National Awards, the most prestigious ceremony that honours cinema nation-wide, was conferred today on the best of performers, and Bollywood surely had an upper hand. ‘PINK’, ‘Neerja’, ‘Dangal’ were amongst those movies that were path-breaking and deserved the laurels that were showered on them. But, most of all, the fans erupted in joy when Akshay Kumar finally won his first National Award for Best Actor, for his portrayal of Rustom Pavri in ‘Rustom’. While we were happy with him finally winning the coveted trophy, he winning it for this movie kept nagging us like a bug, at the back of our minds.
The moment was a déjà vu one for us, for we remember how in Hollywood, after much outrage on not conferring Leonardo Di Caprio with any Academy award for his commendable performances, he was finally given one for ‘The Revenant’. Were the fans happy? Yes, they were, but Leo’s performance in his other movies surpassed what he did in this movie.
Akshay Kumar, an outsider in Bollywood who established himself purely on his talent. First as an action hero, and then in the genres of romance and comedy, the actor has proved his mettle time and again. He is an actor who deserved the National Award way before this, for his performances in movies like ‘Sangharsh’, ‘Special 26’ and ‘Baby’, where he challenged his own calibre and kept on getting better and better. Why did he not get a National Award then, a fan of the actor may ask?
His role of Aman Verma in ‘Sangharsh’, a genius professor who helps the character of Preity Zinta to nab a religious fanatic who sacrifices children for self-immortality, was simply outstanding. His nuanced performance shook the audience, as he dared to do a role which was so much in contrast to the typecast ones his contemporaries chose to do at that time. Akshay stepped out of his comfort zone and did full justice to anti-hero role.
If that did not convince the jury to grant him the Best Actor award, there was something else Akshay’s abilities had in store for them.
In the year 2015, Akshay returned on screen as a RAW agent on screen, in Neeraj Pandey’s ‘Baby’ and wowed the critics and audience alike. Performing a professional agent on screen is no easy feat, but Akshay adapted himself to the character so effortlessly, that the audience was left in awe. We really wondered what got into the jury to not nominate him, leave alone give him, the National Award.
If these don’t convince you the sheer talent powerhouse that Akshay Kumar is, watch him nail various characters in movies like ‘Aankhen’, ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa’, ‘Namastey London’, ‘Khatta Meetha’, and even ‘Patiala House’. He effortlessly took on the role essayed by Tom Hardy in ‘Warriors’ in the movies remake ‘Brothers’ and exuded the misery of the boxer perfectly. While some of these may not have raked in a moolah at the box office, Akshay was a treat to watch on screen as he nailed each and every character with a flamboyance only few can boast of.
In the role of Officer Rustom Pavari, Akshay nailed everything, from the body language to the acting skills, but somewhere, we could not consider it has his best performance, and hence the reservations on congratulations. Akshay’s finesse as an actor has been proved multiple times, and this is just one of those. But the times where he transcended even his own panache, were the ones when he actually deserved National Award, in every meaning and sense.
We are happy that Akshay has finally got his due in Indian cinema, we truly are. He has received the coveted award, but we are a tad dubious about the fact that he was bequeathed with the award for a performance that was good but nowhere close to the brilliance that he exuded in the other roles that he has delivered in so many years of his career, and will continue to, prime example being ‘Baby’.
Akshay, you deserve National Award for the mere prowess you possess and the magic and conviction you bring on screen, but not this time. We want the Akshay of ‘Baby’ and ‘Sangharsh’ to be conferred with the award, not the Akshay of ‘Rustom’, the absence of whose nominations led an outrage on social media, and created somewhat of an obvious pressure to give him the award. This comes as a surprise when Aamir Khan, who played the character of Mahavir Singh Phogat in ‘Dangal’ with conviction, was also a contender. The character of Rustom Pavri falls a bit flat when compared to that of a hapless father who strived day and night to get his country a gold medal, empowering his daughters in the process.
He will next be seen in the role of a man who invented affordable sanitary napkins, and a husband in a movie which emphasises on the rural sanitation in India, for females. We hope that the jury notices him here too, for if there is an actor who can mesmerise us in roles that do not fall in the quintessential Bollywood definition of a ‘hero’, that is Akshay Kumar, the actor.