Akshay Kumar is one actor who knows reinvention is the name of the game. He started out as a true-blue action hero, then segued into comedy, then gravitated towards caused-based drama as well. He’s also done sports-based films and even mysteries. His star has shone brighter with every outing. Akshay is also someone who has kept up amazing levels of fitness. Currently, in his 50s, he can give men half his age a run for their money. And what also hasn’t diminished with age is his magnetism. He still commands a larger-than-life presence on the silver screen. He really has been part of some wonderful films in the last 20 years and we pick up some of his best movies as a way to celebrate his birthday, which falls on September 9. We’re sure this list contains your favourites too!
Hera Pheri (2000)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Paresh Rawal, Tabu
The story of this laugh riot is adapted from the 1989 Malayalam film Ramji Rao Speaking which was based on the 1971 television film See The Man Run. A sequel Phir Hera Pheri was released in 2006. The comedy revolved around a wrong number being answered which leads to all kinds of misadventures. Babu Bhaiya (Paresh Rawal), a kind-hearted garage owner has two tenants, Raju (Akshay Kumar), who is indulging in get rich quick schemes all the time and Shyam (Suni Shetty), who has come to the city to get a job in place of his deceased father. One day Kabeera (Gulshan Grover) gives a ransom call to the owner of Star Fisheries, Mr Devi Prasad (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). The call, however, gets connected to Babu Bhaiya. Kabeera, informs that his granddaughter Rinku is kidnapped and asks for a ransom. When Raju gets to know this, he calls Devi Prasad pretending to be Kabira and asks for an even bigger amount. This leads them to all kinds of mayhem but in the end, they thankfully end up rescuing Rinku and also get rich in the process.
Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004)
Director: David Dhawan
Cast: Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra
Sameer Malhotra (Salman Khan) has anger management issues. He keeps getting in trouble because of that. He even sours his relations with Colonel Jugraj Singh (Om Puri), the father of Rani Singh (Priyanka Chopra), the woman he loves. Sunny (Akshay Kumar) enters at this stage. He too likes Rani and taking advantage of Sameer’s condition, deliberately sets traps that portray him in a bad light. Sunny wins everyone’s heart with his ‘good’ behaviour while Sameer falls down further in everyone’s esteem. Later, it’s revealed that Sunny is actually Sameer’s childhood friend Arun who did all this to cure his friend of his anger issues. He helps Sameer get reunited with Rani and all ends well.
Phir Hera Pheri (2006)
Director: Neeraj Vora
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Paresh Rawal
Neeraj Vora took over the director’s reins from Priyadarshan and Bipasha Basu and Rimi Sen were the new additions to the film. The central plot takes inspiration from the Hollywood film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Raju is conned by Anuradha (Bipasha Basu), to invest his money in a 21-day double your money scheme. He also convinces Babu Bhaiyya (Paresh Rawal) and Shyam (Sunil Shetty) to invest in it. They even sell their lavish bungalow for that. He even asks a small-time goon, Pappu (Rajpal Yadav) to contribute 20 lakhs towards the scheme. They are asked by Pappu’s boss Tiwari (Sharat Saxena), to cough up the money soon otherwise they’ll be killed. They come across a drug consignment and go to a middleman Kachara Seth (Manoj Joshi), who arranges to unknowingly sell it to same mafia guys whom the drugs were meant for. The whole shebang ends in a circus where Raju, Shyam and Babu Bhaiyya escape with three ancient guns worth crores. The film ends just when Raju is poised to throw the guns in a river.
Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Shiny Ahuja, Amisha Patel
This thriller-comedy is a remake of the 1993 Malayalam film, Manichitrathazhu. Siddharth (Shiney Ahuja) and Avni (Vidya Balan), the son and daughter-in-law of Badri’s (Manoj Joshi) elder brother, return to their native village from the US and decide to stay in their ancestral palace. Badri is against this as the palace is said to be haunted. What Badri fears, happens. Avni gets possessed by the spirit of Manjulika, a Bengali classical dancer. Siddharth calls his friend, psychiatrist Dr Aditya Shrivastav (Akshay Kumar) from New York, to sort things out. Dr Aditya initially feels Siddharth’s childhood love interest Radha (Ameesha Patel), who is Badri’s adopted daughter, is behind all this but later finds his beliefs shaken when he himself experiences a supernatural encounter. Later, he solves the problem with the help of an elaborate charade.
