Amitabh Bachchan in the Great Gatsby…

Mr Bachchan has recently been signed up to appear in a friendly role in Baz Luhrmann’s film, the Great Gatsby. The Great Gatsby has a stellar cast with my favorite actor Leonardo Di Caprio in the lead and I was expecting a chunkier role from Mr Bachchan in the Great Gatsby, certainly more than a friendly appearance in one scene! Mr Bachchan on his blog had quoted –

My participation in Baz Luhrmann’s film ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a mere one scene appearance as a friendly gesture. Baz Luhrmann during his private visit to India last year, had dropped by my office to meet me and presented me with some paintings of a prominent painter that was accompanying him. He called last month and wondered if I would do this small role in his film and I agreed. It is a gesture. I have refused any remuneration on this too.

As to why Baz chose to ask me, is something that perhaps he would be better placed to answer. I have gone down to Sydney and had a preliminary reading of the script with the entire cast and done hair makeup costume rehearsals. It has been a wonderful experience to be a part of their system and to observe with what detail and diligence they work.
The West and in particular Hollywood is of course aware of the Indian Film Industry. Whether this little presence of mine is designed to open up ‘flood gates for more actors and collaborations’, would be utterly presumptuous by any reckoning on my part. I would imagine if and when there is a need in their stories for someone from India to be tapped they shall do so ; you have rightly observed some of the artists from here that have.
Whether the presence of Indian actors in Hollywood films shall bring worldwide acceptance for our actors remains to be seen. I do believe that this phenomenon already exists. Indian actors are a recognizable force outside Indian shores as well. I may be wrong in my assessment here, but it has been statistically proven that a larger number of the world population watches Indian movies as opposed to Hollywood – 3.8 billion to 3.2 billion. Indian films have been a significant part of the lives of various countries, prominently in regions that have hitherto remained unknown or unaccounted for –the entire North African belt from Morocco to Egypt down to Kenya, South Africa, Mauritius and the East African coast to Nigeria and many central African nations, the Middle East, Far East, Russia and now China, Japan and Korea as well, not to mention the traditional USA, UK and Europe markets where a large percentage of our expatriates reside.
Stars from India getting global celebrity managers is an individual decision. Perhaps you are unaware, but many already do. Hollywood is a richer entity and has the advantage of a more universal language, but there are several examples that I have been personally witness to, where the Indian star, with all due respect, has garnered greater notice than his Hollywood counterpart.
At the end of the day we must remember a most basic fact. We are the Indian film Industry and they Hollywood from America. There shall always be a prominence to American actors in Hollywood, just as there is a prominence of Indian actors in Indian films. A ShahRukh, Salman or Aamir may well be an unknown face in one of the towns in Mid West USA, but so would a Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise in Yevatmal or Giridih. How many foreign stars have you noticed gaining prominence in Hollywood apart from that odd Omar Sharif, Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee ? Even British artists, which really should be considered, nation wise, as individuals from the same community, have a limited presence. And how many Hollywood stars do we see in our films ? Forget Hollywood, even artists from regional cinema in India have a rare presence in our own films – Hindi film artists in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam or Bengali films and vice versa.

My response –

Its funny how Hollywood did not get an Indian star to play the centric role of Gandhi and yet Ben Kingsley went on to play his greatest role ever with the movie winning 8 academy awards but, no taking any credit away from Sir Ben. An Indian, Rohini Hattangadi, Sayed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth etc played all the Indian characters besides Gandhi. In my opinion, I think we lost our best chance in 1982 itself to open the floodgates into Hollywood had an Indian played the centric role.
(I must hastily clarify that even if Sir Ben had a mixed lineage, his Father being Gujarati and his Mother English, I define Indian actors as those who work in the Indian film industry. Sayed & Roshan dabbled in both Indian and British films)

Any role of an Indian in Hollywood has been largely famous in the Merchant Ivory productions that did enlist some fine Indian talent from India. Shashi Kapoor pretty much was the popular Indian face in Merchant Ivory productions and gave him an international profile along with Amrish Puri, Om Puri and Shabana Azmi. Ismail Merchant was an Indian Muslim, the screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a German Jew was married to an Indian Parsi and lived in India in the 50s and 60s and James Ivory was an American Protestant. Mr. Merchant had once famously said that the three had a fine marriage. Because of the strong Indian influence in the Merchant Ivory team, their productions touched on experiences of both Indians and British in pre and post independent India, largely involving Indian men serenading British women in utmost colonial romance. I think Indian artists benefited a lot from MI’s vision. Shakespeare wallah and Bombay talkies are a favorite of mine, but Autobiography of a Princess that cast Madhur Jaffrey is magical, certainly not amongst the more popular MI productions. And yes, Bombay Talkies is more close to the heart because you were a mourner in that film!! Recall your blog where Mr. Kapoor was most upset with this.

