Before we even begin – let’s jump into a time machine and circle back to the year 2007. Blessed with the moniker of being called the ‘Khiladi’ of Bollywood – Akshay Kumar is having a tough time cracking those numbers that justify his superstardom with his films at the box office. There are flickers of some good films getting good returns but the desired numbers are eluding him. After a mixed-bag scenario with Jaan-E-Mann (2006) and Bhagam Bhag (2006), Kumar now has four releases lined up in the year. 

And bam! Before one knows it, the year turns out to be a case of Midas touch, where every film is working wonders in all ways possible. Namastey London, Heyy Babyy, Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Welcome – go on to become monstrous hits and solidify Kumar’s status as a leading man more than ever.

MUST READ: Akshay Kumar: The Spent Force of Bollywood? 891850

Fast-forward to 2024, and we have a similar situation but not identical. After being a dominant force for umpteen years, Kumar finds himself in a soup where films he would have anticipated to be blockbusters, or at least successful enough – have all failed miserably at the box office – the recent example being the crash landing of Bade Miyan Chote Miyan.

It is easy to write anyone off. We are not here to do that – especially in a business that is so fickle that the predictability and assumptions one has, goes for a toss. The audience’s memory equates to being that of a goldfish when it comes to that one film that cracks big numbers. All it takes is one film to work for everyone to forget the past several failures, and that is always a blessing for actors – more so, for superstars. 

But this isn’t just about decoding why it is that none of Kumar’s films are working for the past four years now but analysing his choices and his approach to taking up roles. Sooryavanshi (2021) continues to be his last blockbuster and the timing couldn’t be better (ironic, I know) where his film literally opened the floodgates and relieved the industry that “Hey, the audience will come to theatres if you offer them entertainment no matter how testing the times are.” But then began a downward curve that continued to get worse and worse. 

MUST READ: Akshay Kumar: The Spent Force of Bollywood? 891851

Bachchan Paandey (2022) was slammed for being a mediocre film it was both critically and commercially and then followed a string of what seemed like bad decisions. Samrat Prithviraj (2022), Raksha Bandhan (2022) and Ram Setu (2022) screamed mundanity and were punished by the viewers, who just wouldn’t accept it. It was, however, Samrat Prithviraj who made the most noise for all the wrong reasons. An array of critics and general people on social media couldn’t help but mark how lethargic Kumar looked in portraying a historical character. These roles always take up the best out of an actor, as we have seen in the past. But there was a generic way in which Kumar seemed to have approached the role (as noted by the aforementioned people), and it showed. It all started becoming a bigger conversation about Kumar while being disciplined and a workaholic – not being passionate and concerned about the art and craft of acting and giving a character the adequate time and effort it requires.

One can debate those factors and rightfully so. But what cannot debate are the facts of how a string of films have not worked and a lot of it has to do with the choices as well. Even the films that arrived directly on OTT – Atrangi Re (2021) and Cuttputlii (2022) were average and, despite an initial surge of interest from the people, did not sustain. 

Films like Selfiee (2023) and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (2024) tried to touch the assumed commercial belt, that people keep talking about. The assumption that over-the-top, larger-than-life films are the key to unlocking the audience’s pockets for them to spend big bucks and come to the movies – is now a laughable case to even talk about. Whenever any filmmaker or producer has planned their ventures surrounding only these token pointers, they are slammed with a reality check time and again.

MUST READ: Akshay Kumar: The Spent Force of Bollywood? 891852

These are tough times for Kumar, and it is fascinating to think that he has a pot load of projects lined up ahead as well – not because he cannot get them and still has – but because it further showcases his working pattern of taking up one film after another. And the hope will always be that he gets that one hit – that one success story that takes all these conversations and turns them on their head.

There is hope, and there is wondering. The third instalment of Welcome – Welcome To The Jungle (2024), Sarfira (2024) – the remake of Soorarai Potturu, Sky Force (2024) and even a Marathi film and a Telugu film – you cannot deny his range of taking up films. But to fight the general consensus of people towards your films and more so, towards your choices is an arduous task which Kumar, unwillingly finds himself to be burdened with.