Akshay Kumar meets Yogi Adityanath: could this signal the actor’s potential political plans?
Akshay Kumar's recent meeting in Mumbai with UP CM Yogi Adityanath, especially the fact that the meeting was accessible for visual advertising, is perhaps quiet acknowledgment of the actor's potential political ambition.
At this point it is difficult to say if Akshay Kumar is any less a politician than he is an actor. Most ageing actors like him have an identity crisis staring them in the eye because they can’t decide between belatedly playing their age, or dragging their feet back to the lover-boy image of the 90s. But of all the A-listers going through the ebb and flow of this uncertainty none have pivoted the way Kumar has.
Over the last few years, Kumar has cosied up to BJP leaders; his recent meeting in Mumbai with UP CM Yogi Adityanath, especially the fact that the meeting was accessible for visual advertising, is perhaps quiet acknowledgment of the actor's potential political ambition, one that has been long rumoured.
A lot of actors, to their credit, see the finish line from far off. The likes of Sunny Deol and Govinda spotted that dead deer from a distance and quietly accepted their residential status in jungle of politics. In many ways, politics and acting overlaps significantly. Both have a performative aspect, and if recent history is any evidence, it is quite possibly the only aspect that matters at the moment. It makes sense then for actors, who are well past their best or past the public’s level of tolerance, to adopt careers where their performative ability can come to the fore.
Which brings us to the not so curious case of Kumar, who despite commanding stellar fees and reputation with Bollywood producers — and despite being at the commercial best phase of her career — seems to be eyeing a political career.
Before we speak of Kumar’s present day gimmickry, it is interesting to note that the first two decades of Kumar’s filmography doesn’t exactly point us to the actor’s inevitable intentions. Sainik (1993) and Elaan (1994) did reference injustice and patriotism but they had more to do with Kumar’s action hero figure at the time. The late 90s were largely about pitching Kumar as the lone action superstar, before Priyadarshan found the comedian in him and gave him the aloof persona that radically changed the trajectory of his career. All of that before he played the moralising, desi saint Arjun in Namastey London, a role he has been trying to get out of since.
Ironically, Kumar won’t have to change much should he ever choose to make that leap across the line. To which effect, Kumar’s public meeting with UP CM Yogi Adityanath, is as good as a signature of endorsement. This meeting is only a recent reminder of something that has been flickering on our radars for years now.
One can’t really grudge a man his opportunism in a country that doesn’t know any other way, but a superstar’s public veneration of a politics that often targets communities is a worrying inference a lot of struggling artists might be tempted to adopt. Because the practice of art is so ruthless and hegemonic in this country, artists might easily be pushed to participate in a certain detrimental brand of politics, at the low cost of some visibility. This is a worrying precedent Kumar is setting.
Not all is of course inferable about Kumar’s manoeuvres within the annals of India’s right-wing polity. For one, he holds a Canadian passport and enough money to never have to look back at the country. If it were patriotism that really eggs Kumar on, then sharing legroom with India’s political parties would be last on his steps to follow to ensure that that sentiment is echoed. Which makes Kumar’s present day image as baffling as it feels cynical and narrow. Of course, it may eventually become actualised at the public expense of a great actor we have all loved.
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