Not only is Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, at par with 'The Khans' in terms of doling out back to back Rs 100 crore films (within a week of release), film-makers and studios are looking upto him as the most 'dependable and professional' brand to be associated with. "Akshay is one of the most commercially viable actors, who embodies that both value and volume can go together," points out Ajit Thakur, CEO, Trinity Pictures, the franchise arm of Eros International.
Unlike the Khans who release at the most one film a year or the likes of Aamir who probably does a film once in two years, Akshay does 4-5 films a year, all of which in the recent past have been huge hits (Baby, Airlift, Housefull 3, Rustom and Jolly LLB 2), thereby making him a star who generates much higher returns from an industry perspective. Not only is he up there in the volume game, Akshay has also shed his frivolous 'Khiladi ' image of yesteryear and has been betting on content driven films. "He ensures a full house four times a year, which is great for an industry that is struggling with a high entertainment tax structure, lack of adequate screens and also the whole proposition of film making is so tilted in favour of the stars that the industry hardly benefits," points out a former head of a leading film studio.
So why does casting Akshay Kumar make better business sense? The first and foremost reason that film-makers give is his sense of discipline. Kumar is always on time on the sets thus enabling the project to get completed on time. Akshay reportedly shoots a film in 40 days, while most of the big stars take 80-100 days. Finishing a project on time, points out a senior film-maker, saves humongous costs. "Production companies lose huge amounts when actors continuously report late for shoots." So, even if Kumar charges Rs 35-40 crore for a project, it makes immense economic sense as the production house doesn't need to shoot and incur costs for indefinitely long periods.
Apart from finishing his projects on time and not shooting for longer durations, Kumar is also increasingly getting into the co-production model, wherein he has a stake in the project. This not only increases his accountability, but also saves the production house/studio from paying him astronomically high fees. The actors' fee comprises anywhere between 50 to 80 per cent of a film's budget. "One of the reasons Disney exited the film business was the irrational component of actor fees. In the West, actor fee is less than 25 per cent of the project cost. If the rest of the industry mirrors Akshay, film-making would be a far more profitable business," remarks a film-maker.
Apart from the films that he does Kumar has also been endorsing over a dozen brands and also supports a number of social causes, which not only keeps his cash register ringing, but has also further added to his image of being a 'responsible celebrity'.