Article Hindi

Akshay Kumar @ 50: Abbas of Abbas-Mustan fame gets nostalgic about Khiladi

The maker of Khiladi (1992), Ajnabee (2001) and Aitraaz (2004) reveals how the duo came to trust a newcomer even when none of his films had been released.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Keyur Seta

Going by his looks and the stunts he carries off with ease, it is hard to imagine that Akshay Kumar is 50 years old. But it is true. The actor celebrates his fiftieth birthday today (9 September).

Akshay Kumar is also known as 'Khiladi Kumar'. He derived this name after doing a series of movies with the word 'Khiladi' in the title. But it all started with Abbas-Mustan’s Khiladi in 1992. This was the film which gave Akshay Kumar his first hit and made him a known face. In other words, Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia became ‘the’ Akshay Kumar with this thriller.

Abbas Alibhai Burmawalla, of the Abbas-Mustan duo, spoke exclusively with on their experience with Akshay Kumar not just in Khiladi, but also later with Ajnabee (2001) and Aitraaz (2004).

Abbas-Mustan wanted a very good actor for Khiladi but not necessarily an established one. “We liked this guy [Akshay Kumar] a lot," Burmawalla said. "We had heard that he is very good at action.” The duo chose to cast Akshay Kumar even before the release of his films which would have shown his talent.

“None of his films had been released then," he said. "Saugandh (1991) and Deedar (1992) were supposed to be released. [But] we thought this guy looks good, is good in action, and is also a good dancer. So, he appeared like an all-rounder to us. We thought of doing a murder mystery with him with songs.”

Abbas (left) and Mustan with Akshay Kumar at a recent event

Interestingly, the duo never took screen tests for their films. It was the same with Khiladi. “We had a couple of meetings with him and finalized him," Burmawalla said. "We didn’t take any screen test. At that time, people didn’t take screen tests. He liked the subject a lot. We told our producers we have finalized Akshay. Then we cast Deepak Tijori, Ayesha Jhulka and Sabeeha. At that time, this casting was very fresh.”

The duo liked Akshay Kumar’s work in the funny sequences earlier. “We were happy to see that along with action he is able to do humour, too," Abbas Burmawalla said. "He is good in action and ready to take on challenges. He did some great action in the end by jumping on top of a car.” 

The duo, obviously, feels proud to see that Akshay Kumar is still known as Khiladi. "We feel very good that he is still known as 'Khiladi Kumar'," the director said. "We feel proud. He is so good-natured. When he is called 'Khiladi Kumar', he gets shy and laughs."

Burmawalla said he and his brother would love to make Khiladi 2 if they get the right scriipt: “Till now we hadn’t thought about it but we will now. If we get a good subject, then we will surely make Khiladi 2.”

Ajnabee, the actor's next with Abbas-Mustan, is one of the few films in which Akshay Kumar played a negative character. “When we narrated Ajnabee to him, we told him, ‘Akshay, we feel from inside that you will get an award for this role.’ We told him you have done different types of roles, but with this one you have a chance of playing a character with grey shades. And then he actually got an award for this film,” added the happy director. 

Akshay Kumar and Deepak Tijori in Khiladi

Akshay Kumar did his next flick with the duo, Aitraaz, though his character was not the protagonist. “Aitraaz was a very hard-hitting subject. After listening to it, Akshay said that Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra are the main characters. But he said he liked the subject a lot so he would do the film. We had gone to South Africa to shoot for 22 days. But we finished the shoot in 15 days,” said the filmmaker. 

Burmawalla believes the star hasn’t changed in all these years. “His nature has remained the same," he said. "We felt that even when we recently met him during the screening of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. He still happily talks with others and gets involved in his work. He has fun on the sets and entertains others. Akshay feels so happy to meet us even today. It always reminds us of the time we spent on Khiladi. He was very punctual during Khiladi. Today, he has become even more punctual.”

On the Khiladi's birthday, the proud filmmaker offered his blessings to him. “Our blessings are always with Akshay," Abbas Burmawalla said. "We know how much hard work he has put in to reach here. Look where he has reached and the kind of films he is doing. He is continuously moving ahead. I feel he will continue this way for at least 10-15 years more.” And then he quickly added, “But it doesn’t look like Akshay is 50 now.”