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Comment: Why Akshay Kumar doesn't deserve an award this year


Though Rustom, Airlift and Housefull 3 each collected over Rs100 crore at the bo- office, Akshay Kumar's performances in them pales in comparison to the actors who have been nominated.

Mayur Lookhar

A storm has been raging on Twitter with fans of Akshay Kumar lashing out at the Filmfare awards jury for not nominating the actor for an award this year.

The actor had three releases last year, each collecting over Rs100 crore at the box-office, and his fans are shocked that he did not win a nomination even for Rustom and Airlfit, which were appreciated by audiences and critics.

Kumar himself has never cared for awards. Last year he famously remarked, "You all know how these awards work in India. If I am asked to present an award, I can guess who is winning it on the basis of the ones who have attended it or rather the ones sitting in the front row.”

The Khiladi is not known to get emotional easily, but there must be some disappointment deep within. While we empathise with him and his fans, the reality is that none of his performances last year merited a nomination. To understand why, let us look at those who have got the nomination.

Perhaps for the first time in many years, Filmfare has picked seven glorious performances for the Best Actor award: Aamir Khan for Dangal, Shah Rukh Khan for Fan, Sushant Singh Rajput for MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, Salman Khan for Sultan, Ranbir Kapoor for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Amitabh Bachchan for Pink and Shahid Kapoor for Udta Punjab.

Aamir being nominated for Dangal was a forgone conclusion. Most critics and audiences have rated this as one of his finest performances. 

Rajput not only saved his career, but slipped perfectly into the role of former India cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Before Dangal was released, he was a hot favourite for the award.

Shah Rukh's Fan was largely panned by critics and was a commercial failure, too, but Shah Rukh's performance in a double role, two extreme characters, was outstanding. Raja Sen is a harsh critic but when he says that SRK, as the superstar is popularly known, deserves an award for Fan, you cannot but stand up and take notice. The trouble with Fan was its plot, not Shah Rukh's performance. In fact, after many years audiences got to see the great actor in Shah Rukh.

Haryanvi film-goers were not impressed, but Salman stunned all with a mature and humble performance as washed-up wrestler Sultan. The superstar, who is known for playing macho but light-hearted characters, got out of his comfort zone to play an intense character.

His films do not shake up the box-office as they used to three decades ago, but Amitabh Bachchan has only got better with age. His portrayal in Pink of a hot-shot Delhi lawyer with bipolar disorder who surmounts his personal problems to ensure that the wronged young women get justice was a tour de force. It would surely get him the votes of the female audiences.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil had its flaws, but after watching it Aamir hailed Ranbir as the best actor in the industry. Aamir's appraisal apart, Ranbir's lovelorn act reduced many viewers to tears.

That leaves Shahid. Did he deserve the nomination for Udta Punjab? One could argue that he did not, given the flaws in the delineation of his character Tommy Singh, but one cannot deny that Shahid got into the skin of Singh perfectly playing a whacko Punjabi pop singer who battles drug abuse.

Now, let us look at Kumar's performances in his three films last year. 

Airlift

This film was inspired by true events. Director Raja Krishan Menon and the producers of Airlift picked the evacuation of Indians from Kuwait during the first Gulf war (1990-1991) as their prime plot. Airlift was largely inspired by the heroics of Kerala-born Kuwaiti businessman Mathunny Mathews, though he was just one of the heroes. 

To sell the film to a Hindi-speaking audience, Menon created a Punjabi protagonist, Ranjit Katyal (Kumar). A Punjabi character amidst the huge Malayali population was a bit hard to digest. Besides, Katyal was shown in superior light to his humble Malayali employees and other characters who wouldn’t take a step till uber-smart Katyal conjured up a safety plan. One of the key criticisms of Kumar has been that he has often over-indulged his Punjabi origins while playing North Indian characters. This was evident in Airlift, especially in the emotional scenes. As a film, too, Airlift had its flaws. While you appreciate the efforts of Menon and Kumar, Airlift didn’t do justice to the heroics of Mathew. Airlift was a story that needed to be told, but Kumar didn’t do enough to deserve a nomination. 

Rustom

The second film for Kumar inspired by real life, Rustom was based on the controversial trial of Commander KM Nanavati, who was accused of killing his wife Sylvia’s alleged lover Prem Ahuja. As often happens with such films, though inspired by life, the director creates fictional characters. So, Nanavati became Rustom Pavri. While the name was changed, the character remained a Parsi.

Hard as he tried, Kumar barely spoke in Parsi style. In fact, he appeared more Punjabi than Parsi. Director Tinu Suresh Desai needlessly brought patriotism and corruption into the navy angle. Pavri's self-defence argument was flimsy and lacking in conviction. Kumar’s character and the film, in general, appeared to drag. Here was a tale that could have been easily told in under two hours, but the unwarranted sensationalism, over-the-top court drama, and Kumar’s hamming didn’t merit the film or him a nomination.

Housefull 3

Sajid Khan was out, but the writer duo of Farhad-Sajid carried his sexist legacy into the third Housefull film. Kumar played a new character, one who does amuse us with his split personality, but the actor himself would have been shocked if he were to be nominated for this outrageous performance.

The real wonder is how Kumar did not get nominated for his performance in Special 26 (2013). Many regard it as his finest performance. Neeraj Pandey’s film was inspired by a true story. From speaking different Indian languages to displaying sharp intellect and composure while pulling off his cons, Kumar was immaculate as Ajju.

When he invited the star on his chat show, actor Anupam Kher told him he deserved a National Award for his performance in Special 26. Surprisingly, he did not get even a Filmfare nomination. And when you look at those who did, you wonder how he missed out. While Farhan Akhtar deserved his award for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, did Shah Rukh Khan deserve a nomination for Chennai Express? Were Hrithik Roshan’s heroics in Krrish 3 better than Kumar’s antics in Special 26? Even Hindi cinema newcomer Dhanush got a nomination for Raanjhanaa, while Ranbir and Ranveer Singh got it for Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, respectively. That was harsh on Kumar.