Time To Pack Up

Patiala House has been declared a flop. Coming as it did in the wake of the disastrous Tees Maar Khan and many more earlier that licked the box office dust, it is obvious that it is not only time for Akshay Kumar to take a second look at his price, but also the kind of films he had chosen to work in. This column made no bones about this fact some time ago reflecting on the prospects “2011 does not foretell great things, even an imminent fall, for the highly-priced Akshay Kumar whose recent string of flops should serve as a warning signal”. Only Houseful of all his 2010 starrers made any dent at the cash collection centers but, alas, that too in the august company of many others.

His date with ill-fate actually began in early 2009 itself (by which time he had reportedly started demanding the commanding price of Rs 40 crore per film) one after the other of his starrers falling into the dung-hole: Nikhil Advani’s Chandni Chowk to China, Nagesh Kukunoor’s 8 x 10 Tasveer, Sabbir Khan’s Kambakkht Ishq, Anthony D’Souza’s hugely ambitious Blue with Sanjay Dutt, and Priyadarshan’s De Dana Dan. Ill-luck or misjudgment or greed continued to chase him in 2010 and Priyadarshan’s Khatta Meetha and Vipul Shah’s Action Replay (self-confessedly his greatest misjudgment). In the two decades that he has been on the scene, beginning with Saugandh in 1991, in the following two decades Akshay Kumar has acted in 92 films. And although nominated seven times for Filmfare award in different categories, he has won the coveted trophy twice Best Villain Ajnabee (01) and Best Comedian Garam Masala (05), the Best Actor trophy alluding him thrice Yeh Dillagi (94), Namastey London (06), and Singh is Kinng (08).

Rajiv (Akshay Kumar) Bhatia, despite not being conventionally handsome and without a godfather, started rather well as an action hero, and the genre seemed to work well. In later years, he also maintained excellent timing while doing comedies, and slapsticks. And both seemed to be working well when success went into his head with the colossal success of Namastey London and Singh is Kinng both had Katrina Kaif as his leading lady—with which really began his downhill journey. His best year was 2007, when four of his five starrers made the buck at the box office: Namastey London (30 crore), Bhool Bhulaiyaa (45 crore), Heyy Baby (55 crore), Welcome (65 crore) and literally peaking with Singh is Kinng. And Namastey London performance comparable with Patiala House should have, and even now it will not be too late, shown the way to retain the hard earned stardom. Singh is Kinng was also his last successful outing with Katrina Kaif.

Nick-named Khiladi for the successful action movies he did, beginning with Khiladi (92), Mohra (94), Main Khiladii tu Anari, Sabse Bada Khiladi (95) and Khiladiyon ka Khiladi, he never looked comfortable doing out-and-out romantic flicks like Yeh Dillagi (94), Dhadkan (00) etc. At some point he committed blunder by picking up scripts that were heavy on ‘items’ and ‘situations’ rather than strong scripts because some of his best performances were in emotion-based, dramatic films like Dhadkan, Ek Rishta, Aitraaz, Waqt, and even Ajnabee. The phase of light-hearted comedies, with a great deal of gimmickry rather than histrionics came with Hera Pheri (00), Deewana (02), Mujhse Shadi Karogi (04), Garam Masala (05), Phir Hera Pheri and Bhagam Bhag (06) successive hits.

Trade pundit, Tarun Adarsh, seems to endorse the view when he states: “Whenever Akshay has acted in serious films that emphasise on drama like Dhadkan, Ek Rishtaa, Aitraaz and Waqt in particular, the audience has embraced him and his films warmly. Of course, family dramas do take time to grow at the box-office and that also explains the below-the-mark start of Patiala House. A section of the industry also feels that Patiala House lacked hit music, which comes as a surprise since the film is produced by a music company.” He further adds: “Patiala House is akin to a fresh start for Akshay. It is amongst Akshay’s finest works and if the actor continues to pick and choose his films diligently, instead of working in same genres, he would once again claim the title of ‘Darling of the Masses’. There’s a lesson to be learnt!”

As many as 11 new films starring Akshay have been announced, apart from the five under production: Shabnam Kapoor-directed Hello India with Namrata Shirodkar, Desi Boyz opposite Deepika Padukone directed by Rohit Dhawan, Anees Bazmee’s Thank You with Celina Jaitley, and Joker opposite Katrina Kaif directed by Farah Khan’s husband, Shirish Kunder. There is also the stalled Come on Pappu directed by David Dhawan. Ready to go on the sets include Pyaar ke Side Effect 2 (directed by Saket Chowdhry) with Sonam Kapoor, Deepa Mehta-directed Komagata Maru, Housefull 2 with Genelia D’Souza and John Abraham, Lara Dutta, and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai 2 to be directed by Milan Luthra. Taking into account his current box office bashings if some or all of these will see light of the day in 2012. Right now it is time to pause and reflect on where his career is heading.

Moving from location to location, country to country his time for serious reflection is also being consumed by television commercial and sundry endorsements. His going rates for television commercials are reportedly Rs 1.5 crore, exactly what he will be getting for hosting every episode of the Indian version of Fear Factor called Khatron ke Khiladi the third installment of which had been hosted by Priyanka Chopra after he did the first two. In between he also played host on Master Chef India.

By Suresh Kohli

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