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30 years of Khiladi: Success didn’t go to our heads because we didn't understand what was happening, says Ayesha Julka

On the 30th anniversary of the release of Akshay Kumar's first hit, Ayesha Julka goes down memory lane talking about the film and her co-star.

Ankita Kanabar

The nail-biting thrill and narrative of a quintessential Abbas-Mustan film clubbed with melodious music and lots of entertainment — all this makes Khiladi (1992) memorable even three decades on.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the film that gave Akshay Kumar his first box-office hit and the title 'Khiladi' that has continued to be attached to him till today.

The thriller also boasts of some excellent performances by artistes like Johnny Lever, Prem Chopra, Deepak Tijori, Ayesha Julka and Shabeeha along with, of course, Akshay Kumar.

Recalling the success of Khiladi, Julka told Cinestaan.com, “We were so young, we never anticipated what’s going to happen 30 years from now. When you time and again get this response for these films over the years, it’s overwhelming.

"Whether a film works or not is not in my hands, but doing my best is. For me it was Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) and Khiladi back to back and both films were running at Gaiety-Galaxy simultaneously when I went there once.

“It was a milestone week of my career. Of course, my first film Kurbaan (1991) with Salman Khan was a different feeling since Salman was on a high those days after Maine Pyaar Kiya (1989). So, it was a good start for my career with these three releases. But the success didn’t go to our heads because we couldn’t understand what was happening.”

Julka admitted that Khiladi was the film where she had the maximum fun at work. “We would enjoy working on the sets with everyone," she said. "Khiladi is one film I will never forget because it was fun all the way. From the co-stars to the producers to the actors, all of us had so much fun.

“We used to look forward to go on the sets. Akshay and Deepak Tijori, Abbasji, Mastanji, Johnny Lever, Guddi Maruti, Ratan Jain, Chinni Prakash and I learnt so many things about cinema on that set.”

There was this entire phase in the 1990s when Akshay Kumar and Ayesha Julka’s on-screen pair was highly appreciated with films like Khiladi and Waqt Hamara Hai (1993). All 1990s kids cherish that memory.

While Akshay Kumar’s stardom has only been on the rise since, Julka, one of his early co-stars, is not surprised at all. “I think Akshay totally deserves the stardom he has today," she remarked. "He deserves it because I’ve seen him back then, really working hard. He is one person who is such a sincere worker. I used to always tell him that because you are so sincere and hardworking, there is no way you are not going to find success.”

She added, “Very rarely do you see youngsters who come into the industry being so passionate about their work. Certain people deserve what they get. It’s not that other people don’t work hard. Everyone works hard, even me. But he was really passionate. Even those days his punctuality, the desire and hunger to learn were there, so there is no way success can stop. And he has been consistent with his hard work over the years.”

Khiladi's music was composed by the duo Jatin-Lalit, who had also scored the outstanding album of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, and these songs, too, continue to be memorable today.