Director: Anees Bazmee
Cast: Feroz Khan, Akshay Kumar, Nana Patekar, Anil Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Paresh Rawal
Dr Ghunghroo (Paresh Rawal) wants his nephew Rajeev(Akshay Kumar) married to a good girl belonging to a decent family. Mafia dons Uday (Nana Patekar) and Majnu (Anil Kapoor) con him into thinking that they’re law-abiding citizens as they too want their sister Sanjana (Katrina Kaif) married to a person who belongs to a good family. Rajeev and Sanjana meet and fall in love. All seems to be going well when Ghungroo comes to know of the subterfuge. He sends his niece Ishika (Mallika Sherawat) as Rajeev’s sweetheart in a bid to break off the marriage but both Uday and Majnu get smitten by Ishika. Rajeev meanwhile inspires Majnu and Uday to give up their life of crime. However, another mafia Don, RDX (Feroz Khan) and his son Lucky (Shereveer), too get embroiled in this madness. The film ends with a hilarious climax, inspired by the Charlie Chaplin film The Gold Rush (1925), where all parties are trapped in a cliff-facing house which starts collapsing.
Singh Is Kinng (2008)
Director: Anees Bazmee
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Sonu Sood
Happy Singh (Akshay Kumar) is sent along with his friend Rangeela (Om Puri) to bring Lucky (Sonu Sood) back to Punjab. However, his tickets get mixed with those of Puneet (Ranveer Shorey) and he ends up going to Egypt, where he meets Sonia (Katrina Kaif) and falls in love with her. He eventually reaches Australia and finds out that Lucky is the uncrowned king of the Australian underworld. Owing to circumstances perpetuated by Happy, Lucky gets paralysed and somehow Happy gets his throne. Happy sets about reforming Lucky’s gang by making them help a distraught woman (Kirron Kher), who happens to be Sonia’s mother. Slowly, the gang gets reformed and want to give up their life of crime. Lucky’s brother Mika (Jaaved Jaffrey) doesn’t like this development and wants to kill Happy and becomes the boss himself. However, at the last moment, he’s stopped by Lucky, who is cured of his paralysis. Lucky agrees that he has been living the wrong kind of life and promises to reform himself and the film ends on a happy note for all.
Desi Boyz (2011)
Director: Rohit Dhawan
Cast: Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, and Chitrangada Singh
It marked the directorial debut of Rohit Dhawan. Jignesh ‘Jerry’ Patel (Akshay Kumar) and Nikhil ‘Nick’ Mathur (John Abraham), live together in London. Jerry does odd jobs for a living while Nick has a proper corporate job. Both find themselves jobless due to recession. Jerry wants to look after his nephew who has lost his parents and Nick wants to marry his girlfriend and give her a good life. To work towards that aim, both join a male escort service and become extremely popular. However, Nick’s girlfriend leaves him when she finds out he’s an escort. And even Jerry is on the verge of losing the custody of his nephew. The duo, who have fallen off initially, unite to sort out their lives together and succeed in it. Again, the big draw of the film was Akshay and John’s male escort act, which literally set the screen on fire.
Patiala House (2011)
Director: Nikkhil Advani
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Anushka Sharma, Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Soni Razdan, Neelu Kohli, Kumud Mishra
Gurtej Singh Kahlon (Rishi Kapoor) doesn’t like the way Indians are treated in England. He’s prejudiced by past experience and thereby forbids his son Parghat Singh Kahlon (Akshay Kumar), who is a talented bowler, to try out for the England team. Years later, his interest in cricket gets revived thanks to the efforts of Simran Chaggal (Anushka Sharma). She encourages him to give the sport another try despite him being middle-aged. He begins to train again and reaches awesome fitness levels. His bowling action is improved as well and he miraculously gets picked up to play for the England cricket team and wins a crucial match for them in the climax. Akshay Kumar worked hard to portray the rhythm of a fast bowler accurately. His fresh pairing with Anushka Sharma was appreciated as well.
