Akshay, PM Modi, Rajinikanth - Who Survived Bear Grylls Better?

Akshay Kumar, PM Narendra Modi and Rajinikanth have been part of Into The Wild With Bear Grylls.

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<i>Into The Wild</i> With Bear Grylls: PM Narendra Modi, Akshay Kumar and Rajinikanth with Bear Grylls in episodes of <i>Into The Wild</i>.
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“Aye Bhalu,” goes a cheerful Akshay Kumar as he arrives on a set that’s a tad different from the ones he’s used to—the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka. Waiting for him there is the best-known bhalu on television, Bear Grylls.

The new season of Into The Wild with Bear Grylls promises to reveal the real person behind the icon and throws some of India’s biggest celebrities into that most uncomfortable situations, known to some as the great outdoors.

A well-known former British trooper and survivalist, Grylls has made a stellar career out of drinking his own pee on television, and when the promos of the episode featured Akshay Kumar talking about drinking gaumutra (cow urine) every day, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to tune in.

Would this be the greatest pee-off in television history? Would their cups brimmeth over? Would any animals be squeezed in the making of this episode?

I had so many questions, so many. Turns out there wasn’t any pee-drinking at all, but they did make a heady brew of sorts out of elephant dung, which Akshay drank with more ease than Grylls. Akshay 1, Bear 0. Akshay also pulled out laddoos made of the gum of the apricot tree, something recommended by his Ayurvedic doctor. He then went into a cautionary tale about eating too many of these laddoos—one that featured a director of his who “shat blood” the next day. You could literally see the Bear shivering in his shoes. Akshay 2, Bear 0.

Akshay Kumar and Bear Grylls in a still from <i>Into The Wild</i>.
Akshay Kumar and Bear Grylls in a still from Into The Wild.
(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

The rest of the episode pretty much plays out as one expects it to—zip-lining across a supposedly croc-filled river, climbing trees and doing khiladi kind of stuff. Akshay also opens up about his early days in the industry, his days in Bangkok learning martial arts and working as a waiter and getting tipped by the ladies with a peck on the cheek.

They speak about their families, the pressures of being a celebrity and Akshay talks about his son not wanting people to know whose son he is. The British survivalist proves that his survival instincts are better than most when he adopts that tried and tested trope of having pre-recorded inspirational messages from other celebrities a-la Koffee with Karan—these he produces every now and then on an iPad and plays them for his superstar guest. What better shot of adrenalin than a bit of an ego boost, huh?

One can’t help feeling that the episode was a bit of a let down though. Bear Grylls has done a lot of celebrity episodes in the past and while one expects a little sanitisation with celeb guests, the boundaries could perhaps have been pushed a little further.

Who can forget Jake Gyllenhaal leading Bear though a blizzard, with the danger of falling through hidden crevices? Or Michelle Rodriguez boiling a dead rat in a cup of her own urine and then taking a big chunk out of it? If there was one actor in this country who could have given the show a moment like this, it would have been Akshay Kumar. And that’s probably a missed opportunity.

And since we’re speaking of Indians making appearances in the wild with Bear Grylls, can one forget the man who started it all—our own very PM Narendra Modi, in a special 2019 episode of Man vs Wild shot at Jim Corbett National Park. Modi has been a public figure for a few decades now but I am sure no one has ever asked him on camera if his ‘underpants are dry’ after crossing a river in a (pre-made) coracle. I am happy to report that he said he’ll ‘get through the day’. This ‘romanchak’ journey had the PM stroll through a forest and grassland, followed by a river crossing and a shared bottle of sweet neem water with Bear on the pebbly riverbank. He might have been two hours late to the rendezvous point but Modi kept Bear enthralled through their adventure together with stories about the natural hack he used for ironing his school uniform and that time when his mother scolded him for bringing home a baby crocodile. The episode might have been low on the action meter, but definitely had its moments of light-hearted banter and humour, with strong messages of conservationism thrown in.

Narendra Modi and Bear Grylls in an episode from <i>Man vs Wild</i>.
Narendra Modi and Bear Grylls in an episode from Man vs Wild.
(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

So, six months back, did Rajinikanth do it better? Given he’s 70 years old, the bar for action is obviously lower than that which was set for Akshay Kumar. The bar for style though… can one really set one when it’s Thalaiva? He arrives at the reserve driving a scarlet ATV. When he dismounts, the shades come off in trademark style and another swish of his hand makes the vehicle behind him disappear. He even teaches Bear “the Rajini way” of putting on one’s shades at one point in the episode.

Rajinikanth and Bear Grylls.
Rajinikanth and Bear Grylls.
(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

In between all the action, he talks about his early years as a bus conductor in Bengaluru, he talks about family and the importance of values, and he talks about the need to conserve water, that one resource humanity can’t do without. He talks mostly in Tamil, but such is the power of Rajinikanth that Bear seems to understand every word he’s saying.

That episode also had a few ‘awww’ moments, which inevitably seem to happen every time you see Superstar Rajini in his human form. He changes a tyre for the first time in his life; he scales a slope; he crosses a river holding Bear's hand. There’s a sense of excitement on his face through out, even when he scrapes his knuckles and there’s real blood. It’s like watching a 5-year-old child experiencing something for the first time and it’s what stays with you. When he exclaims at one point, “This is the craziest day of my life,” you know you’ve seen television gold.

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