The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fallen angel
celebrity circus

Why is there a palpable sense of gloating that Akshay Kumar has failed big time with Chandni Chowk To China (CC2C)?

One of the reasons is that there was this discomforting feeling that the actor had become impossibly demanding in the last one year. Blame his fawning producers for it. Nobody was willing to bell the cat and tell him where to get off. Instead, just to get his signature on the dotted line, each one outdid the other in giving in to his astronomical demands.

Today, one hears that Ratan Jain of Venus is jittery and wants to renegotiate terms with Akshay. But who asked this banner which gave Akshay some decent hits like Dhadkan and Garam Masala to sign him on at a Rs 30 crore fee with a 50 per cent share of the profits? Who advised UTV to agree to terms which would have given the actor nearly Rs 70 crore for a film? Who made the budget for Sajid Nadiadwala’s Kambakht Ishk which has international stars like Sylvester Stallone on board? Just because one item song at the end of Singh Is Kinng had Akshay and Snoop Dogg rapping, why did every producer agree to the hero’s suggestion that an international name be roped in to make his film bigger?

But then, what do you expect from film-makers who themselves bloat beyond recognition when they have only Akshay’s signature to flaunt and no script in hand? Normally, the story and script dictate the budget of a film. But what when a huge budget is lined up and a story and script are written later to fit into that budget? That’s precisely what happened with CC2C. As Akshay has now admitted, he agreed to do a film with Nikhil Advani merely because he liked a poster that the latter had designed of the hero under a huge Chinaman’s hat with two swords crossed across his chest.

It’s just the kind of situation that an actor who had started getting delusional about his own infallibility would have found flattering — a ‘now that we’ve got Akshay and a budget, let’s make a film that will please the hero’ kind of scenario. Obviously, what turned out was not a film but an ode to Akshay Kumar, with the actor mighty pleased that bits from his own life (humble beginnings in Delhi, his stint as a chef, his dreams of making very big money, his training in the martial arts) were incorporated in the film. As if that messy loss of focus wasn’t bad enough, Nikhil Advani even wound up the film sycophantically with a rap song on Akshay Kumar and his personal dastaan, his star trek! Even Raj Kapoor couldn’t pull it off when he tried to go autobiographical with Mera Naam Joker, one of the biggest flops in the Showman’s career. Why on earth would anybody be excited over a semi-biographical, non-story on Akshay? If Akshay had been cinema savvy, he’d have realised that the script is king and flattery doesn’t make a film. But alas!

As far as Akshay Kumar is concerned, his rise to the pinnacle has, like a bad snakes and ladders move, come crashing down a few points. It is more a reality check for the actor that he is not bigger than the film. But to clamber back is something Akshay has done again and again. He once told me about the time, when his chips were down, a producer had given a junior star (read Saif Ali Khan) a bigger hotel room than the one he got. Akshay doesn’t forget. Yes, in recent times he did lose focus when a mammoth fee, the most expensive hotel suites (in Bangkok) and sycophantic film-making began to cloud his judgement. But he has the discipline to meditate and return to terra firma, and begin his comeback climb.

It won’t be difficult for Akshay to return to his position at the top. It’ll be tougher for director Nikhil Advani to make another Kal Ho Naa Ho again. He had a Karan Johar and a Shah Rukh Khan to pull off that one, even if he turned ingrate at the end of it and went about saying it wasn’t his kind of film. Imagine saying that when you’ve made a well-received, box-office hit!

So, what is his kind of film? Salaam-e-Ishq? Nikhil Advani had got all the finance and promotion any director would’ve given his right arm to get, topped with the complete cooperation of an array of stars. Salaam-e-Ishq was one multi-starrer where every actor thought he was part of a historic blockbuster and there was not even a whiff of an ego clash during its filming. For CC2C, Nikhil once again got everything a film-maker would have on his wish list, including a star hero whose complete involvement with the film should’ve been used as a boon.

Does he really deserve yet another chance?

Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International

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