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Art is not a luxury, but a necessity.



I was browsing through my mobile when I heard Akshay Kumar speaking in an interview and the one line that caught my attention was,“it is very important to be at the right place, at the right time and week the right people”and my mind went back to the first time I met a young man called Rajiv Hariom Bhatia – Ali Peter John

He was walking alone in the compound of Natraj Studios clutching what looked like a portfolio of the young man who I later came to know was a struggler looking for a break.

I was the only man walking around after all my meetings with producers Ramanand Sagar, Shakti Samanta and Aatma Ram (the younger brother of Guru Dutt) were over the young man came walking up to me and asked me if there was any producer or director who had his office somewhere around.

I asked him what he wanted to know. He said he had worked as a chef in several countries and was a gym trainer in Mumbai besides being Martial Arts expert.

I was impressed but I kept asking him what he wanted to do since all the filmmakers had left for the day.

He pointed out the office of the renowned filmmaker, Pramod Chakravorty who was the maker of big hits like“Love In Tokyo”,“Ziddi”,“Tumsa Nahi Dekha”,“Naya Zamaana”,“Barood”, once with Dharmendra and again with Rishi Kapoor soon after the release of“Warrant”,“Bobby”and“Trimurti”besides an Indo-Bangladesh film with Rajesh Khanna and a heroine from Bangladesh.

The young man who looked tired and frustrated said he had the last lot of his portfolio and asked me if he could leave the photos for Chakravorty.

I told him that Chakravorty had stopped making films after Vinod Khanna had signed his film and ditched him to join Bhagwan Rajneesh.

He asked me if he could leave the photographs with an elderly man who was working the garden of Chakravorty’s office.

I said he was the perfect man as he had been working with Chakravorty for more than fifty-years and I assured him that his photographs would be seen the first thing in the morning when Chakravorty came to office. The young man looked relieved and he parted ways….

The next morning at around eleven thirty Chakravorty called me to his office as soon as possible.

I reached his office and he showed me the photographs of the young man who he said was called Rajiv Bhatia.

Akshay Kumar

He asked me what I thought about the young man and I told him about the background he had given me the previous evening. Chakravorty was excited like a child and put the photographs in his briefcase.

That evening he left office in his yellow Mercedes early and went straight home. It was only the next morning that he called me again to tell me that he had shown the photographs to his wife Laxmi who was related to Guru Dutt, his engineer-son and his wife and his entire staff down to the gardener and the chowkidaar. He asked all of them what they thought about the young man.

They all approved of him and his wife even said that he was better than Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt who were the ruling star-sons those days.

The man who had decided never to make films change his mind overnight and told me he was all charged to start making films again.

He called Rajiv whose number was on the photographs and within an hour he had signed Rajiv who was to be called Akshay Kumar.

He knew that his friend Randhir Kapoor’s daughter, Karishma Kapoor was looking for a good break.

Her mother, Babita had worked as his heroine in“Tumsa Nahi Dekha”. He called both the parents and told them about his decision to make a comeback with a new hero.

Karishma was making her debut and it didn’t matter who the hero was. Chakravorty was so excited that in one day he put together an entire project which included a TV writer, Mir Muneer as the writer, Sameer as the lyricist and Anand-Milind as the music directors.

News about his finding a new team spread and Akshay was signed for Raj. N.Sippy’s Saugandh”and Karishma was signed for Prem Qaidi by D. Rama Naidu of the South.

Chakravorty took his own time to make“Deedaar”and both Sippy and Naidu finished their films first and their films,“Saugandh”was known as Akshay Kumar first film and Naidu’s“Prem Qaidi”was considered the first film of Karishma Kapoor.

akshya birthday

Both the films did average buisness, but Chakravorty signed Akshay Kumar for his second film too with Raveena Tandon as the heroine.

The hero had become very big all of a sudden and Raveena who was now his girlfriend started giving Chakravorty endless problems over dates till Chakravorty got disgusted and took a final decision to give up making films for good and getting into some other buisness.

But he wanted to write his biography for which he had built a room for me in his bungalow in Linking Road.

All was set to start work on the biography when I recieved a call at six thirty in the morning.

It was his man Friday who was crying on the phone as he told me that“Dada”had passed away at four am after a massive heart attack.

