Star of the week: Akshaye Khanna
What went wrong with Akshaye Khanna's career? When this star-son made his debut in "Himalayaputra" eight years ago, many people saw him as the Next Best Thing. That he was! And he proved it with his very next film "Border".
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
In J.P. Dutta's war film, Akshaye played a callow soldier who cannot come to terms with the savagery of battle and violence. The performance was so fluent and effortless it left no doubt in people's minds that a new star had indeed arrived.
So what went wrong? Today, in spite of three successes in a row - "Humraaz" (where he played an out-and-out negative role), "Deewangee" (where he went positive to Ajay Devgan's negative) and "Hungama" (where he swam through satire) - Akshaye seems to have reached a kind of crisis in his career.
"It's the moodiness. Akshaye is very temperamental. I've directed him. And I should know. Believe me he doesn't make it easy for any filmmaker to be relaxed and creative on the sets," says a filmmaker whose film suffered delays due to his leading man's attitude.
Producer Gaurang Doshi, who recently worked with Akshaye in "Deewaar: Let's Bring Our Heroes Home", disagrees. "I had no problem working with Akshaye. He was extremely cooperative and not prone to moodiness at all."
For better or worse, Akshaye has acquired a reputation for moodiness. Whether it's ill earned or not is a relative viewpoint. Akshaye is very uncomfortable with strangers. Though he says he's trying to change that, his discomfort in company that he doesn't like is very obvious.
More than shy, this Khanna is a private person. You won't find him mixing around at filmy dos or attending socialites' parties. In fact any question on his life puts a clamp on his tongue.
The hostility towards personal queries is so apparent that you need to be a total moron to ignore them. Unlike his brother Rahul Khanna, who's reticent but polite and extremely affable, Akshaye makes no bones about his temperamental nature. This does pose practical problems of accessibility for the average filmmaker who might want to sign him.
Akshaye isn't available for possible offers unless there's a ready script. He has declined so many projects, it seems no is his favourite word. He did say yes to Priyadarshan's "Hungama" though. Considering it was an ensemble comedy with an army of actors in the cast, this seemed like a strange choice.
But then perhaps Akshaye wanted to have fun. He doesn't seem to have much of that in real life. One seldom hears of him partying, or dating anyone for that matter. While all his colleagues are subject to constant speculation about their love life there's none about Akshaye Khanna because presumably there's none -- unless he has kept it so well hidden from public view it never surfaces.
That seems a near impossibility in showbiz. For all practical purposes, Akshaye Khanna is a recluse. The roles reflect an accompanying reticence to connect with the filmmakers who matter. Though all the major filmmakers agree Akshaye Khanna is a bundle of unexplored talent, he has no assignments with the cream of the crop, namely, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karan Johar or Yash Chopra. Even avant garde filmmakers like Ram Gopal Varma shy away from this supposedly moody actor.
"Am I moody?" he once wondered aloud to me. "I don't know. I do like my space. And I generally like to be left alone. But that doesn't mean I disrespect other people's feelings or discount sensitivity towards others. But yes I am aloof and I like to keep to myself. What's wrong with that?"
Nothing, except that showbiz by its very definition requires its candidates to be gregarious and free-spirited. Whether it's Shah Rukh Khan or Abhishek Bachchan, they're all seen at 'happening' places with the with-it crowd.
I am afraid a recluse is as out of step with today's definition of stardom as a dude with painted toenails. They just don't go together.
Akshaye Khanna needs to quickly re-invent his image, and mine some of that unfathomable talent which makes him a maverick performer. Right now he's all set to play Mahatma Gandhi's troubled son Harilal in playwright Feroz Khan's film on the subject. It takes Akshaye into a historical/biographical territory where he has never been before and where he'll be perfectly in place.
But playing Harilal cannot enhance Akshaye Khanna's popularity. For that he needs to seek out striking roles within the commercial parameters as he did in Subhash Ghai's "Taal". Though Anil Kapoor had the more flamboyant role, Akshaye made a quiet impact in this NRI-oriented film.
Right now, Akshaye Khanna gets into the comic mode once again this week. In Priyadarshan's "Hulchal", he's paired with Kareena Kapoor for the first time. But the last time Akshaye did a comedy with Priyadarshan it was "Hungama". And Paresh Rawal had walked away with all the praise.
So unlike J.P. Dutta's "Border" where Akshaye stole the show from all the veteran stars.
When can Akshaye cross the Border?