Akshay Kumar, aka Mr.Khiladi can say that he hates labels and being stereotyped, but his entire career trajectory can be broken down into three broad chapters that can be very easily labelled. At first he was the action star, then he transformed into a comedy hero, and now he is the indisputable King of pop patriotism in Bollywood. And we want him to stop!
The seeds of this new Mr Bharat avatar were sown when Kumar did Namastey London in 2007. Arjun was a sacha desh ka naujawan even when he was chasing the woman of his dreams, Jasmeet aka a Westernised (code for spoilt and lost) kudi Jazz (Katrina Kaif). This film actually drew comparisons with Manoj Kumar’s (the OG Mr Bharat) Purab Aur Paschim, even though Vipul Shah denied it all. If there was any such thing as foreshadowing in real life, then this was it for Kumar.
Manoj Kumar even endorsed the nationalistic endeavors of not just Akshay Kumar, but also Salman Khan, who is about to star in and as…wait for it…Bharat. The veteran actor told IANS, “I am happy that superstars like Salman and Akshay are playing heroes who can bring about a social awakening, a new dawn, naya Bharat,” before mentioning how he would like to direct both Khan and Kumar in a film called Naya Bharat.
There was really no looking back after 2016 when Kumar transformed into the nationalistic hero he thinks he is meant to be, in reel. First came Airlift, where Kumar’s Ranjit chose to serve the greater good of the nation. Then came Rustom, where Kumar played a Naval officer, a role that earned him his first National Award. But since then, every Kumar film has been on some nationalistic agenda.
His social justice warrior side came out in films like Jolly LLB 2, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, and PadMan – each film a nod to some scheme being promoted by the government, from Beti Bachao Beti Padhao to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. And films like Gold and Kesari saw him blossom into a full fledged nationalistic hero out to avenge the honour of every Indian ever wronged by any “infiltrator”, often white Christians and soorma-wearing Muslim men.
The latter category of films often scarily echo the divisive politics preached by a certain party, and that’s precisely why we want Akki bhau to go back to the good old days of Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Hera Pheri and Khakhee.
Back when Aflatoon and Mr and Mrs Khiladi would make him, and us along with him, croon iconic songs like ‘Jab Tak Rahega Samose Mein Aloo’. Like maybe make one film about how awesome it is to wear your patriotism on your sleeves a year, and the rest about other stuff?
We’d even take Akshay in his old nirmal anand avatar where there was no politics of hate and propaganda, only regular old misogyny with a hint of toxic masculinity, because clearly that is what he does best. But, maybe like drop the misogyny and toxic masculinity this time. It’s perhaps time for a brand-new chapter in your career?