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Akshay the Do-Gooder

Rajeev Masand is Entertainment Editor and film critic at CNN-IBN
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After the Baddie Role | Where the Heart Leads

Akshay Kumar turned 50 last week, and the actor spent the weekend in Switzerland celebrating with his family and with his best friend, builder Vicky Oberoi who celebrates his birthday with Akshay. The birthday boys’ wives, both former actresses, Twinkle Khanna and Gayatri Joshi, reportedly planned an intimate celebration for their husbands and kids.

Only a few days before, Akshay tapped Vicky to make a generous donation towards the Bharat Ke Veer campaign that he is closely involved with. Akshay was instrumental in working with the Government to create a mobile app that allows citizens to log in and donate money directly to the families of martyred Indian soldiers. The actor has said he yanked out his rolodex and appealed to some of his ‘loaded’ friends, including Vicky and his Rustom producer Prerna Arora, to contribute generously, and he revealed that both made significant donations.

Commenting on Akshay’s recent interest in films with a strong social and civic message, his Special 26 and Baby director Neeraj Pandey— popularly credited with helping the actor re- invent his career—says that he’s very comfortable with the place he’s in and “doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone”. It’s one reason Neeraj believes Akshay has been putting his money where his mouth is.

After the Baddie Role

Shraddha Kapoor is already neck deep in preparation for playing badminton champ Saina Nehwal in a biopic of the sporting icon that will be directed by Stanley Ka Dabba’s Amole Gupte. The petite star told me she takes badminton lessons from as early as six every morning, and often exchanges messages with Saina when she has questions about how to approach key scenes in the script.

Only last week, Shraddha caught up with Saina in Hyderabad where the actress began rehearsals for her bilingual film Saaho with Baahubali superstar Prabhas, which she will wrap before diving into the Saina project. She was cagey when it came to talking about Saaho and her role in it, neither confirming nor denying rumours that she has a double role in the movie. What she did say is that it’s a “hardcore commercial film”, and that she’s already begun taking Telugu lessons.

Next week, Shraddha stars as Haseena Parkar in Apoorva Lakhia’s film about the Nagpada crime boss who carried on her brother Dawood Ibrahim’s nefarious businesses after he fled India in the 90s. Shraddha got to work with her brother Siddhant Kapoor who was cast as Dawood in the film, and the pair insisted that they had no inhibitions acting together. “We were actually very grateful for the opportunity. It’s not often that one gets to work with one’s sibling, and we were looking out for each other on the set,” she explains.

Where the Heart Leads

According to industry insiders, a prominent actress may be getting ready to tie the knot at the end of this year. She’s made no secret of the fact that she’s in a happy romantic relationship, and one has noticed lately that she has been spending more time travelling the world with her beau than on film sets.

However, she just began shooting a new film, and our sources say this may be the last one she completes before she gets swamped with wedding preparations.

The actress, who has shown entrepreneurial skills outside of acting, is not likely to give up her career once she’s wed, but there is the tricky issue of where she will set up home. Her partner’s family isn’t based in Mumbai, but those in her inner circle suspect she will want to stay closer to her own folks in Mumbai.

Her friends are saying this is the happiest she’s been in any of her relationships and that she doesn’t want anything to come in the way. Even her parents have reportedly encouraged her to follow her heart. No pressure to make more movies if she doesn’t want to.

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