Fans of Bollywood will know that Akshay Kumar has been dazzling the world with his silver screen performances, and some people may recognise him from his often-reportedcontroversial extracurricular activities. Akshay can often be found frequenting the gaming tables and rumoured to be enjoying scratch cards online during his time off.
As someone who has appeared in so many popular films, it may surprise fans to learn that Akshay Kumar wasn’t a theatre student from a young age. He was named Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia when he was born in Amritsar in Punjab, and the family moved to Chandni Chowk in Delhi when he was still young.
His early life was dominated by sporting endeavours, particularly wrestling, the love of which he shared with his father, an army officer. The family also lived in Mumbai when his father took a job with Unicef after leaving the army.
While he was at school, he learnt karate and he decided to pursue martial arts further instead of pursuing a higher education. With his father’s support, he went to Thailand to learn Thai boxing, spending five years there in his late teens before returning to India, working in Bangladesh, and finally setting up as a martial arts instructor in Bombay.
During this period, the parent of one of his students scouted him as a model and he landed himself an assignment which paid so much more than his marital arts coaching that he decided to pursue modelling as a career. He worked as a photographer’s assistant in exchange for a portfolio of pictures and landed a few jobs as a backing dancing in music videos.
Akshay Kumar the actor
While enjoying his modelling career, Akshay was booked for a shoot in Bangalore, but missed his flight on the morning he was supposed to go out there. In his annoyance, he instead headed to a film studio with his portfolio and had been cast in a leading role by the evening of that same day.
Producer Pramod Chakravarthy spotted Akshay Kumar’s talent and offered him the lead role in his upcoming film Deedar. This was a Hindi romantic action movie that saw Kumar have his first taste of the life of acting, after which he was completely hooked.
Before Deedar was even released, Kumar had starred in another romantic action film called Saugandh alongside two of the most popular actors of the day, Raakhee and Shantipriya and a thriller called Khiladi. His career continued along a similar trajectory as he took on roles in thrillers and action movies as well as a number of romantic lead roles, many of which can be found among these movies online.
Reviews of his work consistently praised his strong screen presence and ease in front of the camera, much of which may have been down to his earlier experience as a model. Throughout the nineties, he starred in a number of films, including:
• Mr Bond – a detective film based on the stories of James Bond
• Ashaant – a bilingual film in which an entire country’s police force tries to bring peace by eliminating a local mafia forging operation
• Dil Ki Baazi – a comedy about a rich brat and a hard-working man who learn that they are step brothers
• Waqt Hamara Hai – a romantic comedy about a student who falls in love, but is hampered by his rivalry with a super-strong fellow student who is trying to hide his true nature
In 1994 alone, Akshay Kumar appeared in eleven different feature films, including Main Khiladi Tu Anari in which he showcased his talents as a detective trying to keep the streets of the city safe and avenge his brother’s death. This, and another of Kumar’s films were among the top-grossing films of the year.
As you can see amongst these TV shows online, he has since gone on to star in a number of hit television shows as well, including Seven Deadly Arts with Akshay Kumar in which he gave an introduction to a number of different martial arts. He also starred in a reality game show called Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi, hosted the first series of Masterchef in India, and joined Bear Grylls for an episode of his show ‘Into the Wild’.
Recognition for Akshay Kumar
He has continued to be hugely successful, earning himself a number of nominations and awards, including:
• National Film Award for Best Actor
• Screen Award for Best Actor (Popular Choice)
• Several Filmfare nominations and two wins
• Asian Film Award for Best Actor
• Stardust Award for Star of the Year – Male
He has also been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, in recognition of his contribution to Indian cinema. The Indian government also conferred one of their highest honours, the Padma Shri, for his work.