR: Akshayji is a true legend who manages to deliver three to four hits every year, which is an impossible task today. He is the most disciplined actor in the industry and a thorough professional. On a more personal note, Akshay is also a very warm and humble human being, despite his superstar status. He has been a pillar of support for many of his friends. I have given a number of hit songs with him and produced and acted with him in Khiladi 786 as well, which was a wonderful experience.
BHUMI PEDNEKAR: Working with Akshay sir was a tremendous experience for a newcomer like me. He was a great example. He is very professional and dedicated to his work and craft. He really respects other people’s time. His temperament on the sets and even off the sets is just phenomenal. I learnt a great deal from him. He is very encouraging and inspires you both as a person and as an actor. I really have to thank him for Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, truly one of the best experiences of my life. I have a lot of respect for Akshay, he is so aware of what is going on around him and about society. And the way he has taken it upon himself to bring about change, whether through Bharat Ke Veer or the martial arts centres he has opened for women, so that they can learn self-defence. I think Akshay is using his celebrity status for the good of society, and I have immense respect for him. Happy Birthday, sir. I hope this year brings you many happy moments and memories. Thank you so much for being so awesome. More power to you!
HUMA QURESHI: Akshay Kumar is an extremely hardworking actor. I learnt a lot from him, especially discipline. One can only be at the top of their game if there is focus and Akshay sir is the epitome of that. Also, the way he takes time out for his family and kids is incredible. It is difficult to balance so many work commitments and family but AK sir manages to do it all with elan.
KATRINA KAIF: Akshay has been such a huge support and inspiration from my very first film and I have learnt so much about hard work, punctuality and professionalism from him. He totally respects people’s efforts and is always excited about his movies, which pushes you to do better and give more to your work. On his birthday, I want to just say what an inspiration he is to us, to any actor, of hard work, reinventing yourself, perseverance, dedication and creating your own path. Here’s to many more years and we wait with excitement to see how he keeps changing the game from here on.
TAAPSEE PANNU: To the man who will always remain my best rags-toriches example… Someone whose discipline and drive to work relentlessly is almost envious. Who is painfully positive about life and people and has aged in the most graceful way possible. Wishing you many more years of happiness and success because you truly deserve this and more.
RAJA KRISHNA MENON, DIRECTOR: A very happy birthday to Akshay Kumar, the most committed actor in the business. He gives everything, everything he has. A man who knows how to balance work and family. I pray that Akshay achieves everything he has ever wanted because he deserves it.
MILAN LUTHRIA, DIRECTOR: The bond we share is one of warmth. We have known each other for a long time, even before we started working together. He is always encouraging me and telling me ‘you can do it’. The last time I spoke to him was when he called me from London after watching Baadshaho and congratulated me on the film, saying I am back in my groove. Akshay has a very positive vibe and I always feel that warmth when I am around him. He is at the peak of his career and he should not change. It is very nice to find people like him.
SONAKSHI SINHA: A birthday usually signifies growing old but I think Akshay Kumar left that concept behind many years ago. He is one of the funniest, funnest and most inspiring co-actors I have worked with. His attitude towards his work and towards people around him is very positive and infectious. It has been amazing working with him all these years. I wish him the best, always.
RATAN JAIN, PRODUCER: It has been a pleasant experience to work with Akshay. I started working with him with Khiladi in 1991 and we have made eight films to date. All my projects with him have seen 100 per cent success including my last film De Dana Dan. He is always pleasant and always punctual. Akshay is always committed to his projects. I wish him all the very best. Right now, he is at the peak of his career and I wish him even more success. He is a very humble gentleman.
ABBAS-MUSTAN, DIRECTORS: We started shooting for the film Khiladi in 1991 and it released in 1992 but it feels like that was yesterday. When we first met Akshay, we loved the way he thought even then. We have done other films like Ajnabee and Aitraaz together and he has not changed a bit. The wonderful thing is that he did not come into the industry with a silver spoon; he is a self-made man. He used to say that he took so many risks in his life, which is why he will at least be known as a good action hero. And even though there were ups and downs, he has gradually reached a new level. Not only is he still very popular, he is in a great place in the industry. So, from all of us in the family, we wish him all the luck he needs on his 50th birthday.
Considering that he doesn’t look his age, he should easily be able to continue his work for at least another 10-12 years. Saal mein chaar picture karke bhi chalta rahega. We pray for a long life for him and hope he achieves his diamond jubilee. Akshay is a very family oriented guy and that’s how he has been from his Khiladi days. We and our brother Hussain, wish him well on this occasion.
ANEES BAZMEE, DIRECTOR: I respect him for his passion and discipline towards his work and also his respect for me as a director/ writer. We understand each other so well. He understands what I need, and without saying anything, he delivers his best. He sometimes jokes, “Anees bhai filmmaking ke siway bhi aap ko kuch aata hain? Jab dehko pagalon ki tarah 24 ghante apni film mein hi lage rehte ho.” Once he was annoyed during Eid. I was busy in my finals of Singh is Kinng and he had come to look at the promos. When he learnt that I was in the editing room for the last five days, he said, “Anees bhai, aaj Eid hai, ghar jakar Eid manaiyye.” I said, “Akshayji, mera kaam hi meri Eid hain.” Very few actors can match Akshayji’s calibre. I wish him all the best on his birthday and I pray that the Almighty keep him in the pink of health, always.
SUBHASH KAPOOR, DIRECTOR: Akshay is one of the most committed and disciplined actors of our time, and my experience working with him in Jolly LLB2 is something I will always cherish. I wish him a very happy birthday and I can’t wait to have him on my set again, for our forthcoming film Mogul.
