With the news about Nargis Fakhri letting go off a meaty role in a Bollywood film for a Hollywood project trickling in, the spotlight is on how Bollywood actors strive for a part in the West. Whether the role is substantial or belongs to the blink-and-you-miss-it variety will be known when the film releases. But intermittently, there is always talk about how some star (big or small) has been approached by a leading Hollywood filmmaker. The truth is, most think bagging a role, however teeny-weeny in a Hollywood film, is a step ahead of Hindi films.
Last year there was buzz that Deepika Padukone turned down Fast and Furious 7 as it was clashing with Ram Leela. The actress is open to doing roles in the West irrespective of length if the character is a strong one. Apart from Dippy, there was buzz that a whole lot of actresses from Sonam Kapoor to starlets like Rekha Rana had been approached for Fast and Furious 7.
Remember Bipasha Basu’s outing in Roland Joffe’s Singularity, which was filmed in 2010? She was linked with co-star Josh Hartnett. The film, shot in Australia and India, hasn’t seen the light of day.
A Bollywood insider says, “Bollywood has always been fascinated by Hollywood. They lift their stories and ideas, and now want to be part of it. The actors think that it adds to their star value if a Hollywood production house is showing interest in them. They feel that they will be put on a global platform.”
Starlet Richa Chadha claims that she had not one, but three Hollywood offers. She had to turn each of them down, as she was not comfortable doing intimate scenes that required her to go nude. “It has something to do with Indian psyche; I can not do nude scenes,” she had stated then. Ask her about the people involved and she is evasive. She says that since she is not a part of the film, she doesn’t want to talk about it.
Another starlet, Neetu Chandra, was wooed by the West and she managed to do a Greek film. What happened to it is not clear anymore. Her PR team went into an overdrive claiming that Neetu was mistaken for a Spanish actress and that she was roped in to play the lead in a film called Island of the Blue Dolphins. The film was said to be directed by Joe Johnston (of Jumanji and Captain America fame). It was later discovered that there was no such film as some fraudsters had conducted fake auditions on Skype.
Among recent examples is R Madhavan, who is part of Night Of The Living Dead: Origins, produced by Simon West of Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider fame. It is a remake of 1968 zombie film, Night Of The Living Dead. In an interview he stated that India is a popular flavour in Hollywood. “They (filmmakers) suddenly realised that Indian actors get more eyeballs than Hollywood actors,” he said.
Says the insider, “Actors feel a sense of importance when they star in Hollywood films. They feel that there is a bigger platform out there and they might just get noticed. It exposes them to another style of working and proves to be a learning experience.”
Anil Kapoor, who had a significant role in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008), did go on to be a part of the TV series, 24, and Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011), where he had a now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t role. While Mallika Sherawat starred alongside Jackie Chan in the 2005 film, The Myth, her Hollywood career petered out as she landed forgettable roles in films like Hiss (2010) and Politics of Love (2011), which never hit the marquee. Sherawat shuttles between Mumbai and Los Angeles still hoping to revive her career.
Over three years ago, there was news that Shah Rukh Khan and Hollywood star Leonardo Di Caprio would come together for Paul Schrader’s Xtreme City which would be produced by Martin Scorsese. Nothing happened on that front. Amitabh Bachchan, however, did share screen space with Leo in The Great Gatsby where he had a rather disappointing cameo. Big B definitely deserved better.
Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan starred in 'The Pink Panther 2' (2009) and The Last Legion (2007).
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Naseeruddin Shah was part of the 2003 superhero film adaptation, 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'.
Victor Banerjee starred in David Lean’s last film, 'A Passage To India' (1984).
Roshan Seth played Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in Gandhi (1982). He also starred in the 1994 action flick, 'Street Fighter'.
Amrish Puri featured in 'Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom' (1984).
Persis Khambatta is best remembered for going bald in 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' (1979).
They made the cut
Irrfan’s list includes 'The Amazing Spiderman' (2012); 'New York, I Love You' (2009); 'The Namesake' (2006); and 'Life of Pi' (2012). He will also star in 'Jurassic Park 4'.
Anupam Kher was part of 2012’s highly-acclaimed film, 'Silver Linings Playbook', where he essayed the role of a therapist.
Suraj Sharma impressed one and all in Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi' (2012).
Tabu has been part of films like Mira Nair’s 'The Namesake' (2006) and 'Life of Pi' (2012).
Om Puri starred in the 1996 film, 'The Ghost and the Darkness'. He was also part of the Jack Nicholson-starrer, 'Wolf' (1994). In 2007, he featured in Charlie Wilson's 'War'. He has starred in British films such as 'My Son the Fanatic' (1997), 'East Is East' (1999) and 'The Parole Officer' (2001).
He was there too
In 2006, TV actor Gaurav Chopra ('Piya Ka Ghar', 'Uttaran') announced that he had starred in 'Blood Diamond', which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly.
The actor was in South Africa for a musical, when he bagged the role of a journalist through a local casting director. It was a miniscule role. Back home, he narrated stories of how Leo mistook him for a Brazilian, and that Jennifer expressed interest in astrology and numerology.