Now an action hero is Bollywood's newest funny man...

By Priyanka Khanna, Indo-Asian News Service

imageNew Delhi, (IANS) From a martial arts teacher to an action hero to a flop actor, Akshay Kumar is now on a roll, emerging as the industry's newest funny man and mascot.

The brawny actor with good looks is back in the reckoning, owing to consistently good performances and box-office successes over the past two years.

This month, even as the Akshay-starrer "Garam Masala" was outperforming a Salman Khan film at the turnstiles, he returned to the marquees with another much-appreciated performance.

Akshay's act in "Deewane Hue Pagal" that released Friday has won him rave reviews though director Vikram Bhatt and producer Firoz Nadiadwala are facing criticism for lack of ingenuity in its script.

The film co-stars Suniel Shetty, Shahid Kapoor and Paresh Rawal, who are all moonstruck by Tanya, essayed by Rimmi Sen. They go to the extent of faking physical challenges to win her affection a la the Hollywood hit "There Is Something About Mary".

Akshay's performance has received top ratings from most critics. It's no small feat considering his competition included the incredible character actor Paresh Rawal.

In addition, he is staying in the news more for his work than for his philandering ways. The actor, who was a self-proclaimed Casanova before he tied the knot with actress Twinkle Khanna, has now developed a clean image among female stars.

Marriage has apparently augured well for the actor who has been forbidden to indulge in action stunts by his better half.

The loss of action flick freaks has been a gain for those seeking light-hearted entertainment as Akshay has excelled in comic roles.

Akshay agrees he is in the best phase of his career. Putting it humbly, he says: "It is great to know that my presence in a film makes a difference to the sale of tickets.

"Earlier, I would only take risks at doing daredevil stunts. Now I take risks in trying out roles. I've re-invented myself," he recently told a trade weekly.

Akshay's journey into the world of laughter began with Priyadarshan's "Hera Pheri", reached a milestone with David Dhawan's "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" which was a resounding hit and peaked with kudos coming his way for "Garam Masala" and "Deewane Huye Paagal".

The series of films he did right after "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" included box-office duds like "Mere Jeevan Saathi" (Karisma Kapoor, Amisha Patel), "Waqt - A Race Against Time" (Amitabh Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra), "Bewafaa" (Kareena Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Sushmita Sen, Manoj Bajpai), "Insan" (Ajay Devgan, Esha Deol, Lara Dutta, Tusshar Kapoor, Rahul Dev) and "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo" (Amitabh Bachchan, Bobby Deol, Divya Khosla).

Apparently, people like the buffoon Akshay more than the serious Akshay. This makes it all the more important that from here on he must take care to not get stereotyped in the same role of a goofball. The last thing we want now is Akshay in a string of films like the "Khiladi" series.

Interestingly, Akshay's contemporary Ajay Devgan has also given up action films. He is either seen in intense dramas or comic capers. The actor with piercing eyes will next be seen in "Apaharan" by offbeat filmmaker Prakash Jha.

"Apaharan" also stars Nana Patekar and is based on the nexus between politicians and kidnappers in Bihar. Jha had previously run into trouble for his movie based on the real-life blinding of jail inmates in Bihar.

With the new political alignments in Bihar, Jha might not face similar problems for "Apaharan". He came out strongly to deny rumours that he had arranged a special screening of the film for Bihar politicians to get their blessings before its release.

-*-

The intense political drama "Apaharan" is slated for release Dec 2 alongside rib-ticklers like "Home Delivery" and "Mr Ya Miss". Publicity and marketing has helped prop up the comedies and a good opening is likely.

"Apaharan", on the other hand, will have to market itself on word of mouth basis. It remains to be seen whether viewers are interested in a serious subject after weeks of being bombarded with comedies.

The competition will be a lot more sharp than what we saw Friday between the light-hearted "Deewane Huye Paagal" and "The Film".

Though "The Film" has got noticed by discerning viewers, it does not stand much of a chance against "Deewane Huye Paagal".

Based on the underworld's hold over the film industry, the movie by Memon has a great script resting on the shoulders of beginners.

The only familiar name in the cast is that of Mahima Chaudhry. Others include Khaled Siddiqui, Vaibhav Jhalani, Chaahat Khanna, Ravi Gosain, Vivek Madan and Ananya Khare.

The film, about a group of youngsters desperate to make a film against all odds, could have stood a good chance but connoisseurs of good cinema are too busy at the India International Film Festival. The brave effort of portraying characters like diamond merchant-cum-producer Sharat Shah and filmmaker K.K. Dutta is likely to go unnoticed.