Building a nation through films

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 15 Aug 2018 10:37:53


After an unimpressive debut in Saugandh (1991), Akshay Kumar got a breakthrough with Abbas-Mustan’s Khiladi (1992) and delivered hits like Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994), Rajiv Rai’s Mohra (1994) and Yash Chopra-produced Yeh Dillagi (1994), which got him a nomination in the Filmfare Awards’ Best Actor category. However, he established himself as someone who could act with conviction with commercial films like Ek Rishtaa: The Bond Of Love (2001), Ajnabee (2001) and Hera Pheri (2003). In the interim, he also convincingly played a visually-impaired man in Aankhen (2002), a heist thriller.

Patriotic movies
More than two decades of a robust repertoire later, Akki shifted gears and veered towards subjects that spoke of patriotism and nationalism. Beginning with A R Murugadoss’ Holiday – A Soldier Is Never Off Duty (2014), he went on to do Neeraj Pandey’s spy thriller Baby (2015), followed by Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift (2016).

Socially relevant subjects
After the larger-than-life and heroic characters in the nationalistic space, the Padma Shri recipient took up subjects more relevant to the common man and social movements. At first, the title may have made the movie seem like an oddity, but soon one knew that AK was inspired by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and taking up the issue of open defecation in the country with Shree Narayan Singh’s Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (TEPK, 2017) also starring Bhumi Pednekar. He then set on to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene with R Balki’s Pad Man (2018). The flick, based on social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham who invented the low-cost pad-making machine, had the actor doing curious things like trying a pad on screen.

Off-screen philanthropic efforts
Interestingly, Akshay’s movies on significant issues have been releasing around dates of national importance, such as Republic Day and Independence Day. It’s also important to note that he goes beyond just acting in socially-relevant movies. Having played a soldier in a number of films, AK has espoused the cause of the defence personnel. Other than the Bharat Ke Veer initiative, he has extended monetary help to the families of jawans. Closer home, he made donations to farmers burdened with debts, adopting an entire village affected by drought. He has also contributed to Salman Khan’s charitable foundation and to the Chennai Flood Relief.

Encouraging karate hopefuls
It’s a known fact that the National Award winner worked as a chef in Bangkok while he was training in martial arts. Furthering that cause, the superstar started a karate tournament in Mumbai in 2009. Every year, thousands of people from various parts of the country participate in the event, which is entirely funded by the actor-producer. He once said, “I am Akshay because of karate. I owe it my life, my career, my reason for being the disciplined action hero that I am. I think karate should be made compulsory in schools, so that children have the ability to defend and discipline themselves. I got a special opportunity. My father let me practice. Now, I want to be like a father to those who are not as fortunate.” Over the years, winners from the tourney have gone on to represent India in international competitions. He subsequently started a martial arts school that offers free self-defence training to girls and women and has trained more than 4,000 of them over the years.

For the stuntmen
As an action hero, Akshay has always done his own stunts and is mindful of the risks it entails. Ergo, last year in April, he helped in developing a well-regulated insurance scheme for Bollywood’s stunt artistes.

Keeping up the good work
His tryst with making patriotic films seems to continue even after Naam Shabana (2017), in which he had a guest appearance. The hero will next be seen in the historical sports drama, Gold, directed by Reema Kagti. The film is inspired by India’s first Olympic gold medal and traces the journey of Tapan Das, a young man in 1936, who dreams of playing for an independent India. Post that, Akki will be seen as Havildar Ishar Singh in Kesari, Anurag Singh’s period war drama film that tells the saga of Havildar Ishar who participated in the Battle of Saragarhi where an army of 21 Sikhs fought against 10,000 Afghans in 1897. The actor also recently announced TEPK 2. Off-screen, too, the work is not over for him. Months after the release of TEPK, he and Bhumi were seen in a public service ad (PSA) for the Swachh Bharat campaign.