Rob Lowe is the latest Western actor to fall under Bollywood's spell, he admitted on Saturday at the world premiere of the Indo-Canadian film Breakaway (aka 'Speedy Singhs' in India).
Rob Lowe (PIC/ AFP)
"I like the nexus of Bollywood and Hollywood," said Lowe, who plays a hockey coach in the comedy about immigrant angst. "I'm actually shocked that there isn't more of a meld between our two industries."
The actor, following in the footsteps of Olivia Newton John, who announced at last year's Toronto film festival that she was in talks to star in her first Bollywood film and other Hollywood stars now filming in Mumbai, told a press conference: "If hockey in the movie is the way that these characters learn about assimilating, me doing this movie is how I learned about Bollywood."
Likewise, his Indian co-stars Akshay Kumar and Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi said they were keen to repeat their first "very successful" North American filming experience in Toronto. "I want to make more and more films here," Kumar said.
He said Bollywood, which signed a cooperation agreement last year with Hollywood and is in talks for a similar pact with Canada, is eager to expand its global appeal.
Arguably, cultural cross-over films such as Gurinder Chadha's "Bend It Like Beckham" (2002) and Danny Boyle's Academy Award-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) have whet the Westerner's appetite for more Indian films.
Kumar said Bollywood is hoping to build on that buzz. "The whole idea is to take Bollywood global, more and more. ('Breakaway' or 'Speedy Singhs') is just one more step towards it. And that's why I also want to produce more and more films here," he said.
Director Robert Lieberman noted that Bollywood films "have always been recognised. Now they're becoming commercially viable globally too."
That is certainly true in Toronto, where tens of thousands of fans swarmed a stadium in June for the 12th annual traveling Indian International Film Academy awards for a glimpse of dozens of Bollywood stars, as well as American Oscar-winners Hilary Swank and Cuba Gooding Jr. in attendance.
The film "Breakaway" was written by Vinay Virmani, and stars himself as a boy named Raj who dreams of playing hockey and fitting in, going as far as cutting his hair, which is forbidden to devout Sikhs, to look more Canadian.
He said he based the story on his and his Indo-Canadian friends' experiences growing up in Canada. "I've always struggled with balancing being Indian and Canadian," he said.
The film also stars his father Ajay Virmani, Indo-Canadian comedian Russell Peters and Anupam Kher.