Rowdy Rathore (2012)
Director: Prabhu Deva
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Nassar
It’s an official remake of the 2006 Telugu film Vikramarkudu. Akshay Kumar plays a double role — that of a small-time conman Shiva and his lookalike, brave and honest cop Vikram Rathore. The cop is hurt badly and his colleagues shift him to Mumbai for treatment. There, they chance upon Shiva and use him to placate Vikram’s daughter Chinki as he looks just like him. Vikram dies saving Shiva and his daughter from goons that had come to kill him and were attacking Shiva thinking he was Vikram. When Shiva learns the truth about the officer, he promises to go back to the village where Vikram was posted and set things right. Sonakshi plays Shiva’s love interest Paro in the film. At first, she hates him for being a con man but when she sees he’s using his wits for a good cause, she too joins in the fight. Her chemistry with Akshay was one of the talking points of the film. The scenes where Akshay is Vikram, especially the scene where he comes and saves Shiva’s and his daughter’s life is mindblowing indeed.
Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty (2014)
Director: AR Murugadoss
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Sumeet Raghavan, Freddy Daruwala, and Govinda
It is a remake of the Tamil film Thuppakki (2012). Virat Bakshi (Akshay Kumar) is a captain in DIA, a secret branch of the army. He comes to Mumbai on a holiday and his parents want him to get married. He meets Saiba Thapar (Sonakshi Sinha) at their insistence and rejects them at first but later promptly falls in love with her. His matrimonial plans are all shot to hell when he gets wind of a terrorist plot to target Mumbai through sleeper cells. He activates his own team in the city and goes about countering the plans of the terrorists. Saiba becomes his emotional anchor amidst all this. A cat and mouse game ensues between him and Shadab Ali Farooqui (Freddy Daruwala), which ends with Virat putting an end to Shadab’s agents once and for all. The film was admired for its stylised action. The climax scene where Akshay takes apart Freddy Daruwala and his goons alone is worth the price of the ticket.
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Danny Denzongpa, Rana Daggubati, Anupam Kher and Taapsee Pannu
The story revolves around a secret counter-terrorist group set up by the government on an experimental basis. It has unlimited funds and resources and is made up of die-hard officers who are patriotic to the extreme. This black ops group performs off the book operations both in India and abroad but was set up as a test run of five years – hence it’s called Baby. Akshay looks damn good as an army guy. He isn’t wearing a uniform in the film but even in civvies, you visualize him wearing one. The director has visualized him as a cool, collected killing machine and Akshay looks the part. Neeraj hasn’t resorted to melodrama or meaty dialogue to get the point across. It’s mostly shot in real locations. And the edge-of-the-seat action is set in locales like Istanbul, Kathmandu and the Persian Gulf. Don’t expect flying cars here, the action is neatly choreographed and feels real.
Director: Karan Malhotra
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sidharth Malhotra, Jacqueline Fernandez
It’s a remake of the Hollywood hit Warrior (2011) and faithfully follows the plot points of the original. Brothers is India’s first attempt at a mixed martial arts movie. And its MMA segments in the f are its strength. It has an emotional core as well, in keeping with the theme of the film, which is about two brothers who find themselves competing for the top prize in an MMA competition. And director Malhotra has added a tadka of national pride as well in the sense that you do feel proud when the Indian fighters begin to go up in the rankings. Both Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra have gone the long haul. We have scenes where they are shown training diligently. Akshay, in particular, trains more like a genuine MMA fighter. And their fight scenes, whether it’s with other opponents or the climax bout against each other look genuine indeed.
