Superstardom eludes Akshay Kumar even after four hits

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By Arpana

New Delhi, Jan 5 (IANS) He churned out the maximum hits last year and is now charging more than Rs. 200 million (Rs. 20 crore) for a film. However, trade analysts feel despite his achievements and consistency, Akshay Kumar is far behind Shah Rukh Khan in the race for superstardom.

"Akshay has given three hits last year, but he hasn't superseded Shah Rukh. As far as popularity and collections are concerned, Akshay has come a long way, but Shah Rukh is phenomenal. His 'Om Shanti Om' has touched the Rs.900-million mark," Vikas Mohan, editor of trade magazine Supercinema, told IANS.

But Akshay is not competing with Shah Rukh and Amitabh Bachchan any longer. After the success of "Bhool Bhulaiyaa", trade pundits are comparing him with southern star Rajnikant. "Bhool Bhulaiyaa" is actually as big a hit as Rajnikanth's "Chandramukhi", from which it was inspired.

Rajnikant's "Sivaji - The Boss" made waves by grossing about Rs.150 crore. He is charging a whopping Rs.16 crore per film, post the mega success of "Sivaji".

Similarly, after giving four hits in row - "Heyy Babyy", "Namastey London", "Bhool Bhulaiyaa" and "Welcome", Akshay has hiked his price and signed the next film by Venus Records for Rs. 22 crore.

"It is true that Akshay has hiked his price. He has signed the new Venus film for more than Rs.200 million and apart from that, he will have 54 percent share in the film's total profit," Mohan said.

The new deal perhaps puts Akshay in the league of the highest paid actors like Shah Rukh and Hrithik Roshan in the industry today.

Many feel that Akshay is a one-man industry on his own.

"Akshay is running his own parallel industry. His box office record is impeccable. You cannot even call him the numero uno because he is far beyond that now in the box office race," a trade expert said.

Some call him the Hindi film industry's hit machine.

The box office collections of Akshay's "Welcome" in the overseas have surpassed those of all erstwhile solo Akshay titles, creating a new record for the actor.

In the UK, the preview and opening weekend gross was a smashing 370,000 pounds (approx) from 40 locations.

In the UAE, Kumar grossed nearly the earnings of all his earlier hits in five days. The business to date is 1.8 million dirhams from 29 locations.

In the US, the first two days grossed $100,000 from the mainstream theatres alone, independents excluded. Watchers said it was "extremely impressive".

In almost every mainstream location, "Welcome" out-grossed major Hollywood openers like "War", "I Love You" and "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story".

"Three previous hits and with 'Welcome' setting records now, 2007 has been a year of box-office fortunes! I'm glad that I'm ending 2007 on a high note with 'Welcome', my highest overseas opener," Akshay said.

If last year was dedicated to comedies, 2008 will see him going back to his original genre - action.

In Nikhil Advani's new action-adventure-comedy, "Chandni Chowk To China", Akshay will see him doing edge-of-the-seat stunts. The actor, who was out of practice for more than seven years, trained in a form of martial arts known as Wushu for the film. The movie will cost Rs.100 crore and that makes it one of the costliest Hindi films so far.

After a long hiatus, he will be seen in Yash Raj Films' "Tashan", which is again an action-packed film.

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