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Why are Akshay Kumar movies flopping so bad?

Shaurya Thapa
Shaurya ThapaAug 03, 2022 | 16:27

Why are Akshay Kumar movies flopping so bad?

Despite his nationalistic image and multiple movies in one year, Akshay Kumar's career is mostly succumbing to flops or controversies (photo: DailyO)

Akshay Kumar has been pretty consistent this year, serving consecutive flops such as Bachchhan Paandey and Samrat Prithviraj, and with #BoycottRakshaBandhan trending on Twitter, it seems like his next film too might be ill-fated for the box office. Evidently, Kumar’s star power is somewhat dwindling despite him still maintaining his “nationalistic hero” image and appearing in multiple films every year.

While Kumar is no stranger to phases of flop films (in the late 1990s and late 2000s), this time the situation is different. Back then, Kumar didn’t have an individual star identity and it was only in the late 2010s that he could fully flesh out his status as a patriotic star who does films for the greater good of the country. Hence, a case study of his career and his recent flops seems relevant to understand the changing dynamics of present-day Bollywood. 

Bad PR since SSR death conspiracy theories: These days, a Bollywood movie can be boycotted either when a cast or crew member makes offensive comments about a community or if they are somewhat connected to a 'conspiracy to kill' Sushant Singh Rajput! Even though Kumar had humble beginnings and was no star kid, 'SSRians' have been critical of the actor for his friendship with industry hotshots like Karan Johar. 

When the CBI investigation into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death commenced in 2020, Kumar tweeted a neutral announcement hoping that justice will prevail. The SSR-obsessed fan-atics alleged that Kumar is just trying to win public favour so that audiences would watch Sooryavanshi and Laxmii (both of which were expected to release in theatres that year). 

Another wild conspiracy theory that floated was that Kumar’s upcoming role as Narayan Murthy in a biopic of the Infosys founder was snatched from SSR, one of the many alleged reasons that pushed him to suicide (if it was suicide to begin with, that is -- given that most SSRians still believe it wasn't).

Bachchhan Pandey couldn’t compete with The Kashmir Files: The most controversial hit of this year would arguably be The Kashmir Files. Because of its political undertones, the film was made tax-free in several states, encouraging more audiences to show up. Chanting of slogans and even violent calls for genocide were quite common in the screenings. 

Right around that time, Kumar’s crime-comedy Bachchhan Paandey was also running in theatres amid little to no acclaim. An interesting case was reported from the Eyelex cinema hall in Sambalpur, Odisha, when a show of The Kashmir Files was cancelled and Bachchhan Paandey was running on another screen. Angered by this, a mob forcefully stopped the Akshay Kumar film from being screened and demanded The Kashmir Files be shown on every screen of the multiplex!

While Vivek Agnihotri and Akshay Kumar both have been in the good books of the current government, it is unfortunate that Bachchhan Paandey wasn’t one of Kumar’s usual nationalistic dramas. Agnihotri, who has otherwise directed numerous flops, gained the upper hand here. 

Kumar might have still hoped to attract the patriotic audience base with his upcoming Samrat Prithviraj but alas…

In a year of period dramas, the Prithviraj biopic was ill-timed. With previous hits and semi-hits like Kesari, Pad Man and Gold, Akshay Kumar was proud of the fact that he was bringing those historical figures to life who would otherwise be ignored by the textbooks. In the promo events for Samrat Prthiviraj, Kumar reiterated this fact stating that the Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan was blatantly ignored by the history taught in schools (a claim that was much trolled and disproved by the Twitterati). 

Based on a folk retelling of the king by Chand Bardai, the film’s trailer promised grandiose sets, rousing dialogues, and some over-the-top battle scenes. But by this time, the period drama genre seemed to have overstayed its welcome this year. While historical dramas with larger-than-life figures like RRR and KGF: Chapter 2 became pan-India blockbusters, even local hits dominated the genre when it comes to Mumbai.

In 2022 alone, the Marathi film industry witnessed the release of three period dramas: Pawankhind, Sher Shivraj and Sarsenapati Hambirrao. Similar stories of chivalrous and honourable warriors might grow stale if they are this regular, which might explain the low box office collections of Samrat Prithviraj. The movie didn't even draw positive reactions upon its Amazon Prime Video release. 

Raksha Bandhan is getting boycotted even before its release: Now, Akshay Kumar’s upcoming Raksha Bandhan is expected to compete with Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha, both of which are facing the brunt of boycott hashtags on Twitter. In the case of Raksha Bandhan, the controversy is being generated by screenwriter Kanika Dhillon’s old tweets, which are alleged to be “Hinduphobic” by people on Twitter. 

Even if Dhillon’s tweets wouldn’t have resurfaced, Raksha Bandhan might not have made a mark. The prospect of seeing Akshay Kumar sporting his ‘common man’ moustache and taking care of his sisters doesn’t seem impressive enough to draw audiences to the theatres. Needless to say, 2022 is just not Kumar’s year even if he has two more releases slated for this year. 

It is only ironic that Kumar has been trying to market himself as a nation-loving hero and a loyal supporter of the ruling government. But his fanbase is just not strong enough to maintain his star status. The same can be said for Kangana Ranaut. Despite her attempts at projecting herself as a nationalist heroine, Ranaut’s Dhaakad could only sell 20 tickets on its eighth day!

Kumar’s unpredictable box office performance shows a lack of star power: ‘Quantity over quality’ seems to be the motto for Akshay Kumar. Unlike the Khans and other mega-stars of Bollywood, he is one of those actors who keeps on acting in one film or the other every year, regardless of the budget. So, naturally, he has had earlier phases of consecutive flops. While Singh Is Kinng was a hit in 2008, it was followed by some disappointingly bad performers like Blue, Chandni Chowk to China, Kambakkht Ishq, Action Replay, and others. 

At a time when Bollywood is already facing pressure from pan-Indian South hits, Akshay Kumar is not a bankable star (meme: DailyO)
At a time when Bollywood is already facing pressure from pan-Indian South hits, Akshay Kumar is not a bankable star (meme: DailyO)

In the middle, Kumar got relief with hits like Housefull and Rowdy Rathore but then they too were followed by Joker, Boss, Khiladi 786 and others. The crux is that Kumar is a very unpredictable star. And his off-screen persona of being a good family fan who prioritises health and fitness failed to make him a larger-than-life figure to attract loyal fandoms. For instance, Salman Khan acted in a variety of blockbusters in this duration, all of which were panned by critics but loved by his fans for Khan’s star power alone. 

On the other hand, someone like Shah Rukh Khan has also been appearing in under-performing movies like Fan, Jab Harry Met Sejal and Zero. But still, his star status as ‘King Khan’ and a notable four-year-long hiatus is building enough hype for his upcoming spy thriller Pathaan. Whether it will turn out to be a hit or not, it cannot be denied that ‘Khiladi Kumar’ has still not matched the level of veneration by fans as that of ‘Sallu Bhai’ and SRK.

Rise of the South stars: And apart from the Khans, one cannot deny the rise of South actors on a national level. With the overwhelming success of Pushpa, KGF, and RRR, actors like Allu Arjun, Yash, Ram Charan, and NTR Junior are becoming household names even in the North. Karan Johar brought up the same in one of the recent episodes of Koffee With Karan Season 7 featuring Kumar and Samantha Prabhu. Johar mentioned a survey of the most popular Indian actors in which Kumar was ranked at the fifth spot and the only Hindi actor to make it to the list. 

When asked about his reactions, Kumar just added that Hindi actors have to simply work harder to earn back their popularity...

Last updated: August 03, 2022 | 17:36
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