Gabbar Is Back (2015)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Shruti Haasan, Suman Talwar, Sunil Grover, Jaideep Ahlawat
The film is based on the 2003 Tamil hit Ramanaa directed by AR Murugadoss. Top government officials are kidnapped but all of them are mysteriously released afterwards — except the most corrupt amongst them, who are killed. Soon this sort of vigilantism becomes a pattern. These kidnappings are revealed to be masterminded by a former college professor Aditya Singh Rajput (Akshay Kumar). He has been a favourite of his students and uses the connections of his former students to find out who is the most corrupt government official in different government departments and then sets about giving them a taste of vigilante justice. In a backstory, we learn that Aditya’s pregnant wife Sunaina (Kareena Kapoor Khan) died when the buildings in their colony collapsed due to bad construction. Aditya had collected evidence of the faulty construction but the builder-politician nexus stonewalled his findings. That’s when he decided to dedicate his life to bring rough justice to society and get rid of its bad elements. The film was produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who wanted to branch out in a different direction away from his grand musicals.
Jolly LLB 2 (2017)
Director: Subhash Kapoor
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Huma Qureshi, Annu Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla
Akshay Kumar plays a small-town lawyer who, ridden by guilt, takes up a case involving false encounters by the police. He has never undertaken a case before, his knowledge of the courtroom proceedings is scratchy and he’s up against one of the best defence lawyers in the city. But his persistence does pay off and he not only ends up uncovering the unlawful activities of the police, but he also ends up nabbing the real culprit. Fake encounters by the police are indeed a sad reality of our country. Hat’s off to director Subhash Kapoor for making a bold, sensitive film on such a hard-hitting subject. While the film is given a comedic treatment, its intentions are anything but. What the film is trying to say is that it’s become the practice of sorts to give the police a clean chit in sensitive cases. The judiciary tends to take a lenient view of things where extra-judicial killings of terrorists are involved. But care should be taken that no innocent gets harmed while taking action against insurgents. That the police shouldn’t overstep their authority nor should it falsify facts. Akshay Kumar does full justice to his role as an inexperienced lawyer who nevertheless isn’t short on courage. Annu Kapoor’s one-liners keep you in splits and Saurabh Shukla too is in fine form as the judge.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017)
Director: Shree Narayan Singh
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar
It’s shameful that open defecation is still widely practised in our country. This comedy raises concern about it and points out that having a toilet in every home is a necessary right for every citizen. Keshav (Akshay Kumar) woos and marries a college-educated girl, Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar), who gets the shock of her life when she finds out that their village home doesn’t have a toilet. She refuses to openly defecate in bushes like the rest of the women of the village and when Keshav can’t construct a toilet in his house she leaves him and even files for divorce. This leads to him revolting against his father and constructing a makeshift toilet in their compound. But it’s not his house he’s interested in reforming. He wants to revolutionise his village and files a petition for the construction of toilets at every home through government assistance. Just before the divorce is to be granted, the government machinery kicks in and promises the court it’ll start constructing toilets in Keshav’s village from the next day itself.
Pad Man (2018)
Director: R Balki
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Radhika Apte
In India, men still behave as if periods don’t exist and a large number of women still don’t have access to sanitary pads. Arunachalam Murganatham understood that only a meagre percentage of women in India use sanitary pads and went on to create a low-cost process for making sanitary napkins. Today, women cooperatives across India use his technology to make low-cost sanitary products. In 2014, Time magazine included him as one of the 100 most influential people across the world. In 2016, The Indian government awarded him with a Padma Shri. Thanks to his efforts, the taboos associated with menstruation and menstrual hygiene are slowly getting broken at the grassroots level. Akshay Kumar, who played the lead role, embodied the spirit of Arunachalam Murganatham. The most poignant parts of the film are where he attempts to wear a homemade sanitary napkin in order to feel the discomfort felt by millions of women in India. It was a straight-from-the-heart performance by the macho actor.
