Akshay Kumar, the actor, deserved the National Award, but way before ‘Rustom’
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.
Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921. The house proudly flaunted that to the world, nestled in the greens of Coonoor. No one knew the darkness that was inside, the demons that were individually dealt with. But then, isn’t every family like that?
Two years have passed by since this Shakun Batra-directorial, story of a dysfunctional family had come to our lives. However, amongst the various themes that tore apart the family and eventually brought it together, one that truly had the power to transform, was that of homosexuality.
Not many know, that the role played by Fawad Khan, that of family’s elder son, a successful author, was actually offered to many A-listers, who turned it down, eventually leading him to step into the shoes of Rahul. And it was, indeed, a very big step on his part. He was venturing out of his territory, a man who has such a huge female-fan following, and comes from a country with religion as its main running philosophy. He did the role and brought such conviction to it that we were forced to stand up and applaud, his courage, and the beauty with which his character was carved.
Since times immemorial, all our memories of gay characters on screen have been that of carelessly effeminate and unimportant roles, which are just there to add a comic element. The stereotype has been high to an extent that often the champions of the same channelise it and promote it, for it is wrapped in the shiny paper of presentation. The biggest example of this was ‘Dostana’, which was an amazing story of friendship, still used homosexuality as humour, as its backdrop. Ironically, it came from the same production house, though nearly eight years before that.
But ‘Kapoor & Sons’ begged to differ here. The character here was real, someone who was hiding himself, for the society, his family. There was surreality to the theme of homosexuality here, which had the power to jar us inside out; and that, it did.
Two scenes from the movie specifically hit me. First one is when Sunita (Ratna Patak Shah) finds out that her ideal elder son, whom she adores and is proud of, is not straight. The aftereffects of the same jolt you, because the reaction is just what an Indian mother gives, in any situation that is beyond her control; uncontrollable anger at the offspring, and then uncontrollable guilt, of blaming herself and her upbringing. The scene is filmed so beautifully, that your eyes sting. The way Fawad’s facade falls and his fear is marked across his face, which is then replaced by the anger of hiding himself for all those years, and mother’s dilemma and hurt, it all comes out in a naked and real manner.
Another sequence is when Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes back home after the showdown with his mother and the death of his father totally uproots whatever sanity his family possessed. He sits with his mother, with whom his last encounter was one of his coming out, and she asks, hesitatingly, about his partner. A subtle way of expressing acceptance, the way they hold hands, without saying anything, it stays with you.
It may not be one masterpiece, but ‘Kapoor & Sons’ will forever remain a favourite for finally breaking the mainstream stereotype of a gay man, in Bollywood. And for that, no matter how many bans, I will forever be waiting for Fawad Khan to come back, and give us more performances; with dare and conviction.
An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
“I am a kid from the 90s but still can’t forget those days when, me-myself was not out and proud about my preferences. And inside my own sweet world would dance in front of the mirror on many songs, but majorly on ‘Hawa Hawai’ and ‘Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera’. These songs were just not tunes for me, it made me feel exactly what I was; a QUEERby birth”.
The news of the legendary diva Sridevi being no more with us is still hard to believe, as she was part of my and every queer’s childhood memories. While in the late 90s my bunch of friends would idolise a star from the West as their gay icon, me being a full-fledged Bollywood fanatic was in love with Sridevi and she was a diva I used to worship (and will forever). Her golden costume and perfectly done makeup in ‘Hawa Hawai’ made me feel, “Yes! There is someone like me out there who loves bling and all things loud.” Her feather headgear in one of the songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’, touched my drag Queen‘s soul. One of the lines from her song ‘Hawa Hawai’ which is ‘Soorat Hi Maine Aisi Paayi’ transported me into a world where I thought that there is someone narcissist just like me. Sridevi’s charm was on my mind and the feminine side in me just wanted to be a replica of her.
The gone actress has not only given a lot to the Indian cinema, but her sass and talent of naturally moulding herself into any character gave her an upper hand in whatever she used to do. When many gay men were struggling and were confused about their sexual orientation they found a connection to their on-going pain in Sridevi’s roles. Whether it was Sridevi as a meek Anju and ferocious Manju fighting for everything wrong in ‘ChaalBaaz’ (1989), Pooja’s mutiny against the everlasting societal conditions in ‘Lamhe’ (1991), Seema’s confidence-filled and fearless dance in the ‘Mr. India’ (1987) song ‘Hawa Hawaai’ or her role of a naagin (snake) coming out to the world about her dual identity in ‘Nagina’ (1986), Sri’s roles had a deep connection and were etched in every GAY man’s mind.
And how can one miss ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ song of Sridevi from ‘Mr. India’, where she owned the song and made every gay guy’s dream to dance on it once with his man. This particular song was wild, seductive and equal parts bold. Sridevi draped in a sky-blue coloured saree with a matching bindi and of course adding fuel to the fire was her dancing moves. Even at the end of the song, a fully wet in rainwater, Sridevi stretching herself on a pile of hay – ‘Tumne jo li angdayi hai’ – where the diva nibbles on straws with a drenched fire in her eyes, leaving Mr. Kapoor to chivalrously lie on a distant haystack.
While mostly when the film fraternity was in a zone where feminine men were used as a tool to add fun elements on the silver screen, Sridevi was a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community. She was like a powerful symbol for the QUEERS. Her role resonated each and every gays struggle, and also echoed their dysphoria into her characters. And with her, all the queer children surpassed the narrow-minded stereotypes which they were labelled with. Lastly, she might be gone, but the colourful rainbow universe she opened for all the fellow LGBTQ people remains there intact..
Hail the QUEEN! RIP Sridevi.