What does Prime Minister Narendra Modi do when he has a cold? Did you spend a lifetime wondering this? No? It doesn’t matter. Because Bollywood star Akshay Kumar made sure that you know the answer to this, and to many more such inane questions about the prime minister.
And that is why Akshay Kumar is the newsmaker of the week – adding a faux journalist’s role into his acting skills.
In what was a spectacle of everything corny, Akshay Kumar interviewed PM Narendra Modi this week at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg. Despite evident efforts, the interview failed to do the one thing it set out to – be apolitical.
A starry-eyed Akshay Kumar was visibly giddy after every answer that came his way – not exactly the actor’s most easy and effortless performance.
But his gushing, unabashed love for the prime minister notwithstanding, this was hardly the start of Akshay Kumar’s nation-building project.
From a rousing speech in the film Namastey London over a decade ago reminding a snobbish white man of everything glorious about India, to his unbreakable resolve to ‘fix society’ in movies like Padman and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha – Akshay Kumar is a man on a mission, and he won’t stop at anything to achieve it. There is one problem though – the mission is hazy as ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.
Why is using your craft and your profession to help transform society a problem? It isn’t. After all, Aamir Khan too has often been credited for being the sole voice of reason in Hindi cinema, and through his TV series Satyamev Jayate.
So, in ways more than one, Akshay Kumar’s choice to portray a man who wants to democratise sanitary pads and build hygienic toilets is commendable. What is also commendable is his naivete, which can bring him to – if he does – genuinely believe that he can conduct an interview with the prime minister of the country in the middle of the Lok Sabha elections, and call it ‘apolitical’. Perhaps that also perfectly defines his depiction of nationalism—sanitised and simplistic.
“Marne ke liye tere paas paise hain, lekin biwi ko maut se bachane ke liye nahi? (You have enough money to kill yourself, but not enough to save your dying wife?)” asks a moralistic, virtue-signalling Akshay Kumar to a troubled man smoking a cigarette outside a clinic, in an advertisement presumably about sanitary pads, or prevention of smoking, or both. And it is in that moment that you realise only an Akshay Kumar can pull off a bunch of what might seem like contrived connections – between a woman’s health, a man’s smoking habits and a family’s monthly budget.
“It is a way of not only reaching out to the masses but also at times educating them,” Kumar said in reference to his movies with a message.
Even someone as unapologetically hyper-nationalistic as Modi, who has been boasting about the Balakot airstrikes in his campaign speeches, needs someone like Akshay Kumar. Because as track record would prove, Kumar can successfully sell a neatly packaged script of a superficial but palatable, and at times even convincing, idea of patriotism.