What do stars do on their birthdays? For sure, they cannot afford the easy-going, out of the run-of-the mill special duos that can be held at big shopping malls or extravagant restaurants. Not because they can’t afford it, but simply because they cannot afford to lay bare their soul in front of the public eye. An affirmation to the age old routine task of protecting their personal life from the public glare often subjects our much loved celebrities to a state of perpetual spoiler, whether they can neither scream and shout and dance away the night in the company of their friends at a public place, nor can they paint the town red on their special day dancing at any popular discotheque.
So what are Akshay Kumar and Hugh Grant, two popular and mega stars of Indian and English cinema doing on September 9, their birth-date? Away from the intensely intrusive public eye and the ever important need to be amidst their family and friends, how would these two actors, separated by miles and joined by the common love of cinema and movie-making be celebrating their special day?
Butt kicking star Akshay Kumar turns 49 while the Princely suave charmer Grant embraces 55
One may wonder that the two actors, whose personal lives, cinematic journeys and typical genre of movie making are as starkly contrasted and stand in polarized digression from one another as is the month of painfully torrid summer different from the unbearable cold winter. While Akshay who first ventured into Hindi films way back in 1991 and came to establish his first impression kicking high-flying blows to the goons, doing the splits and punching below the belt his on screen adversaries, later, venturing ahead by carving a far more versatile repertoire of his acting caliber, Hugh Grant commanded a different space altogether.
Hugh Grant, the charming, soft speaking, mild-mannered, witty and romantic star of many successful romantic comic capers, first broke out in the late eighties on to the big screen with small parts upon completing his scholarship from the New College at the prestigious Oxford University. After establishing a successful theatre group with two of his close friends at Norfolk, the Hammersmith born, West Londoner came to finally grab the big breakthrough in the widely adored Four Weddings and a Funeral. His first hit made in the early 90s was to begin a romantic juggernaut powered by Grant’s on screen charisma that would make him a star out of the many creative and fruitful ventures that happened later, Nine Months, Mickey Blue Eyes, An Englishman who went up the hill but came down a mountain and Bitter Moon to quote.
The Khiladi Kumar turns the character actor
No star out there wishes to languish painfully under the hold of a single genre that negates his creative expansion into other forms of acting. If an action star has made a name for himself in the martial art cauldron, then he would soon wish to get in the middle of the thriller adventure space. Similarly comic actors sooner than later cherish donning challenges that come from being part of more dramatic and intense roles.
Akshay Kumar, over 100 movies old and still undeterred by the soaring challenges that threaten to wither his strong body that has withheld spectacular challenges for over two and a half decades is largely perceived as an action star. But, he made the most of his immense creativity by acting and producing many dramatic and comic roles, refusing to be cluttered by the cacophony of the action genre. Hera Pheri, Singh is King, Waqt, Aankhein, Aitraz and Mujhse Shadi Karogi beautifully conveyed his versatile canvass of acting where he played the part of a good for nothing wannabe, an uneducated Sikh from India’s heartland who stood for his friends, the role of a rich, spoilt son who finally came of age, a blind thief embroiled in a major heist, a corporate manager stuck between a dominating boss and a devoted wife and a wicked but jovial friend who came to his friends’ rescue respectively.
Through those intense eyes, the fiery passion and an inborn angst that he dutifully transformed into an endearing on-screen vulnerability, Kumar became not just the ladies favorite, but every mother’s son, every youngster’s relatable on-screen hero and finally gave the gym-goers to ponder about a world that existed outside the muscle-emporium.
