In an Amritsari middle-class household, a boy named Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia was born and was soon destined to become tinsel town royalty. No one knew this then, of course. By all accounts, Rajiv Bhatia was a regular kid during his growing up years. The only things that set him apart were his innate dancing skills and an obsession with martial arts. Today Rajiv Bhatia is known to a million Indian fans as Akshay Kumar the superstar.
Life was chaotic for Akshay Kumar during college. The actor opted out of formal education, deciding to devote himself to martial arts. Although, he never dreamt of becoming a Bollywood star during his formative years. The actor said in an interview with a leading daily “Becoming an actor was not on the cards. I didn’t think about it even in my wildest dreams.”
Mumbai in the 80s saw Akshay Kumar, with a long moustache and hair, jumping from rooftop water tanks for a click. As this happened, he managed to arrange a barter with the fashion photographer, Jayesh Seth, a close friend. Seth didn’t think much about the actor then. “I thought he was mad” the photographer had confessed in an interview a few years ago. He was taking classes in dancing and acting from the actress Madhumati, known to be a weel know starlet, a favorable comparison with Helen, during this time.
Portfolio in hand, Akshay Kumar began auditioning for roles and, just as is the case with the many ‘actors-to-be-or-not-to-be’ rushing into the city, rejection became a constant companion for him. But, in a fifteen-second role in Mahesh Bhatt's film Aaj. the struggler bagged the role of a Karate instructor. This is when luck struck the struggling actor making him the superstar he is today. The screen name took inspiration from Akshay, the lead character of Aaj and Gaurav Kumar, the actor who played this role. Soon, the words ‘Akshay Kumar’ started cropping up on posters everywhere: on the posters of Saugandh (1991), Dancer (1991) and Mr Bond (1992). The first of these posters to capture the public imagination was the summer release Khiladi (1992). With this movie, Akshay Kumar became a celebrity of sorts.
There were ups and downs, to say the least. But the actor kept breaking expectations time and again and the brand called Akshay Kumar was somewhat established. Between Dil Ki Bazi (1993) and Mohra (1994), his films were lukewarm at best. With Mohra he achieved considerable success. A spate of average films flooded his hopes of ever being a megastar, until the hit film Mai Khiladi Tu Anari (1994) till its sequel Sabse Bada Khiladi (1995) was released. Another succession of near-flops followed till the third in the Khiladi series, Khiladio Ke Khiladi (1996) hit the screens. The trend continued with Akshay’s next hit being Mr. and Mrs. Khiladi (1997). Kumar had been typecasted, but not for long. The next Khiladi sequel, International Khiladi, didn’t go well at the box-office neither did Khiladi 420 (2000). By this time, films which saw Akshay in other roles were seen to be doing well. Akshay Kumar’s first film to reach the 100 crore mark was Houseful 2 (2012). Today Akshay Kumar is considered one of the biggest superstars of Bollywood.
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