As soon as one pronounces the name “Akshaye Khanna”, a picture springs up, and one sees that curvy mouth, that dimpled chin, those square jaws and above all, the dark cunning eyes that half-smile, half gauge, as if to make sure the track is clear. Hmm, says one, he must be a warm, interesting fellow! He looks intelligent, reserved, unassuming, and…SEXY! (It’s the half-open, dark eyes that do the trick, they never miss).
Then there’s that negligently unbuttoned shirt with lots of bushy hair cropping out… probably for the ladies, or am I wrong? With Akshaye, there’s a style, a very carefully studied mixture of naturalness and sophistication, which works wonders. He’s selected a pose, a nonchalant, humorous, thoughtful pose which had not been so well blended before, I think (even though I don’t know much of Bollywood’s history). He’s just managed that trick. His physique of course has helped him tremendously, but look at the change between Taal and Dil chahta hai: in the former, it’s as if he’d been to the wrong hairdresser, wrong tailor, wrong everything. In the latter, well, somebody must have spoken to him!! (“OK Akshaye, you’re gonna do me a favour…”)
As an example of how he’s managed to make people fall for his careful appearance, he’s an extract of an appraisal written by pyara.com:
"We live in an age when the allure of many leading actors is all on the surface, with a bland, symmetrical, conventionally handsome face offering no hint of an intriguing mind or a complex history. Akshaye Khanna, on the other hand, is something else. Behind his teen-idol facade lies the soul of a thinking man. A talented actor, he knows his craft, and is very serious about his work. Indeed a rare quality amongst the current breed of newcomers. He may be a very instinctual actor but he also has an exacting technique. He likes to get everything right. He's also extremely attractive as an artiste. And quite remarkable and unique for a newcomer. He is one of the best actors to hit Bollywood in recent times - not to mention the most handsome, intriguing, talented and sexy.
Even before he has become a megastar which a lot of people feel is merely a matter of time, Akshaye has developed a mystique. He's an extremely private person. The most remarkable thing is he's savvy enough to recognize the danger of overexposure. Therefore, he's cleverly spaced out his interviews to avoid such a happening. What's more he refuses to let anyone into his private and personal matters. He is so damn nonchalant. He's a guy moving comfortably and gracefully in his own mystique, that's the sort of movie star he is. But he's very distant, very removed and that adds strength to his character. He seems like a private public man going by his reserve, but for him fame is no burden. We're talking about a movie star in the grand manner, an elusive presence. That probably sums up his screen charisma, which is proving to be a powerful box-office draw."
While what this person says is quite all right, one cannot but wonder at Akshaye’s masterful talent at passing over the information that he’s mysterious, magnetic, etc. As is written above, “he’s cleverly paced out his interviews”. And note how this writer shuttles back and forth between assessments of Akshaye’s merits, and looks. Where does it all come from? And why would it accrue to him, rather than, say, Salman? Is it because he keeps to himself more? Yes, and because he’s shyer, more reserved, less outward-going than others. Does that mean he’s more mysterious? You be the judge. But people like to think so.
What I especially enjoy is the connection that is made between “the teen-idol façade” and “the soul of a thinking man”: it’s the same contrast that we find between “moving comfortably and gracefully” and “in his own mystique”. Here’s an actor that makes people – fans, reviewers, whoever – read his attractive exterior appearance as a sign of a deeper interior. Quite a feat, because in the Bollywood mainstream culture of today, you normally have to fight to convince your audience that there is something behind your pretty face (or other parts). Somehow, you’re often the victim of the superficiality that you’re earnestly trying to avoid. Well, look, one guy at least just steps in, and everybody eyes him with envy: “Ooooh, he looks deep, he’s mystical, elusive”. (Hope you don’t mind all this Akshaye).
There’s something in hairy virility which just exudes what they call “magnetism”. To me there’s another word for that magnetism – pheromones. Now even though you can’t smell them through the internet, or on the screen, there are many ways to suggest they’re there! And probably Akshaye has them naturally! But there you go: a pleasing smile (warmth), twinkling eyes (intelligence), and strong jaws (sexuality), all this can easily be sublimated into charisma, mysticism and what have you. The stronger you suggest a distance between nature, or instinct, and a charming gallantry, the more exciting it is! Because in between lies the chasm of adventure and transgression which we feel is so important. Today, if you want to impress and be original, you have to mix the blend well: a sheer “natural” difference isn’t enough (only rare examples like Aishwarya Rai have had the luck of being able to bank on physical qualities alone), so you have to add cultural assets to your physical ones. Your persona must suggest a model, or an influence, and it must pass on the message (for example) that you have been a disciple of that model, but are now independent enough to have created a style of your own, something like that.
And Akshaye has done just that. Instinctively, he’s found a niche that wasn’t really exploited in the Bollywood spectrum, and has fitted into it neatly. He’s not grandly self-assertive as is Shahruhk, not boisterously friendly like Salman; he remains coy enough, unlike Saif Ali Khan, who likes to play the fool. He’s less a womanizer than Vivek, more tender than Akshay Kumar, less aloof than Ajay Devgan, and less intense-looking than Arjun Rampal. Yet, he’s got a little from all of them. He lets a stubble grow to give him that extra virility, and his low cropped hair adds to his massive appearance. It seems the days of Aa ab laut chale or Taal are over ! There’s even been some pictures going around where he’s lost all of that scant hair!
Ah, and now this: Beth Loves Akshaye; I had laughed a great deal last year when watching the ladies rave about his… sandals! I just had to refer to it. Thanks Beth. What’s good about Aksahye is that you can imagine so much… He’s so unassuming! So, we assume things about him!
I have to finish by mentioning the little acting I’ve seen him in. From what I know, he’s certainly a keen guy, who’s learning fast. I haven’t seen the latest movies, though, especially Salaam-e-ishq, and Gandhi my father (very nice review from Amodini). Apparently these two are good ones, but I’ve read here and there that not all of his recent films were very good showcases, unfortunately. Akshaye has always interested me because of his quietness. Not surprising, you’ll say, after everything I’ve said. But that’s what I enjoy in him. He comes from an important film-making family, and knows he’s watched as heir to that family. That in itself would be banal. But I feel he’s a decent guy, who loves to be there on the screen, and has to deal with his image, his aura, his celebrity, the best he can. You can sense that in his slightly melancholic attitude. I think he wants to make good films, but he’s in a system that uses stars on perhaps a different basis than his. Okay, well, that’s all for now. I’ll try and come back to Akshaye when I’ve seen one of his latest films!