Yes, you are right. Jackie Chan, Omar Sharif and Bruce Lee are foreigners made famous in America. But, you are limiting yourself to only Asians who have made it to Hollywood’s hall of fame, there were a few scattered Aussies like Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett,Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger, Mel Gibson, Hugh Jackman. Yes, maybe, they assimilated better in Hollywood than Asians did.

I would rather wish for Indian artists to play meaningful roles in International movies, one that suits their caliber and worth. You can have B grade Indian stars like Mallika Sherawat strutting with Jackie Chan to get some god-forsaken role and it barely matters even if they think they have achieved a fabulous crossover.

And then are the better known Indian faces today and A grade stars like Aishwarya, But, to be candid, I was extremely disappointed with Aishwarya’s role in the Pink Panther and yet a movie like Provoked was extraordinary in every sense, one that proved meritorious in more ways than one.

And I would not credit Anil Kapoor to be famously international as yet. Not even Kabir Bedi.

And one must not forget Irrfan Khan, the talented Actor who did a remarkable job in the Mighty Heart ( based on Daniel Peal’s murder ) and went on to win the Screen Actor’s guild award for outstanding award by cast in a motion picture for Slumdog Millionaire.

Regional artists do receive step motherly treatment in the Hindi movie industry. This would need more elaboration and would save it for another day. But, I can just say that it would take a Kamal Haasan or a Sri Devi to move from South to North. No such benchmarks for traveling the other way.

Of course Indian movies are seen worldwide, even by those who do not understand our language, so long as there is a song , a dance and maybe a bit of sub title running around somewhere. Our expat community is colossal, but, Indian movies are fascinating to even non-Indians like the way Chinese movies are to me. I can watch Chinese movies if they have the sub title thingy somewhere! But, I would not know who the hell is who, or would not be able to differentiate one from the other, even if I bump into the lead ( besides Jackie Chan of course ) in Tung Chung wet market! I would imagine this is the same case when it comes to Indian stars bar one Mr. Amitabh Bachchan in the eyes of the phirang. And you never had to act in international movies to be famous across the world. This is remarkable and a great achievement in every sense.

To cut this really short. I am really disappointed that you are sharing screen space with an actor I absolutely adore by the name Leo in a friendly scene alone. Lets just say that Baz has lost an opportunity here to utilize extraordinary you. I was honestly expecting this to be a lot bigger. Not that this friendly role will make you more famous that what you really are, but, I probably wanted more and maybe most of your fans do too. In fact, pretty much on the day you arrived in Sydney I knew you were there for the Great Gatsby and allowed my imagination to run wild. But, the day this movie releases, I would still state it is an intergalactic event that would have the world sitting up to watch you, a lot more than 3.8 billion.

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90 Responses to “Amitabh Bachchan in the Great Gatsby…”

  1. Anand Khare Says:

    Hi Shamz,

    Welcome to your own den. I was tired of reading the old stuff here already published on TOI blog.

    I think it is first time you have given a frank opinion on ‘Bigb’ and his ‘bahoo’ in Hollywood movies. Normally, you remain extremely partial in their favor in all your reviews involving them. Please accept my full appreciation on your candid views on state of Indian actors in the global scene

    I am really impressed by your knowledge on the subject.

    Anand

  2. Sharmila, Anand,

    Never mind where AB and his bahoo are. Where are our own folks? Where are Aish, MonaLisa, Shubha, Renate, Ninad, Smiles, Salman, Melwyn, Bush, Sonio, Maddy, Barney.

    I am glad you are back on home ground. Hope you are here to stay.

    I cannot tweet or facebook either. (Although the book marketing department has done a pretty good job. They have opened a website+twitter account+facebook account++++++ the list is endless. It appears on over 15 book sites including Amazon and I get about 10-15 responses everyday! Some brisk business that!)

  3. Here goes… call one:

    To whom-so-ever it gives nightmares

  4. Its good you put up Shammi Kapoor. A legend has gone since the last time you made an appearance. Great videos all! AB in SPS, dashing as ever..

  5. Shammi was the first bollywood star to have his own blog. He was also the first to begin an internet based social club out of his residence.

    Here is my all time tribute to his charisma:

    This one is in 3 parts:

    One

  6. Third one at the end of the movie is not on youtube!

  7. Back to call outs:

  8. Indian movie makers and hollywood have signed several commercial tie-ups after the Indian currency was liberalized and the RBI loosened up the disposal of foreign currency. Sony (Columbia), Warner, Reliance (Big Pictures), Dharma, Eros, UTV etc have joined up for territory and profit sharing.

    I believe that is not an indicator that one type of movie is going to be more preferred than the other.

    Indian, specially the mainstream commercial Hindi cinema is still in the musical romantic thrillers era that passed out of the hollywood market in the ’60s and ’70s.

    I think a real ground level partnership that could lead to a global harmony of aesthetics is too far from now.