Chakravorty became a part of history and the young man he have his first break to Akshay Kumar was on his way to make history.


Akshay had a chance meeting with Amitabh Bachchan in Kashmir when he was a little boy and his father had pushed him to go up to Amitabh and that meeting seemed to have made a very strong impression on Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia.

But little did he know that he would one day be working with Amitabh in a couple of films and share the credit titles with him.

And he was also not aware that he would one day be known for his respect for time, a quality he is now increasingly being known for and is almost like a competitor for Amitabh when it comes to having the greatest respect for time….

Akshay was known for his following the dictates of time even when he was a newcomer.

Shantipriya, the known actress from the South who had made her debut in Hindi films with Akshay in Raj. N. Sippy’s “Saugandh” remembers how Akshay was very particular and punctual during every shooting day and had no excuses to make about his coming late, because he had an innate dislike for being late, whether it was for a shooting or a dubbing session.

Shantipriya who had married Siddharth Ray, the grandson of Dr V. Shantaram, who died young leaving her a widow and who is still around in Mumbai still remembers Akshay’s fetish for time which made the entire unit of “Saugandh” keep your tryst with time and she herself who had worked with all the leading heroes of all the four languages in the South says that the stars in the South were particular about time, but even they could fail once in a way, but Akshay had never been late even once during the entire making of “Saugandh”.

It was this quality about him that made some of the big filmmakers sign him and he was a very busy actor, but he never lost his touch with time which he firmly believed was a quality that mattered in an industry in which crores of rupees and the lives of people were involved.

Akshay had made it a rule not to shoot during the night and is known for turning down some of the most attractive offers for new films if he came to know that the film involved shooting beyond ten o’clock in the night.

He being a fitness freak has rarely attended parties and events where he knew he could be late and that would affect his schedule of going to bed at ten pm and wake up at four in the morning to begin his regimes of exercises and playing games which kept him active.

His being a teetotaler and a strict vegetarian have also to his being the ever so active and physically fit man who can do all those daring stunts and thrills and take all the risks which his body has been used to during the last thirty-five years.

He has maintained this decision of starting on time and leaving on time even when he is shooting abroad. He makes it a point to see that nothing comes in his way of keeping pace with time.

I had once asked him to do a shoot which would be used both for his film, “Police Force” and for my magazine.

The idea for the shoot was designed by my friend, Aatmaram Golatkar of Studio Link and the photograph was to be shot by my photographer R. Krishna who I was instrumental in getting to Mumbai and joining ‘Screen’ even while he was one of the junior assistants of Santosh Sevan.

Akshay and Aatmaram had decided to shoot the picture in Nashik and they had also decides that the picturisation would be taken at four o’clock in the morning.

We all panicked at the very idea and the one who was most worried was Krishna who loved drinking till late in the night and whose day began only after two pm. We decided that we would not sleep at all if we had to keep to the time of Akshay.

But, we still fell asleep at around two pm. But at three pm, Akshay was up and ready with make-up and made the rounds of all our rooms and woke us up.

We cursed, we grumbled, but Akshay was in full spirits, ready to face the challenges of the day.

The picture was finally taken at around four thirty pm and we had our breakfast and left for Bombay and reached before it was ten o’clock and we were too early to start our days work.

Krishna went home to sleep, but like Akshay, we all decided to report to our working places and wished that all work could start at four pm and end by noon.That was only a wish for us, but for Akshay it was a normal thing.

I think it was Dr Harivanshrai Bachchan who first drilled this idea of early to bed and early to rise into the head of his son, Amitabh and which was carried out by others like Akshay…..

Akshay has been facing the best of times in the last two years. He has been the man behind the success of films like “Rustom”(for which he won his first National Award), Toilet Ek Prem Katha”, “Padman”, “Kesari” and the recently released “Mission Mangal”.

Akshay is now being seen as the model version of Mr Bharat, a title which once exclusively belonged to actor and filmmaker Manoj Kumar.

His working in films which have a social relevance has even drawn him closer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a fact which has won him encomiums and has even become the subject for running down the Prime Minister and Akshay himself.

However, Akshay has reached a point when criticism, even of his not being a citizen of India does not easily touch him and his success story will continue in the time to come with films like “Good News”,“Housefull 4″,“Laxmi Bomb” and there are other offers which Akshay and time are considering.


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