The Reinvention of Akshaye Khanna: The Roles That Made Him Relevant Today



Akshaye Khanna recently mentioned in an interview “I am at the happiest peak during the moments between action and cut. When I arrive to a film set I feel at ease, no worries and peace with my inner-self. Being an actor for so many years, I have realised my life is not in the outer city but inside the studio”.

Son of yesteryear star Vinod Khanna, Akshaye Khanna, the middle son of the Khanna family grew up in the industry being extremely close to his father and saw his father grow into the actor he became – Akshaye was fond of following his father’s footsteps. Akshaye grew up in the posh Malabar Hills – he was known to be a Bandra brat where he did most of his education. At a young age, Khanna would make his peers nervous because of his towering personality and self-confidence that he had a big reputation amongst the local youngsters and they knew he was not be messed with.

Khanna always had this attitude of not giving a damn, being laid-back, fearless and to some extent anti-social. He is still known as an ‘odd-ball’ amongst people in the industry as usually does not do anything to please others or give a damn of what people think of him, he is a very reserved person who feels that his work comes first – attending premiers, trials and parties are a rarity for the actor.

Akshaye Khanna has been constantly appreciated by the audience as well as critics for his substantial performances and extra-strong screen presence. Debuted at the age of 21, Akshaye was one rare few confident newcomers to stand up to his seniors in his welcoming year, achieving Best Debut and Best Supporting in the same year.

From 2012 to 2016 – Akshaye had mysteriously vanished from the Bollywood scene. The talk on that block was that he was fed up with acting and had isolated himself in a farmhouse in Alibaug, rumours also said he had an alcohol problem and had shifted to rehabilitation to recover. Many rumours which had floated, Akshaye had not expressed the reason for his sabbatical.

Akshaye Khanna bounced back in 2016, the death of his parents in years following only made him stronger and more innovated. This Friday we see Khanna doing a courtroom drama in Section 375, but before then lets take a look into the roles that made Junior Khanna a senior in eyes of many.


Border (1997)


A few months before the release of Border, Akshaye Khanna’s launch vehicle Himalaya Putra had bombed at the box office, but lucky for Akshaye he was praised in his debut film and hope was seen in his coming ventures. Originally, JP Dutta was to launch Akshaye in a solo release but when Vinod Khanna came to find out he was being launched in a ensemble cast, he felt that a solo release for Akshaye was needed. Akshaye arguably had the better sketched role in Border – the young underestimated fuming soldier who was out to prove himself and to live up to the expectations of his Major dad – at the same time trying to support his blind mother with his fiance (played by Pooja Bhatt) acting as his backbone. The character of Dharmveer was tailor-made for the young Akshaye as the convincing act he pulled off without any clichés with the entire mother scenario touching a nerve which played the trump card for Akshaye in the film. Akshaye proved to the industry and the media – that this 21 year old boy is here to stay – he’s travelled back from the ‘Himalayas’.


Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

Dil Chahta2

Farhan Akhtar’s new age story of friendship is still relevant today when we repeat to see it, the 2001 film being a complete game-changer about three friends and their lasting relationship in the real world – the film certainly had many imitations after and even popularised Goa for a lifetime. Many are not aware but the role of Sid was originally offered to Aamir Khan and Hrithik was to do Aakash. The film in early stages, changes were made where even Hrithik and Abhishek Bachchan were even considered before landing in Akshaye’s lap. Akshaye had a string of potboiler failures behind him – had his  hesitations initially but being struck by the writing he went along with his instincts. Dil Chahta Hai not only being remembered for the crux of friendship but even Akshaye’s relationship with the older woman played Dimple Kapadia (who was once his dad’s co-star). The fresh touch of romance between a young artist and an alcoholic divorcee stood out for its innocent love angle with the age gap which was a first on the big screen.  Prior to Dil Chahta Hai, Akshaye Khanna and even Saif Ali Khan were both going through a lean phase of doing routine potboilers – Dil Chahta Hai proved to the audience that theses boys not just ‘heroes’ but actors.


