Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia, known better by his stage name Akshay Kumar, was born on September 9, 1967 in Amritsar, Punjab. He was raised in Delhi, and completed his schooling there before moving to Mumbai for his undergraduate studies at Guru Nanak Khalsa College. During his education, he remained deeply interested in both dancing and martial arts, and after obtaining a black belt in Taekwondo, he moved to Bangkok to train in Muay Thai. While in Thailand, Kumar also worked as a chef and waiter, developing an interest in the culinary arts. He returned to India to become a martial arts trainer, but shortly into this career, a photographer student recommended that he try modelling. He gave it a shot, and this decision kick-started his career in Bollywood. During his modelling days, Kumar made his first appearance in the film industry with a 7-second role as a martial arts instructor in Mahesh Bhatt’s Aaj
(1987). However it wasn’t until Pramod Chakravorty’s Deedar
(1992), that he got his first break in a lead role. The project came through for him after a missed flight and missed opportunity in his modelling career, which led to the fateful meeting between Kumar and the director. He also played the lead role in Abbas-Mustan’s action thriller, Khiladi
(2009), a role that would become iconic for him. The film was hugely successful and kicked off Kumar’s career in the film industry. The film has since been followed by seven others in its series, earning Kumar the nickname of the ‘Khiladi of Bollywood’. For the Khiladi series as well as for other action-oriented roles, he earned himself the reputation of being a daring stuntman and did many of his own stunts. One of the most thrilling stunts was his jump from a plane flying a thousand feet above ground, straight into a hot-air balloon in Khiladi 420
(2000). Kumar is also known for his comic roles, and has acted in a number of comedies over the years including Hera Pheri
(2000), Awara Paagal Deewana
(2002), Garam Masala
(2005) and, Heyy Babyy
(2007). He married fellow actress Twinkle Khanna on January 7, 2001. They met during a shoot for the Filmfare magazine, and have acted together in the movies Zulmi
(1999), and International Khiladi
After a hugely successful year in 2007 with four hit films and no failures, Kumar made his television debut in 2008 as he hosted the Indian rehash of Fear Factor
– Khatron Ke Khiladi
, a reality show centred on adventure, action, and thrill. He returned for the show’s second season in 2009. The next year, he revived yet another of his early interests – cooking – as he hosted and judged the first season of Masterchef India
(2010). Kumar soon added production to his list of achievements, co-producing his first film Breakaway
or Speedy Singhs
(2011) with Russell Peters. 2014 saw him add singing to this list as he released “Maange Maange”, a song of his own for It's Entertainment
The Government of India awarded Akshay Kumar the Padma Shri in 2011. In the same year, he also won The Asian Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema. He won the Filmfare Awards for the Best Villain for Ajnabee (2002), and the Best Comedian for Garam Masala (2006).
Kumar is passionate about sports, and was invited as a torchbearer to the 2010 Olympics in Canada among a group of fifteen international figures. He owns a team in the Kabaddi League, and has been an ardent fan and supporter of cricket and hockey.
Besides his film and television appearances, Kumar has also performed at an abundance of shows, the first of which was in Delhi in 1991. Less than twenty-five years later, the inaugural function of the International Kabaddi League in August 2014 marked his 500th performance in a live show.
Despite his many talents, his primary focus remains acting. “I always wanted to be an actor. I am lucky to have been able to convert some of my dreams to reality.”