Akshay Kumar

- Vikram Chandiramani 

In a campaign that is obviously orchestrated by Akshay Kumar, for quite some time, Akki as he is known to his friends – an like all successful stars he has many of them – has been touting himself as `an answer to Khans`. His forthcoming films include Hey Baby, Saamna, Rahgeer and Welcome
   
He has a list of hits (Ajnabee, Aankhen, Andaaz, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Aitraaz, Garam Masala and Phir Hera Pheri) to his credit to back up such a claim, and he has been able to stand out even in the scenes with Amitabh Bachchan.

Taking himself and his career as seriously as Bachchan once did, Akshay has left his contemporaries and stars in the same bracket, the likes of Suneil Shetty and Saif Khan, much behind. With manipulation on the editing tables he is said to have chopped scenes of his costars if they overshadow him, has even fought for his square feet on the hoardings of Family: Ties of Blood while doing films with Amitabh Bachchan and, obviously, aspires to reach the top.

What is unusual about Akshay Kumar is that, unlike many other stars, a godfather did not launch him, nor did he come from a film family. His entry into films was through the back door, through B-grade and C-grade films that were flooding the industry at that time. His first film, 'Saugandh' was with the not-so-hot south siren, Shanti Priya. Fortunately for the hero, who was considered to be a bad actor, he survived the test because of his dances and his stunts.

With Abbas-Mastan's 'Khiladi', his first hit, Akshay discovered the joy of success and he almost became a freak phenomenon. Although he was considered as an actor in the top bracket, his films were still B-grade. Big filmmakers eluded him. But with Yash Chopra's 'Yeh Dillagi', directed by Naresh Malhotra, Rajiv Rai's 'Mohra' and Umesh Mehra's 'Sabse Bada Khiladi', Akshay Kumar catapulted to fame and into the exclusive elite bracket among other potential front runners. But he rues the fact that with his success, the attitudes of the people have changed towards him. "They give me more attention now. Why shouldn't they? Irrespective of whether you have made it or not, I don't understand why people should change with success." However, he admits that success has made him more cautious. "Now I attend to people even more than I used to earlier. However tiring it might be, I go out of my way to attend to people simply because I don't want people to tell me that success has gone to my head." However, he claims, films come only second in the list of his priorities.

His first love was, is and will always be martial arts. And through his films, he hopes to promote the art and is also contemplating a school for martial arts training. "I am so busy these days, I don't have time to teach martial arts but in another two to three years' time, I will open a martial arts school where I will teach people what I learnt in Thailand," he says determinedly.

Akshay Kumar is married to Twinkle Khanna, daughter of yesteryear's superstar Rajesh Khanna and actress Dimple Kapadia. They have a son, Aarav. Akshay Kumar had a string of failed relationships with mostly bollywood actresses before he tied the knot with Twinkle Khanna. He is believed to have been seriously involved with actresses Shilpa Shetty and Pooja Batra and Raveena Tandon at various points of time. After marriage, Akshay Kumar's closeness to Priyanka Chopra when they worked together almost broke his marriage.