It’s a good time for Indian actors, adding that more international filmmakers are keen on signing them on
By Sneha May Francis Published Saturday, April 06, 2013 Tabu (L) and Irrfan Khan, cast in the film 'Life of Pi', are pictured onstage during the inauguration of the 43rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) at Campal in Panaji. (AFP) Although Indian cinema didn’t get any recognition at the Oscars this year, its actors had much reason to celebrate. And, that’s an indication of good times ahead. Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Suraj Sharma made significant impact in Ang Lee’s spectacular visual drama ‘Life of Pi’, while Anupam Kher struck out as the kind shrink in the volatile love story ‘Silver Linings Playbook’. Both movies, with an imposing Indian cast, made a stunning impression at the Oscars this year. Much like how Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ did in 2009. It was déjà vu of sorts.
Gone are the days when Indian actors struggle to find a slot in Hollywood, and are often pushed to play insignificant supporting roles. The situation has changed incredibly since then. Actor Irrfan, whose movie ‘Life of Pie’ won multiple awards at the Oscars, claims that Hollywood is expanding its market. “India is in fashion now. They (Hollywood) are looking for possibilities, there will be lot many films which will be made in India, story will be based in India and actors will be from India,” he voiced at the India Today Conclave 2013. But, this isn’t the first time that Irrfan has soaked in the Hollywood spotlight. He has made lasting impressions in movies like ‘A Mighty Heart’, ‘The Namesake’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘New York I Love You’, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, and TV show ‘In Treatment’. ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was also the stepping stone for the relatively-unknown Frieda Pinto and actor Anil Kapoor.
She, in fact, spiraled into a huge star overnight. She is touted as a striking fashionista, and won many plum movie projects in Hollywood, namely ‘Miral’, ‘Immortals’, ‘Day of the falcon’, ‘Trishna’ and also a part in celebrated Woody Allen’s ‘You will meet a tall dark stranger’. Even today, Frieda holds an enviable position in Hollywood, despite having no acting background in India. Anil too has found much acceptance in Hollywood. Although his role in Tom Cruise’s adventure “Mission Impossible 4’, was a flash, he won a prominent part in the hugely-popular telly series ‘24’. “People in Hollywood are very broadminded and there is no stereotyping of Indian actors. The situation is very optimistic and there are lots of opportunities,” Anil told the Indian media. Veteran actor Anupam Kher’s part in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, where he shared screen space with Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, was equally noteworthy.
Even renowned filmmaker Steven Speilberg’s recent trip to India, showcases Hollywood’s huge interest in Bollywood. After having shot in India, way back in 1977 for ‘Close Encounters of The Third Kind’, Speilberg is reportedly planning to produce a movie , with Reliance, highlighting the situation in disputed Kashmir valley. The year 2013 further stresses this point. Iconic star Amitabh Bachchan will make his Hollywood debut in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. It’s going to be a brief appearance but he will follow it up with Mira Nair’s ‘Shantaram’ alongside Johnny Depp. Anupam will be seen next in Deepa Mehta’s ambitious ‘Midnight’s Children’, while Freida will be paired with Christian Bale in ‘Knight of Cups’.
Shabana Azmi, who has to her credit worked in a number of foreign films, among them John Schlesinger’s ‘Madame Sousatzka’, Nicholas Klotz’s ‘Bengali Night’, and Blake Edwards’ ‘Son of the Pink Panther’, will play an important part in Deepa Mehta’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ this year. Sultry siren Bipasha Basu has also made an entry with Roland Joffe’s ‘Singularity’. Back in the day, Bollywood had to struggle for parts, with icons like Naseeruddin Shah, Amrish Puri and Om Puri, finding small roles to play. Amrish Puri set the trend in 1984, with a menacing debut as Mola Ram in Speilberg’s ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’. Naseer found acceptance in ‘Monsoon Wedding’ (2001), and later found a slot in ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ (2003) alongside Sean Connery.
Om Puri started off with a cameo in the ‘Gandhi’ (1982), then played significant roles in ‘My Son the Fanatic’ (1997), ‘East is East’ (1999) and ‘The Parole Officer’ (2001). His Hollywood portfolio was for the poignant ‘City of Joy’ (1992). He later worked in ‘Wolf’ (1994), ‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ (1996) and as General Zia-ul-Haq in Charlie Wilson's ‘War’ (2007). From when Aamir Khan walked the Oscar red-carpet for ‘Lagaan’ in 2001, India has been slowly winning over the West. Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan followed it up with an appearance at the Cannes Film Fest in 2002 for ‘Devdas’. Aishwarya also attempted to find a slot in Hollywood, but her efforts in ‘Pink Panther 2’, ‘Provoked’, ‘Mistress of Spice’, ‘Bride and Prejudice’, and ‘The Last Legion’ found more criticism than approval.
Even raunchy actress Mallika Sherwat tried to make an impact, but didn’t. Her efforts in ‘The Myth’, ‘Hisss’ and ‘Politics of Love’ fizzled out. She, however, is determined to make it, and has made numerous rounds of Cannes, blended Milkshakes and even rented a place in LA. Looking at the current scenario, Hollywood is slowly warming up to Bollywood. “Hollywood is the biggest market. They know how to expand it and they have been doing it for years now.. Spain was in fashion so they had actors from Spain after that China came. They are trying to see different possibilities, they want to go beyond. They want to give variety to the audience,” reasons Irrfan.