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Will Akshaye Khanna race again?

Once a bankable actor, the younger son of Vinod Khanna saw his career founder with a string of flops and a receding hairline

Mayur Lookhar

Akshaye Khanna

Being a star son is no bed of roses. There is the pressure of living up to the expectations of one’s star parent and of the parent’s fans. Over the years, this pressure has proved to be the undoing of many an aspiring star. Akshaye Khanna, however, wasn’t one of them.

The reticent, low-profile younger son of Vinod Khanna made a forgettable debut with Himalay Putra (1997), but the wheel turned in his favour with his second film Border. Inspired by tales of bravery during the India-Pakistan war of 1965, JP Dutta’s Border ignited nationalistic passion. The tragic accident in a Delhi theatre (Uphaar), which cost 59 lives, also had the inadvertent effect of helping the film. Border was a hit. Akshaye Kumar had become a star. He bagged the Filmfare Best Debutant award and narrowly missed the Best Supporing Actor award. The disaster that was Himalay Putra was forgotten.

Border’s success was always going to be hard to match, and Akshaye Khanna had to wait for two more years before finding success again. He was picked for the lead role in Rishi Kapoor’s directorial debut Aa Ab Laut Chale, a romantic slice-of-life tale that won many hearts. The pairing of Akshaye Khanna and Aishwarya Rai was appreciated by audiences and the duo was cast together again in Subhash Ghai’s musical Taal, which proved to be a box-office success. Akshaye Khanna and Aishwarya Rai were linked romantically and some reports even suggested they were close to getting married before Salman Khan ruined the party.

Akshaye Khanna’s other films in 1999 bombed, but two years later he returned with a bang again with Farhan Akhtar’s directorial debut Dil Chahta Hai. This time, he bagged the Best Supporting Actor award for his portrayal of a sensitive young painter in love with a woman (Dimple Kapadia) many years his senior. Akshaye Khanna’s shy demeanour and honesty won over audiences. Dil Chahta Hai also revived the stalling career of Saif Ali Khan.

A year later, Akshaye Khanna experimented with a negative role in Humraaz. The film was a commercial success, largely owing to Khanna’s performance. But his next few films, in which Akshaye Khanna returned to playing the lead role, met with little success.

 In 2007, Akshaye Khanna won critical acclaim for Gandhi, My Father, but the film’s performance at the box office was average. Being good was no longer good for Akshaye Khanna. So he again switched to a negative character in Abbas-Mustan’s Race (2008). The film was panned by critics but the box office told a different tale.

 This was probably going to be the way forward for the son of Vinod Khanna, who had started his own career playing negative roles, but Akshaye Khanna returned to playing the hero in poor films, which eventually put the brakes on his career.

In 2010, the actor announced that he was taking a five-year break from acting. Rumour had it that career setbacks had taken a toll of his health. The rapidly receding hairline did not help. Things got worse in 2013 when the actor filed a complaint against a couple for duping him of Rs50 lakh on the pretext of doubling the money in 45 days through commodity trades.

Akshaye Khanna is finally slated to make a comeback to the silver screen this year with Rohit Dhawan’s Dishoom. The film stars John Abraham and Varun Dhawan with Akshaye Khanna reportedly playing the antagonist. Being bad has been good for him in the past. So, just maybe, Dishoom will get Akshaye Khanna’s career going again.