Hugh Grant- the romantic comic actor turns toward dramatic roles
Hugh Grant on the other hand, started out as a young chocolate hero who many women wanted to get cozy with for those floppy hair and charming mannerisms. But, he soon realized that playing just the romantic hero would do less justice to an otherwise promising repertoire Grant was naturally blessed with. He went ahead and dead the dark drama Bitter Moon in the mid nineties, a drama about a couple on board a beautiful cruise to the Mediterranean where they encounter separate torrid and fiery love affairs that have anything but substance or longevity. He further went on to star in the con-comedy Mickey Blue Eyes where he played the reluctant son-in-law to be to a gangster. Grant was loved for his charming dimpled smile that he used to his advantage in superbly acted roles in the hugely successful Nine Months and Bridget Jones’ Diary, the former translating onto a charming chemistry with Julianne Moore and the latter seeing his on-screen character Daniel Cleaver fighting it out with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) to win the heart of Bridget Jones( Renee Zelwegger). Hugh’s stylishly sarcastic and wryly funny act made heads turn and made audiences meet a clever and smart actor who hitherto was conceived as only a simpleton who couldn’t do more than shy away from his leading ladies.
The most challenging roles for both Akshay and Hugh
Both Akshay and Grant have some mesmerizing roles to their credit, which many movie-going audiences feel couldn’t have been acted better or would have been done by any other actor. Take Kumar’s 2008 blockbuster Singh is King for example. How the good for nothing Happy Singh, a jovial rural bloke who hardly understood a word of English came to romance and charm the way into the heart of his English speaking, high society chic played by Katrina Kaif in one of her better performances won the hearts of audiences, not just in India but worldwide where Indian films are regarded as a substantial fodder for the mind and not just for sensationalizing those tired senses.
Kumar’s latter part of the career saw him effectively combine romance and action into a single venture where the mega star, known to be as versatile as the deadly Khan-trio belted hit after hit starring in a series of action and drama releases, such as : Holiday- an officer is never off duty, Baby and Brothers, his last big budget release. In Holiday, Akshay’s Virat, an army intelligence officer saved his loving Mumbai from a series of damaging blasts perpetrated by a rogue terrorist organization. In Baby, his critically acclaimed and commercially stupendous earner saw a team of Indian Intelligence gathering experts led by Kumar successfully track down dreaded terrorists running a detrimental radical program to cause mind-numbing damage to an India berated by Pakistan and its allies. Akshay’s physically tough role as a top Intel officer boasted of the mental toughness and charismatic virtuosity that can only be expected from a secret agent. In Brothers, he teamed up with, rather teamed against Siddharth Malhotra, his on screen brother to win a challenging knock out mixed martial arts tournament.
Hugh Grant’s universal likability on the other hand impinges on his effortless mastery over self-deprecatory humor, something that even his harshest critics feel Grant commands with ease. In 2002’s About a Boy, directed by Chris Weitz, gave audiences an emotional, yet comic, dramatic yet laugh out loud comedy wherein Grant who played Will, a 36 year old slacker came to forge a highly unlikely friendship with Marcus, not the most ideal, lovely or funny kid who’s aged 12. The film essayed a vibrant ‘bromance’ between two unlikeliest of men, whose 24 year age gap did little to separate their emotional differences and attitudes to living life and their views on love, sex and wo men.
Hugh Grant was the real star of About a Boy, it’s crusader of perfect comic timing, playing the convincing good for nothing slacker who can’t do much about himself save for romancing single women and listening to music records mostly sold by his dad who earned royalty for giving a single hit album. 5 years later, he became Drew Barrymore’s lover in the enchanting romantic comedy based on the life of a successful pop music ‘has been’ who came to reinstate a fledgling career thanks largely to the saving grace of his part time plant-care taker who turned lyricist only at the charming allure of a stylish Grant. Music and Lyrics was greeted to warm reviews worldwide and forged a colorful, pleasing and vibrant of actors separated by an age gap of 15 years. Hugh was like the cold gloomy London day and Barrymore was her bright Californian sunshine in this extremely successful hit.
What do Hugh Grant and Akshay Kumar’s careers convey
It’s a simple affirmation to the fact that hard-work never goes to waste. Two of the widely successful actors separated by millions of miles and hardened by their personal and professional challenges which, at different junctures have shaped the actors in them convey the essence that if you truly love something then you can come to master it.
While Grant goes on to convey the above in a simple, charming and yet, effortless way, Kumar walks on a tightrope regimen of great effort, conviction and immense self belief to stand true to the truth that nothing is impossible in the engaging world of movies.