Akshay Kumar has not had a great 2022 when it comes to movies and their box office performances. For what seems to be the first time in decades, the star has had three flops in a row and his OTT release Cuttputtli failed to garner critical appreciation. His upcoming release Ram Setu, an action-adventure film, did not create the expected buzz, according to the trailer. Even Akshay walking on water doesn’t seem to get the “oh-wow” from Akshay fans, something that was a given pre-pandemic. What happened?
Over the years, Akshay has found a way to leave the glitz and glamor of the 90s and cater to the changing moods of the country. He knew he couldn’t quite pull off Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast or Zeher Hai Ki Pyaar Tera Chumma in a new decade and a rapidly changing audience. With much trial and error, he entered a new age, proved his comedic timing with Hera Pheris, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Namaste London and Garam Masala and achieved a cult following with the thriller Ajnabee. From 2014, he started slowly moving towards a nationalist image with films like Airlift and Rustom. The film was a grim plot about the Nanavati case that plagued the judicial system in the 1950s. Akshay rewrote history and emerged as a stoic hero who was just trying to protect his wife’s honor. For this performance, amid many protests, he won the National Award. After that, Akshay fully leaned into this new image and became a social media hero of sorts. Toilet Ek Prem Katha and Pad Man followed.
In the former he preached about the lack of proper toilets and in the latter he played the role of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a man who created awareness about traditional unhygienic practices in India. He doggedly continued his patriotic onslaught with Gold, Kesari and Mission Mangal. All if they worked. Akshay had the Midas touch and much has been written about how he raced ahead of the Khans, each of whom struggled at the box office to varying degrees. Still, Akshay didn’t want to completely abandon the side of him that fans knew – and so we were treated to Housefull 4, a painful comedy that had all sorts of problematic tropes in cinema. That worked too. Also in the mix was the comedy Good Newwz, which was Akshay’s brave proof that he wasn’t just into nationalist films.
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