Akshay Kumar - the next numero uno?

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By Priyanka Khanna, Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) Film star Akshay Kumar has never had it so good!

Fresh from the success of "Mujshe Shaadi Karoge" and "Garam Masala", he is poised to be third time lucky with his next release, a rare feat in Bollywood.

If "Humko Deewana Kar Gayee", slated for release Friday, sets cash registers ringing, Akshay will prove to be the most bankable superstar in the Hindi film industry.

Even the trio of Khans cannot boast of getting it right every time in the last couple of years, unarguably the most tumultuous in the history of Hindi cinema.

Starting with an image makeover from an action hero to a versatile actor that can be traced back to "Dharkan" and "Hera Pheri", Akshay has managed to deliver hits like "Aitraaz", "Mujse Shaadi Karoge" and "Garam Masala", and make insipid films like "Waqt" and "Deewane Huye Paagal" work.

So much so that the entertainment arm of the mighty Reliance group has reportedly chosen him for their debut in Bollywood. Recent reports say Reliance Adlabs has approached Akshay to sign a four-film contract (rumoured to be worth Rs.150 million to Rs.180 million).

If the deal comes through, it will mark the revival of the studio system in Bollywood. The concept died a natural death in Bollywood in the 1960s but remains popular in Hollywood.

Another hit in the form of "Humko Deewana Kar Gayee", a Raj Kanwar film, will help to cement Akshay's position. The film has all the makings of a hit, including great female leads - Bipasha Basu and Katrina Kaif - and good music. It is inspired by a true love story.

Akshay, who used to wait tables to fund his karate lessons in Bangkok before lady luck led him to Bollywood, has come a long way. Known for performing daredevil stunts, Akshay's dedication is finally getting him the recognition he deserves.

Though film awards continue to evade him and he is yet to enter the charmed circle of the likes of Karan Johar and Yash Chopra, he is working in critically acclaimed director Rituparno Ghosh's project titled "Rahgeer".

To diversify his portfolio, he is involved with an India-Pakistan co-production by Vipul Shah, which is not mounted on a huge budget.

Akshay is also shooting for a new comedy "Bhaagam Bhaag" with director Priyadarshan. He appears in the sequel to the hit comedy "Hera Pheri" titled "Phir Hera Pheri". Besides, Akshay will be seen in "Jaaneman".

Akshay is just one big hit away from the title of the most bankable star in
Bollywood.

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The current box-office darling - Salman Khan - needs to stop making special appearances in films as a favour to friends if he wants to hang on to his status as the biggest box-office draw.

The just-released film "Saawan" features Salman as a man who sees the future. Though Salman's friend Saawan Kumar Tak approached him for a cameo, the promos of the film project him as the main sway.

The film starring two newcomers in the lead roles has been panned across the board. Salman's fans stick by him every time news of his being involved in brawls, tumultuous relationships and accidents comes in, but featuring in really bad films could test the patience of even the most ardent fan.