The Player

Akshay Kumar’s role as Hindutva’s poster boy

Akshay Kumar started out as an action hero, then morphed into a reliable comic performer and now, in his fifties, has come to be seen as Mr India, an enlightened nationalist hero. Aalok Soni / Hindustan Times
Elections 2024
01 February, 2021

AKSHAY KUMAR loves India. He really does. He has said so in his movies, in his advertisements and in his tweets.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the country to its knees, and the actor was grounded. The final round of promotions for his film Sooryavanshi had to be cancelled since the Maharashtra government started telling people not to leave their homes. The release of the cop drama, the latest in the filmmaker Rohit Shetty’s oeuvre, was postponed indefinitely. 

But still, Kumar was as busy as he could be, for his work as a performer in recent times has hardly been limited to films. During the COVID-19 crisis, he came to play the role of the responsible superstar and the morale-booster-in-chief on social media. His Twitter posts were a flood of upbeat content. He pledged a Rs 25-crore donation within minutes of Narendra Modi announcing the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations fund, or PM-CARES. When the prime minister said that the country should show solidarity with its healthcare workers by banging pots and pans, Kumar posted a video of himself loudly beating a thali outside his home. He put together a song of hope, lit a diya, hosted a benefit concert, and told people to stay safe and stay home. In June, when the government wanted to lift lockdown restrictions, Kumar made a public-service advertisement telling people not to worry, to wear masks, to go out but be careful. If the government had a message that season, it seemed Kumar was the messenger.

“I don’t believe in thinking about what the country has given you, but what you can give to the country,” he told the media in December 2019. “For example, you pick a captain of a cricket team, and now it is the team’s responsibility to listen to him. Follow the leader. Koi bhi party ka ho”—no matter which political party he is from—“let him lead the country, because chuna toh aap hi logon ne hai”—it was you people who chose him, after all.