When I was interviewing Akshay Kumar around the time of the release of Houseful 3, I found myself idly wondering how he kept himself so passionately involved in a franchise that was already into its third instalment.
Akshay had spoken enthusiastically about how he was motivated because he had never played a man with a split personality till that time. Recently, I saw the rather raucous trailer of the next offering from the franchise, Houseful 4, and was amazed at what Akshay was doing for the first time now — he was starkly bald for one of his two looks in the film which is being plugged as an ‘epic reincarnation comedy’.
To compensate for the loss of hair on his head, Akshay sports a thick moustache that defies gravity and curls upwards from each end of his lips.
The sight of Akshay’s glowing bald pate in the trailer brought home to me with startling clarity the actor’s desire to dabble in something different with almost every film of his.
After an incredible 125 films (and counting) as a leading man, the star seems to have avoided the pitfalls of becoming blasé about his craft by seeking excitement in thematic and sartorial novelty.
The world and his wife know now that he has been exploring new cinematic subjects (PadMan, Toilet Ek Prem Katha), but what caught my imagination was the sheer number of different new looks that Akshay was clothing his onscreen characters in.
At a time when two new films — Bala and Ujda Chaman — are racing against time and each other to tell the audience about the trials and travails of balding men (as played by Ayushmann Khurrana and Sunny Singh), Akshay Kumar has already gone the whole hog and played a totally bald man in Housefull 4.
To be sure, for those who hanker for Akshay in his regular look, there is a double role in Housefull 4 — in the modern avatar to his character who is supposedly 600 years apart from the bald Akshay, he sports half-sleeved checked shirts and smart trousers.
The pate is just one more addition to this actor’s palette of different looks. Akshay Kumar has made huge demands on his costume stylists, makeup man and hairdresser’s collective talents for his transgender look in another forthcoming film of his, Laxmmi Bomb.
In the recently released first look, the star's look is definitely bold and striking — Akshay is seen wearing a bright red sari that complements a huge red bindi, a black half-sleeves blouse, with long hair bunched together tightly in a bun.
Ear studs and a neckpiece contributes to the authentic look that he has assumed for his character in the remake of the smash hit Tamil horror comedy, Muni 2 Kanchana. Akshay supposedly plays a coward who believes in and fears the supernatural.
Unfortunately for him, he is possessed by a revenge-seeking transgender woman. Aside: The actor’s look reminded me just a shade of his namesake Laxmi (Godbole), played by Kamal Haasan in Chachi 420.
In the recently announced Bachchan Pandey, reportedly a remake of the Tamil hit Veeram (2014), Akshay Kumar reprises the role of the tough and violent villager who is extremely protective of his younger brothers and will not even marry so as to not upset his equation with his siblings.
The poster of the film caught my eye: Akshay sports a black lungi with a golden border, a thick gold chain snaked around his bare chest and neck, tilak on his forehead and has one fist clenched while a nunchaku swings ready in the other hand.
To add to the fearsome image, the actor exposes a sculpted torso, bloodshot eyes and a caterpillar moustache. The picture speaks a thousand words — he doesn’t even have to move his lips or hands to convey that he is not to be messed with.
This desire for the different obviously keeps his batteries charged. In his most expensive film till date, the Rajnikant co-starrer 2.0 (2018), Akshay’s look was extreme to say the least. He played the antagonist Pakshi Rajan, an ornithologist and staunch avian advocate who resembles a bird with extended feathery eyebrows and striped face and neck.
Akshay was almost unrecognisable under all the painstakingly applied prosthetic. Akshay seems to have realised that film costumes today are not designed just to make the actor look glamorous; instead they are dictated by the character.
This set me thinking about how this epiphany has intermittently struck other stars too, both in the past and the present. Examples crowd my head, so watch this space next week for other actors who nailed the look!