Humraaz (2002)


This 2002 sleeper hit took many by surprise by the interval point when we see the dramatic twist in character shifts of Akshaye Khanna and Ameesha Patel. At a time when Akshaye and Bobby Deol (ironically both childhood friends) were at a similar stance of stardom – Akshaye agreed to take on the negative role of Karan Malhotra – an evil selfish musician who will go to any cost to be rich even if it means sacrificing everything. Prior to Humraaz, Abbas Mustan had made Ajnabee where Akshay Kumar played the negative role – Akshay Kumar again offered the negative role felt it was too evil to play. The role was later offered to Arjun Rampal and Abhishek Bachchan but both having their doubts refused the role. Akshaye, though playing the role with such ease as well being the sterling performance of the film, won the hearts of the audience and his performance was raved about. The intimidating act highlighted Akshaye’s diversity as performer in which he being offered work he preferred.


Gandhi, My Father (2007)


Unfortunately, no one really went to see the film in the cinema of the time of release but the film won hearts at festivals and got an audience on satellite. The film explored the troubled relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his son Harilal Gandhi, Akshaye playing the role of Harilal with the vengeance of disgracing his dad at any cost, goes on to convert to Islam to get back at his dad. Based on Feroz Abbas Khan’s play Mahatma vs Gandhi, seemed to have not got the recognition he required for the feature and the theatre director returned to the stage. Akshaye and producer Anil Kapoor being upset with all the effort that had gone into the film, attempted to take international curve but the plans were scrapped. Akshaye in many interviews, which is agreed by many in the industry, that this was his personal favourite and best performance – the one that is the closest to his heart.


Dishoom (2016)/Ittefaq (2017)


These two films had to placed in a similar bracket – on elaborating – firstly both films were not path-breaking films and neither did they set the box office on fire. Dishoom was Akshaye’s comeback film after almost 5 years. Rohit Dhawan, who Akshaye has known since he was a child, pitched an idea and convinced Akshaye to return. Akshaye had convinced Sajid Nadiadwala about the film and was on board before the leading cast. The film brought back Akshaye in a stylish avatar as the match fixing, country selling bookie who goes to all lengths to get his work done.

Ittefaq on the other hand, being a remake of the 1969 thriller, again showcased Akshaye in style – but as a tough, no nonsense cop. Both films had proved that Akshaye was the USP and the best thing about the film – showcasing that he may have stayed away from the limelight but this iron is not rusty just yet. Both films set a new innings for Akshaye’s career and made the audience realise that they had missed Akshaye and even made the industry realise that there is far more work coming this guy’s way.


Roles wrote for Akshaye which he Rejected 


Kaante (2002) (Role went to Lucky Ali)


Akshaye Khanna and Sanjay Gupta formed a relationship with the film ‘Fighter’ which got shelved but later down the line Gupta had the desire to work with Akshaye again and offered him the role of the eventual snitch. Akshaye was little hesitant of his screen time, he had far less dialogues than most of the cast and his only moment to shine was the pre-climax. Akshaye opted out and suggested a newcomer for the role. Gupta later got the role to be done by Lucky Ali but one can see where Akshaye may have felt a little uncomfortable, but Akshaye’s interpretation of the role would be interesting.

1947 Earth (1999) (Role went to Aamir Khan)


Deepa Mehta wanted both the Khanna brothers together for her tale about the cruel circumstance during the partition and how it effects three indiviuals. Akshaye’s first hesitation was that his elder brother was being launched and did not to take the light away from his brother – as his role of the Candyman was very well written over Rahul’s role. His second doubt was playing a negative character so early in his career – so he let go. The role eventually was bagged by Aamir Khan who fantastically portrayed the role flawlessly and possibly one the better performances of Khan from the 90s.

Taare Zameen Par (2007) (Role went to Aamir Khan) 


Yes, you read it right. Amol Gupte wrote the role of Ram Shankar Nikumbh with Akshaye in mind from start to finish during the scripting stage. Akshaye was even approached but delays occurred for the film to take off. The script eventually got into the hands of Aamir, who eventually decided to direct the film. Aamir wanting to portray the role of the teacher, spoke to Akshaye and Akshaye not wanting to dampen his friend’s vision was happy to step down and let Aamir continue to take on the role.

Sanju (Role went to Paresh Rawal) (2018)


Rajkumar Hirani knew that Sanju would be a film with a lot of prosthetics with characters playing a graph of age throughout but he wanted the best actors he could find. He approached Akshaye for the role of Sunil Dutt (ironically Akshaye’s dad, Vinod Khanna was launched by Sunil Dutt)  – Akshaye loved the script and the character but felt he did not want to play a father to the main lead actor, so he suggested to Hirani to approach Paresh Rawal. He even called Paresh Rawal and told him that the role suited him more and he would script – adding it would be Rawal’s standing performances of his career.





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