64th National Film Awards 2017: Akshay Kumar's win is beyond Rustom, he's a pan-Indian hero
A couple of months ago, thousands of Akshay Kumar's fans had expressed disappointment in the nominations announced by Filmfare for the Best Actor in a Leading Role award as the actor was not nominated for either of his three films that crossed the coveted Rs 100 crore mark at the box office.
Now that he has been conferred upon the National Award for Best Actor for Tinu Suresh Desai's period drama Rustom, his fans have a reason to rejoice.
This is his first major award as he is known more for his box office track record than sweeping the top honours.
While Rustom may not be the best film of his career, the honour comes as a well-deserved tribute to an actor who is making attempts to represent every nook and corner of the country through his cinema. Kumar, born a Punjabi, has never let his off screen identity get the better of any of his roles on the silver screen.
From representing the Sikh community as Happy in Anees Bazmee's 2008 comedy Singh is Kinng to wooing NRIs with his act of a deep-rooted simpleton, Arjun Singh in Vipul Shah's 2007 romantic comedy Namastey London, Kumar has made a conscious effort to bring to life the aspirations and issues that plague every community.
Last year, he addressed the NRI sentiment to return to their homeland in Raja Krishna Menon's Airlift. He chose not to play a conventional hero but a repentant man who wants to atone his sins by taking up the de-facto leadership of a mass evacuation operation in Kuwait.
In another period drama Rustom, he brought to the forefront a contentious episode of the Parsi community that had gotten buried somewhere in history. He rekindled the debate around the famous case of naval officer KM Nanawati.
His action avatar had helped in gaining a wide reach across the single screen audience and mindless comedies like the Houseful franchise helped further his appeal. Houseful 3 raked in Rs 100 crore in no time, owing to his popularity among the masses.
His future projects suggest that he has embraced this strategy of positioning himself as a pan-India hero with open arms.
Neeraj Pandey's thriller Crack has been pushed to the bottom of his priority list as he is currently focusing more on extending his popularity to other states rather than consolidating his present fan base.
He played a Lucknow-based lawyer in Subhash Kapoor's courtroom drama Jolly LLB 2 this year, which as is the trend, made it to the Rs 100 crore club. He perfected the mannerisms and accent of Uttar Pradesh, incorporating every quirk or lehja, as they call it locally. He even paired himself with Huma Qureshi for the film, a popular face in Uttar Pradesh courtesy her debut in Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur.
He will continue to enhance his popularity in Uttar Pradesh with Shree Narayan Singh's upcoming social satire Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. The film, shot extensively in Barsana and Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh and also in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, revolves around the Swachh Bharat Campaign, a flagship programme of the Central government.
He will be seen opposite Bhumi Pednekar, another popular face in Uttar Pradesh because of her debut in Sharat Kartaria's Dum Lagaa Ke Haishaa, a romantic comedy set in Haridwar. The release date of the film has also been positioned wisely as it will release days before this Independence Day.
He is currently shooting for R Balki's social drama Padman. He has resumed shooting for where he wrapped up Toilet: Ek Prem Katha - Madhya Pradesh. It is the biopic of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur who invented low-cost sanitary pads. Since his major work base was in Indore, Kumar is attempting to take the local story to a national level with Padman.
This Diwali, Kumar looks to trickle down his fan base to the southern states with S Shankar's science fiction film 2.0 in which he will be seen locking horns with Tamil superstar Rajinikanth. Thalaiva's presence is sure to attract huge numbers to the cinema halls not only in Tamil Nadu but also in other states of south India.
This year, Kumar's filmography is a mix of regional stories with a pan-Indian or even global appeal. He seems to be going on the Priyanka Chopra way, though through a more mainstream approach.
While Chopra has been bankrolling regional cinema, such as Marathi, Punjabi and Bhojpuri films, Kumar has leveraged his goodwill as an actor against author-backed roles from the hinterlands and conveyed their stories to a wider audience.
PS: He has also produced a couple of Marathi films.
Next year, he will once again go the local-gone-global way with his portrayal of Kishan Lal, the Indian hockey team captain, who led the country to three consecutive Olympic victories in Reema Kagti's sports drama Gold. Since Lal was born in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, Kumar will return to the state to depict the initial years of Lal's life.
However, Kumar has not completely let go of his urban fan following. Besides Pandey's Crack, he also has another biopic, Moghul, lined up for release. Moghul is the story of Gulshan Kumar, the founder of T-Series and a pioneer of film music in India.
He has also signed a film under Karan Johar and Salman Khan's production houses that reportedly revolves around the Battle of Sargarhi, which implies that he returns to a familiar turf of playing a Sikh, though in a completely different light.
Besides his reel life adventures, Kumar has left no stones unturned in expressing his patriotic fervour. He has donated huge sums to martyred armed forces and CRPF jawans who lost their lives in attacks on the border and in Naxalite-affected areas in Chhattisgarh.
He has also posted videos on social media expressing his concerns over lack of women safety. Whether it was speaking on the mass molestation episode in Bangalore on New Year's Eve or opening a free martial arts centre for women's self-defense in collaboration with Yuva Sena in Mumbai, he comes across as an empathetic and vocal celebrity on issues, both national and local.
His National Award bears testimony to the fact that he is not just a good actor but also a concerned storyteller willing to represent every state of the country in the most entertaining yet hard-hitting manner possible.
(all images from News 18)
Updated Date: Apr 07, 2017 14:18:20 IST