Every prominent hero has some films in which he does not work with A-listers, but co-stars with debut-making heroines, upwardly mobile actresses and even those who have been around but never made it. And that includes Akshay Kumar.
Yes, Akshay was himself a newcomer when he had assorted names like Shantipriya (the South starlet who was the heroine of his first released film Saugandh in 1991), Kirti Singh (Dancer) and many more, apart from Karisma Kapoor in Deedar, which was the first signed film for both of them but released a year later. Akshay’s first hit and fourth release, Khiladi (which hit the screen before Deedar in the same year) co-starred one flop-old upcoming actress Ayesha Jhulka, who later had a promising run in the ‘90s but was never an A-list name.
Once Akshay became big, the mix tended a lot towards the bigger stars, with the actor even forming hit and oft-repeated pairings with Raveena Tandon, Karisma again, Shilpa Shetty, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif and Sonakshi Sinha.
Of course, when he first worked with some of these ladies, they were either making their debuts or getting their first hits (Raveena in Mohra and both Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta in Andaaz) or generally upwardly-mobile (as with the one-hit old Sonakshi in their first collaboration Rowdy Rathore).
Even past the millennium, Akshay had his share of new heroines or those who were never in the top list—Aarti Chhabria, Preeti Jhangiani, Divya Khosla (now Kumar), Ayesha Takia, Amisha Patel and even Bhumika Chawla, Asin, Trisha and Kajal Aggarwal from the South.
However, such films of his always came in as a kind of departure from the norm, between his movies with the biggest heroines. It is from late 2014, right after the super-success of his home production Holiday starring Sonakshi Sinha that we are witnessing a paradigm shift and a definite pattern—Akshay is being seen only with the non-A-list faces.
The actor says that it is organic and the filmmakers’ decision, but can so many films (at least a dozen) be just a coincidence? And the saga continues!
The August 2014 It’s Entertainment, a crazy story of a man and a dog, had Tamannaah filling in as the decorative heroine. The actor began with Baby and Madhurima Tuli played almost a cameo, as the patient wife of the crack spy that Akshay essayed.
Gabbar…Is Back saw Shruti Haasan as the girl who falls in love with the vigilante that Akshay was in the movie. Yes, Kareena Kapoor Khan was in a one-song cameo as his wife whose death spurs the plot, but that was in a flashback.
In Brothers, as the embittered boxer, he had Jacqueline Fernandez as his wife. They also came together later in Housefull 3. The actress is moving up fast, but, as of today, she fits into this pattern as she is not really in the female superstar league of the topmost five names in the business.
Next up was Singh Is Bling with Amy Jackson. Amy is also there now in his forthcoming film 2.0, but as he is the antagonist in the latter film starring Rajinikanth, he is unlikely to have her paired with him.
From 2016, we also had an upswing in the kind of movies Akshay Kumar began choosing, and he was even more open to diverse subjects. He opened the year with the splendid Airlift featuring Nimrat Kaur. Kaur was Akshay’s second outing with an actor known for non-mainstream films after Chitrangda Singh in Desi Boyz. His third such co-star now is wife Twinkle Khanna’s production Pad-Man, in which Radhika Apte plays his wife.
Rustom, his next film, in which the pivotal role of a Parsi Naval officer was portrayed by the actor, co-starred Ileana D’Cruz as his (Parsi) wife. Neeraj Pandey has always cast fresh co-stars for Akshay (Kajal Aggarwal in Special 26, Madhurima in Baby) and his next production, Toilet—Ek Prem Katha, features Bhumi Pednekar. As of today, Neeraj has yet to announce the leading lady of their latest collaboration, Crack.
Akshay Kumar’s latest assignment is the biopic on music baron Gulshan Kumar, tentatively titled Mogul. The film is being produced by Gulshan’s real-life widow Sudesh Kumari. We therefore see potential for another non-A-list actress to play this real-life role!