Director: Reema Kagti
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Mouni Roy, Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh, Vineet Kumar Singh, Sunny Kaushal
It’s a dramatisation of the events leading to India winning the first-ever Olympic gold after Independence. The characters in the film were reportedly based on the actual hockey players and officials of that era. Akshay Kumar’s character Tapan Das was inspired by the famous hockey player and coach NN Mukherjee, under whose tutelage India won the gold in 1948, 1952 and 1964 Olympics. Kunal Kapoor played Samrat, based on the legendary Dhyan Chand, Amit Sadh’s character Raghubir Pratap Singh was based on K. D. Singh Babu, described by many as being second only to Dhyan Chand. Vinit Vineet Kumar Singh played Imtiaz Ali Shah, a character inspired by Ali Dara, who played for the Pakistan team after the Partition and Sunny Kaushal’s character Himmat Singh, was based on legendary player Balbir Singh Sr. The film showcases how the new Indian hockey team got formed, with players being picked from the four corners of India. Initially, they can’t let go of their regional rivalry but later they resolve their differences to play as one for India. The sports action was realistic and the several gripping situations lent a drama to the proceedings.
Good Newwz (2019)
Director: Raj Mehta
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dosanjh, Kiara Advani
Good Newwz is a comedy revolving around pregnancy. Varun Batra (Akshay Kumar) and Deepti Batra (Kareena Kapoor Khan) are an urban upper-middle-class couple from Mumbai trying hard to become pregnant. Honey Batra (Diljit Dosanjh) and Monika Batra (Kiara Advani) are another rich couple from Chandigarh who are also trying to have a baby. They both end up at a high-end IVF clinic run by Dr Joshi (Adil Hussain) and his wife (Tisca Chopra). Due to a similarity in their names, there is a mix up in the clinic and Deepti gets incubated with Honey’s sperm and vice versa. The Mumbai Batras can’t come to terms with the loud ways of the Chandigarh Batras. Thinking that the yuppie Batras might abort their baby, the rustic couple flies down to Mumbai and buys a house in the same building as Varun and Deepti. Whether the couples end up as friends and would get to reconcile their differences forms the crux of this comedy.
Director: Anurag Singh
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra
Kesari is a retelling of the famous Battle of Saragarhi which took place in 1897. 21 soldiers of the 36 Sikh Regiment stood in the way of ten thousand Afghan soldiers and didn’t let them conquer the Saragarhi fort till the evening. The original plan of the Afghans was to capture the nearby forts, Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan as well on the same day. The sacrifice by the 21 lionhearted Sikhs put a spanner in the works. Akshay Kumar, who played Havaldar Ishar Singh was the soul of the film. His bearing, his mannerisms made him out to be a professional soldier of that era. The way he rallies the morale of his fellow soldiers and leads from the front was an example of true heroism. The film wasn’t jingoistic. And it made out that the soldiers were willing to lay down their lives for their motherland and not because of some fealty to the British. The action scenes became more gruesome as the body count escalated, director Anurag Singh not sparing us the true horrors of war. You can’t help salute the bravery of the 21 soldiers who gave their all to a cause. The climax scene where Akshay Kumar goes totally berserk and perhaps kills a hundred enemies on his own is something to watch out for indeed.
Mission Mangal (2019)
Director: Jagan Shakti
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha, Taapsee Pannu, Nithya Menen, Sharman Joshi, Kirti Kulhari
On November 5, 2013, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched its space probe Mangalyaan which has been orbiting Mars since September 24, 2014. It was India’s first interplanetary mission and it made ISRO the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after Roscosmos, NASA, and the European Space Agency. India also became the first Asian nation to reach Martian orbit and the first nation in the world to do so in its maiden attempt. The present film is a fictionalised account of the efforts of the core team involved in the project. Akshay Kumar plays an eccentric mission control head who with the help of Vidya Balan’s character leads a group of maverick scientists to successfully launch a Mars probe. To a scientist, it all would look sacrilegious but the lay viewer is likely to be swayed by the drama. In this quest for simplification, they have taken several creative liberties which would fail close range scientific scrutiny but in the larger context of things these transgressions should be excused. There is no denying the fact that the actual scientists involved pulled off an improbable act and succeeded in putting up a Mars probe in the Red Planet’s orbit in the first attempt itself. It’s the spirit of their extraordinary achievement which is being celebrated in the film rather than the methods and formulae needed to achieve that.