I have been a devoted Akshay Kumar fan ever since he first captured my heart via “Chura Ke Dil Mera” in the 1994 hit Main Khiladi Tu Anari (MKTA). This action-comedy film was the second film in the action-packed Khiladi series and proved to be the commercial Bollywood success that Akki, as he’s now playfully known, needed to truly launch his career. Only seven years old when MKTA was releaased, I was so smitten by Akshay Kumar and his portrayal of the valiant Inspector Karan that I dug out a fan mail address from Filmfare magazine and wrote a heartfelt letter to my Bollywood hero. Sadly, I never received a reply, but my dedication to Akki never wavered. As they say, unrequited love has endless potential.
Let’s take a look back at some of Akshay’s most memorable films over the course of his 20+ year career in Bollywood:
Mohra. This 1994 action thriller earned its place in Bollywood history by being the highest grossing film of the year, and by introducing audiences across the world to the Sunil Shetty, Akshay Kumar, and Paresh Rawal trio. Also not to be neglected is the overwhelmingly catchy, albeit slightly ridiculous, song “Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast” and the unforgettable doo-rag that Akshay Kumar is rocking in this video —
Yeh Dillagi. This 1994 Bollywood adaptation of the Audrey Hepburn classic Sabrina was Akshay Kumar’s first movie as a romantic lead, and it proved to be a huge commercial success. His role as the responsible and hard-working older brother Vijay Saigal even earned Akshay his first nomination for best actor at the annual Filmfare Awards. Who would’ve though that Bollywood’s resident Khiladi could be such a sweetheart?
Dil To Pagal Hai. In this 1997 Yash Chopra rom-com, Akshay Kumar has a supporting role as Ajay, the son of Pooja’s (Madhuri Dixit) guardians, who is hopelessly in love with a girl who views him only as a big brother (gross, I know). Nonetheless, Akshay had plenty of screen time, particularly in the title song, and proved once again that he can tackle non-action roles just fine. My one complaint? The entire time I was watching Akshay on-screen, I really really really wanted to give him a haircut. Shaggy hair-do aside, we can all leave this film knowing that “Someone….. Somewhere….. is made for you.”
Hera Pheri. This 2000 Priyadarshan cult comedy classic reunited Akshay Kumar with Sunil Shetty and Paresh Rawal. Up there with Andaz Apna Apna as one of the best comedies in Bollywood history, this is a film that all Bollywood fans need to see. Akshay Kumar handled his role as lazy, con artist Raju with such overwhelming ease and with such great chemistry with his co-stars, that director Priyadarshan did his best to try and ensure that at least one these actors appeared in most of his future Hindi films.
Mujhse Shaadi Karoge. The ensemble cast of Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, and Priyanka Chopra made this goofy 2004 rom-com a huge hit. Akshay even won the International Indian Film Academy’s (IIFA) Award for best actor in a comic role for his portrayal of Sunny, the troublesome roommate who makes it near impossible for Sameer (Salman Khan) and Rani (Priyanka Chopra) to have a successful love story. But what’s his end-game? Watch the movie to find out!
Namastey London. In this 2007 film, simple, although devastatingly handsome, Punjabi villager Arjun Singh (Akshay Kumar) falls head over heels in love with spoiled, London-raised Punjabi brat Jasmeet “Jazz” Malhotra (Katrina Kaif, in one of her first commercial Bollywood successes, before she was reduced to eye candy only — COUGH, Dhoom 3). Call me cheesy, but I *loved* this movie. With all the Akshay Kumar films I’ve seen, I think he gives one of his most powerful performances as the betrayed and tormented Arjun who can’t seem to do anything to win the affections of NRI Jazz, even after they’re allegedly married — watch the movie before I give it all away.
Singh is Kinng. Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif reunited in this 2008 action-comedy flick where Akshay’s character, Happy Singh, takes it upon himself to change the ways of Australian underworld king and Sikh mafia leader, Lucky Singh (Sonu Sood). Thrown into the mix of colorful turbans and tailored suits is Katrina Kaif’s London-educated Sonia, who obviously becomes the object of Happy’s affections. This movie is a silly, although entertaining, mess that was a huge box office success, and Akshay Kumar was at his bumbling, comedic best.
Patiala House. This 2011 family drama surrounding Gattu’s (Akshay Kumar) unfulfilled cricket dreams and unsatisfactory life as an obedient desi son living with his family in England wasn’t much of a critical or commercial success, but I enjoyed it. If for no other reason than for the strong performances delivered by both Akshay Kumar and Anushka Sharma (Simran in the film). The role played by Akshay in this is a little different than his past roles, and obviously he won me over as the tormented son who wants nothing more than follow to his dreams and play cricket for England…much to his father’s chagrin.
Bollywood action and comedy king with the occasional rom-com hero success as well, there’s so much to love about Akshay Kumar. But let’s be real, I would love him so much more (yes, it’s possible) if I were to get a reply to my fan letter from almost 20 years ago. Hint. Hint.
Farah Naz Khan is an internal medicine resident at Emory University. After graduating from college in Boston, she returned to her Alabama hometown to attend medical school, and was reunited with the mix of Southern hospitality and South Asian flair that had shaped her childhood. Follow her on Twitter @farah287 or read some of her thoughts at farah287.blogspot.com.