Why is everybody bent on spoiling Akshay Kumar’s party ever since he was adjudged the best actor of the year for Rustom at this year’s national awards? Is he the first and the last mainstream star from Bollywood, never lauded for his acting prowess, to have been conferred the coveted award?
After all, the hall of fame of actors and non-actors who have been recipients of similar honours in the past accommodates the likes of Saif Ali Khan, a commercial movie star whose histrionics have hardly prompted any critic ever to sing hosannas. Why then single out the poor Akshay as being too wooden an actor to deserve this award?
True, no critic has acknowledged him as a great actor in the past. By his own admission, even his wife Twinkle Khanna – daughter of multiple award winners such as Rajesh Khanna and Dimple Kapadia - has made jibes at him for his failure to add to the family kitty of trophies. At least, he has now proved a point to his better half, if not to his carping critics.
As a matter of fact, every time a popular star receives the national award, self-styled critics raise their eyebrows and even impute motive of jury members. This time, it is not different either. His detractors allege that he has got the award because Priyadarshan headed the jury which selected the winners. Since the popular director from south has worked with Akshay in as many as six Bollywood movies, including big hits like Hera Pheri, insinuations of favouritism have come flying thick and fast.
Many of them have argued that other actors such as Aamir Khan (Dangal), Amitabh Bachchan (Pink) and Manoj Bajpayee (Aligarh) had stronger claims to award this year. Even Sushant Singh Rajput, of all actors, for his portrayal of M S Dhoni in the cricketer’s biopic!
Priyadarshan has since trashed the allegation of nepotism. He says nobody spoke anything last year when Amitabh Bachchan was chosen as the best actor for Peeku by a jury headed by Ramesh Sippy of Sholay and Shakti fame. Earlier, film maker Prakash Jha had headed the jury which conferred the best actor honour on Ajay Devgn for his role in The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002). At the time, Jha and Devgn were working together in Gangaajal (2003).
In fact, the national awards have always generated enough controversies. In 2002, when Raveena Tandon won the best actress award for Daman, it was alleged that her maternal uncle Mac Mohan (Sambha of Sholay fame) was in the jury. In 2004, the best actor award to Saif Ali Khan for Hum Dono was attributed to the influence of his mother Sharmila Tagore who was then the chairperson of the Central Board of film Certification (CBFC).
Like national awards, other popular film awards have also been mired in unsavoury rows down the years. Stars such as Aamir and Devgn (who has won two national awards, by the way) make it a point keep off the regular award ceremonies thinking they are invariably rigged. Recently, actor Rishi Kapoor confessed to having bought a popular film award for best actor for Rs 30,000 for Bobby (1973) when Amitabh Bachchan was tipped to be the favourite for Zanjeer.
Old timers would recall how Beimaan (1972), otherwise a mediocre movie, swept all the major Filmfare awards in 1973. In fact, Pran, who was also among the winners for the best supporting actor, declined to accept his award in protest against the denial of the best music award to an all-time classic like Pakeezah, a joint collaboration of composers Ghulam Mohammed and Naushad. This award had, incidentally, gone to Shankar-Jaikishan for none other than Beimaan. Earlier, Sachin Dev Burman’s extraordinary compositions in The Guide (1965) had lost to Shankar-Jaiskishan’s Suraj at the Filmfare awards.
In recent years, Salman Khan won the best supporting actor for his role in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) even though Manoj Bajpayee had taken the industry by storm with his portrayal of Bhiku Mhatre in Ram Gopal Verma’s Satya that year.
There is no dearth of such examples but awards do not really make or mar any career nor do they enhance or diminish anybody’s mass appeal. When Dharmendra was conferred the lifetime achievement award by Filmfare in 1998, he was emotionally choked to point out how he had never won any award in his entire career. But did it really reflect on the talent of the actor who had given award-wining performances inSatyakam, Sholay, Pratiggya and Chupke Chupke, to name a few, with or without getting any official recognition. Dharmendra’s example underlines the fact that a popular star does not need the prop of any award to survive. In Akshay’s case too, his first national award would not make any difference to his career or popularity among the masses. Last year, the Khiladi actor delivered three blockbusters – Airlift, Houseful 3 and Rustom – in quick succession but none of them earned even a nomination in the Filmfare awards this year. This shows how the jury members of various award ceremonies differ from one another.
Akshay is as worthy of an award as any other commercial star at the moment. At least, he is the most hard-working of the current lot, someone who is always striving to do different movies with substance such as Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Padman.
Let the star savour his moment as an actor. You and I may not applaud his acting talent in all his movies but as the national award winner, he is in the same league as Sanjeev Kumar, Mohanlal, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri now. And, of course, Saif Ali Khan, too!