SABBIR KHAN, DIRECTOR: Professionally, I owe Akshay a lot because he took a leap of faith, not just with me but also with so many other first-time directors. He made my dream to be a filmmaker come true. I love him for the way he conducts himself, the way he reaches out and touches you as a human being, despite being a huge star. I wish him love, happiness and success but, most importantly, I wish him great health so that he can continue for as long as possible to spread even more joy.
PRIYADARSHAN, FILMMAKER: The first time I worked with him was in Hera Pheri, he was stiff as an actor because he used to practice taekwondo. His body language is very different when he is acting and when he is not acting. I would like to take credit of correcting Akshay Kumar’s body language. The moment I did that, he started behaving, not acting. That made him the real Akshay Kumar. With time, I saw him improving. As an actor, he understood the gaps between lines; he understood reactions; also that acting is not mechanical.
Thank God, in all the films I have worked with him, he understood what we call spontaneous acting. He was very wise compared to many of the superstars. As he became a better actor, he started choosing better subjects as his films. He never got stuck in one kind of cinema. He always believed in his directors, and he always believed me. He never asked me questions. There was just one question he would ask me, during all the films we have worked together, and that is, ‘Are you excited?’ As soon as I said that I was excited, he wouldn’t ask me about the subject any more.
Only two people have done that, one is Akshay and the other is Mohanlal. But the beauty about Akshay is that he has always believed in his directors and started choosing different kinds of subjects, and automatically became a good actor, whether as a lawyer, a cop, by doing action and all kinds of roles. He always understands his limitation as an actor. Choosing his subjects made him a star. With due respect to all other superstars, all of them are doing just one kind of cinema. His business as an actor is steady and there is a good audience for his films.
Whenever we meet, he calls me his ‘guru’. Sometimes, people tell me that I have ‘made’ Akshay Kumar, and I feel so proud. I don’t take any credit for making him what he is today; it is just some of the films he has worked with me in. Please make sure your versatility is intact with the different kinds of cinema you are doing.
SAJID KHAN, DIRECTOR: Akshay is the fittest 50-yearold on the planet, and
considering his work ethic and lifestyle, he has another good 25 years of screen stardom in him. Wishing him a glorious 50th birthday! Love you Sundi 😉
TONY D’SOUZA, DIRECTOR: I am what I am today thanks to Mr Kumar. He has never been just an actor but someone who treats you like family. Not many realise that the maximum number of new directors has been launched by Akshay sir. I wish him luck in all his endeavors and hope I get the chance to work with him again.
AMIT SADH: I don’t know what equation I have with him. I mean, he’s the boss. I’m very privileged to have worked with him; he is a very cool dude. He is extremely energetic, disciplined and fit. It feels really good to look up to someone like him, he is very witty. He understands his craft. I had so much fun working with him. Akshay makes everything look easy and there is never a dull moment around him. On his birthday, I wish he always keeps fit, and continues to be as amazing as he is, and keeps entertaining us.
KARAN MALHOTRA, FILMMAKER: I worked with him when I was an AD in Jaan-E-Maan. Then I got an opportunity to direct him in a film called Brothers. It was almost like picking up a string from the past without an effort. He is that kind of a guy. And for me it was the most chilled out, happy experience on the set ever. That is the energy he brings on the set. However, the scene may be intense, he is the man who will relax everybody, laugh about it, but it will never reflect onscreen even if he is doing it off screen. That’s really cool about him. He was the biggest strength on the set for anything that had to happen or anything that we needed. He was the motivator for all the other actors; we had a big crew and cast too. It was a difficult film to do but because of his ease everybody followed suit. The biggest star is not throwing any kind of tantrum at shoot; hence nobody has the capacity to talk about any other problems. So he is that kind of a guy, it was a beautiful journey.
SUBHASH GHAI, PRODUCER-DIRECTOR: Say no to drugs, alcohol, parties, competitions, awards, late nights and rise early, keep your health and timetable intact every day, follow the script and directors, and leave the rest to God. That’s what I observe in the journey of this versatile actor, Akshay Kumar. For the last three decades, he’s been teaching young actors how to grow and remain a constant star. I adore and admire his qualities and, on his 50th birthday, I wish him more power to grow.
PRERNAA ARORA, PRODUCER: From the bottom of my heart, I am very grateful to Akshay sir. Whatever we have achieved is due to him. Of course, we have great belief in him as a human being. He is an institiution for us. Our professional equation with him has been picture perfect, also because we understand him as a professional who is very disciplined, accurate and a perfectionist. As a producer, it’s important to fulfill your responsibilities. While working on Rustom, we learnt a lot of things as human beings and producers. We will be collaborating with him on many more films. Akshay sir is like our teacher, so I would say that I personally have a lot of respect for him. He is always there to guide us as his production house partners with KriArj Entertainment. He is quite flexible and that is what gives newcomers like us the power to deliver. There are no complications around him in the working structure. I pray for Akshay sir’s success. He has achieved what he has because of hard work, true passion and determination. He is an ambitious man and I wish he gets whatever he wants in life.
NIKKHIL ADVANI, PRODUCER-DIRECTOR: I am thrilled at the decisions that Akshay is taking and the path he is creating for others to follow. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Akshay Kumar on three occasions, as a director and a producer. He is one of the most genuine human beings I have interacted with. I remember the morning after Chandni Chowk To China, we were sitting outside his house, in his garden, and he looked at me and asked, “When are we starting the next one?” Nobody else would have done that and I owe him so much. I’m glad that he chose to do Airlift and understood how the film needed to be made. Everyone talks about how professional he is but, seriously, you need to work with him to really understand the meaning of ‘professional’.
Happy Birthday, Sethji... Keep walking the path that you have chosen. You have no idea how many of us are following.