When we reflect on India’s voices when it comes to social issues, Aamir Khan is one person who comes to mind. Through Satyamev Jayate and to some extent his films, there has always been something to discuss and debate. However, one voice that has started to emerge more strongly than ever is that of Akshay Kumar. Last year, the characters that he portrayed in his films Airlift and Rustom left a strong impression on the minds of the audience. Tough, patriotic and honest are some of the words that have become synonymous with Kumar. In the past few years, comedies have dominated his filmography and he has excelled at making people laugh. Slowly but surely, the man with the salt and peppered beard has become a new hero for the audience to applaud. 2017 is set to be an extension and somewhat of an official stamp, judging by the work that he is set to do.
Earlier this month, Kumar announced his next movie titled Padman, to be directed by R.Balki and produced by his wife Twinkle Khanna under the banner Mrs Funnybones Movies. Based on social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham who invented low-cost sanitary pads in India, the movie has the potential to reach households where women are compelled to think of hygiene when it comes to their menstrual cycle by rejecting dirty cloths and embracing sanitary pads. Recently, Indians have been at the forefront of social entrepreneurship and if presented cleverly, this movie could propel others to find solutions for the poor. Along with this, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, set for release in June promises to deliver a story on ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.’ In this satire, Kumar plays a toilet owner who falls in love with a girl from the slum areas of the city. The film is believed to highlight the importance of the pay-and-use toilet scheme to reduce the social evil of defecating in the open. With Kumar’s image and voice, these films might just prove to be a game changer – think Swades, Piku, Vicky Donor, 3 Idiots and PK. These films were centered around strong and emotional issues that resonated with the audience and left an impact.
Kumar is also the ambassador of the ‘Jaan Bachao’ health campaign, designed to get couch potatoes off their seat, move and eat healthily to prevent and manage a number of chronic conditions. Considering the disciplined and healthy lifestyle Kumar leads, it is not surprising that the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai chose to make him the face of the campaign. Featuring in a film directed by Rajkumar Hirani, Kumar again with a straight forward and stern tone laced with humour gets the message across. This is just another example of how Kumar’s personality and lifestyle will be they key to his success in 2017.
It is Kumar’s voice through his video messages however, that have created the most buzz on social media. It’s a voice that you can relate to. English was never his strongest point but by choosing to speak in Hindi, he keeps it simple and strikes a chord with the public. As the appalled father with a young daughter, Kumar castigated the young men involved in the Bangalore mass molestation incident. As a son of an army officer, Kumar raised how trivial the matter of banning Pakistani artists was, considering the lives of soldiers had been lost. Asking people to ‘be ashamed of themselves’ in Hindi, Kumar once again displayed a no-nonsense attitude. There were plenty of whistles and claps from my side.
Kumar has Jolly LLB 2 releasing on February 10th where his character of a small town lawyer will fight for the truth in court. If this story works, along with all his upcoming movies on social health issues, Kumar might just prove to be the ‘poster man’ for health, hygiene and heroism in India. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change from the man-child and lover boy turned wrestler type of characters we’ve been subjected to?