If there is a Bollywood star who is basking in box-office sunshine this year, it is Akshay Kumar. The star talks about his journey that took off in Kolkata.

In Bollywood if 2016 belongs to anyone till now, it’s Akshay Kumar. With three hits under his belt – Airlift, Housefull 3 and Rustom – Akshay has once again given his contemporaries a run for their money.

akshay kumar with co-actors of Rustom
Akshay Kumar flanked by co-actors Ileana D’Cruz (L) and Esha Gupta during the promotion of their film Rustom

Shah Rukh Khan’s only release this year Fan, though critically acclaimed, didn’t make a dent in the box office in the way his other films had done.

Although Salman Khan’s Sultan instantly set the cash registers jingling grossing unbelievably in the international market, Hrithik Roshan’s Mohenjodaro was a debacle from the word go.

In the entire box office bargain, Akshay is the man who has emerged supreme with three hits in one year.

But the 49-year-old man who was born Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia and became Akshay Kumar to make it in films said, “I have had 14 flops in a row twice in my career so hits and flops don’t perturb me anymore.”

On a visit to Kolkata just before the release of Rustom, Akshay was at his candid best as he spent his time with members of the media, college students and fans, on whirlwind tour of the city.

Looking dapper in a grey shirt and black trousers with a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses setting off his salt and pepper beard, Akshay couldn’t have looked more handsome.

The man, who started off with the long hair and lots of brawn and was often written off for his lack of acting skills, has survived the grueling world of Bollywood for almost three decades and has kept his chin up even while swimming in the deepest waters.

“There have been phases in my career where the going has been extremely good and extremely bad too. But for me, it was those early years of struggle which I think is the most important phase of my career. Those years laid the foundation for the future. Despite the flops and the criticizm that I was facing, I must have been doing something right that brought me where I am today,” said a confident Akshay.

Very few people know that long before he joined Bollywood, Akshay lived for a long time in Kolkata working in a travel and tourism company and staying in a small hotel room in the Dalhousie area.

“I distinctly remember my days here. I used to have oats at a roadside tea stall and it cost me Rs 2 every day,” said Akshay as if he had bought a bowl of oats only yesterday.

According to a report in the Times of India when Akshay visited Kolkata in 2003, he just took a random detour in his car without informing the police personnel and landed up at the doorstep of the travel agency where he had worked. The agency had shut shop long back and the New Market area where the agency was located changed considerably over the years but the actor baffled all by finding the place in the maze of lanes.

“There are places in this city that I know like the back of my hand,” he said.

He used to live in Kolkata in the mid-80s and travel to Bangkok and Bangladesh regularly.

“I even remember the fare of Bangladesh Biman was Rs 2,500 ($37) at that time,” said Akshay.

He often travelled to Bangkok and Bangladesh bringing back goods that were sold in the wholesale markets of Kolkata.

The star had come to visit a newspaper office in the same area where he worked in the 1980s – the same place where he would run around going completely unnoticed. Thirty years later, much has changed. News had spread that the star would come out anytime and a huge crowd waited outside the gates.

The star waved to everyone warmly as he got into the car with his co-stars Ileana D’Cruz and Esha Gupta. Who knows? There could have been an old colleague of Akshay’s standing in the crowd or just someone who knew him when he did his errands for the travel agency.

Amrita Mukherjee is a freelance journalist who writes on social issues in India with focus on women. She divides her time between Dubai and India and blogs at www.amritaspeaks.com

(Copyright 2016 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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