    As Gurudev Tagore had imagined in his book “The Creative Man”, the ideal blend would be the techno-craft of the US and the family values in India; a mix I feel that can kick-start a new wave of cinema across the world.

    • I agree. But, this is only a financial leverage. There is no cross overs happening because of the tie ups and nor are they likely to happen in the near future. This is ABs debut in Hollywood. It should have been a lot bigger. A lost opportunity is all that I can say.

      • There seems to be an exchange of lower level performing artists on a rather small scale. I have seen Sylvester Stallone in an Akshay Kumar action flick. He appears for 30 seconds and speaks something in Hindi.

        Katrina Kaif is a British citizen who was brought to Mumbai by Salman Khan .

        And nowadays a good number of junior artists from the caucasius are camping in Mumbai.

        The GenNext of both the industries are probably going to see a very healthy exchange of good talent.

        AB surely does not belong to that generation. I guess he would thank his fortunes to be at the beginning of the process.

  9. Like Aamir with Tom Hanks? Or SRK with err.. not sure, Salman with Van Damme..

  10. Hmmm.. lets imagine how the cast would like.

    Holly-Bolly Productions
    Presents

    James Cameron’s

    AVATAR – II

    Starring:

    Pratiek Babbar as Jake Sully, the Na’vi Hybrid

    Scarlett Johansson as Neytiri, the princess of the Na’vi clan

    Shabana Azmi as Dr. Grace Augustine, likes the plants of Pandora more than humans

    Deepika Padukone as Trudy Chacon, beautiful and dedicated to someone else’s cause

    Prakash Raj as Parker Selfridge, the CEO of the mining company

    Woody Allen as Tsu’Tey, the one in the Na’vi clan who is suspicious of Jake initially

    Will Smith as Colonel Quaritch, leading the army to exterminate the Na’vi clan

    Raveena Tandon as Moha, Neytiri’s mother

    Special Effects Supervisor: R. Balki

    Art Director: Ram Gopal Verma

    Make up: Rajinikanth

    Costumes: Demi Moore

    Stunts: Salman Khan

    Lyrics: Sharmila Ravinder

    Music copied from original by: Anu Malik

    Voice over artists: Amitabh Bachchan for Will Smith, Justin Bieber for Deepika Padukone, Shahrukh Khan for Pratiek Babbar, George Cloony for Scarlett Johannson, Goldie Hawn for Prakash Raj, Hema Malini for Woody Allen, Rajinikanth for Shabana Azmi and Mayawati for Raveena Tandon.

    Note: The movie will be banned in India for the first two weeks for gender discrimination between the voices and characters.

    It will be premiered at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. After that we expect it will make US$100m on day one.

  11. A brief one about Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi and Ben Kingsley’s performance:

    For a cinematic depiction of what Gandhi’s persona means to the world, I think, Ben Kingsley has done a good job. His on-the-edge expressions in the eyes (of almost crazy excitement) every time he is confronted with an opportunity to make an emphatic change in the system, are precisely what Gandhi means to those who benefitted from his work. In reality, the dark, frail, short man was hardly heroic in appearance. If the movie had tried to show him as he was, it might probably have done injustice to the message that Gandhi’s life teaches the world.

    Cinema need not be a documentary. Far from it. I expect it to be true to the originality of the protagonist, not the mundane.

    Also on an aside, I think Ben Kingsley did an equally good job with Lenin.

  12. And one on Jackie Chan:

    If we were to pick just one name among all non-Europeans and non-Americans who made it to the big league in Hollywood, that would be Jackie Chan – and entirely on the merit of his skills!

    Many have tried to replicate his kind of action sequences (Chuck Norris and some other chinese names too) but no one has come anywhere close to Jackie’s class- the wonderful mix of real action and thrills laced with a not-too-subtle humor.

    I can’t see any pretenders of Indian origin on American soil who can do what Jackie Chan has done.

  13. On Omar Sheriff, I think he was a better player of Contract Bridge (The card game) than an actor, although he got better BO reviews for his cameo in Mackena’s Gold (“Coffee for the Seargent?”) than Gergory Peck.

  14. On Shashi Kapoor.

    Shashi Kapoor married a foreigner. His daughter Sanjana and son Karan (?) have both taken the looks of their mother – azure eyes, pale skin and blonde hair.

    Raj Kapoor treated him more like a son rather than a brother. After the partition, Raj Kapoor had joined his father doing theater on the streets of Calcutta and later Mumbai.

    (My father would often recall a play called “Deewar” based on the Indo-Pak partition in which Raj Kapoor played the young Mohammad Ali Jinaah opposite his father Prithviraj Kapoor. The play would never complete all the three acts. By the middle of the third act people would rush on the stage to beat Raj Kapoor (or rather the character of Jinnah) and he would flee from the stage.)

    Shashi Kapoor was sent to England for studies (paid by Raj Kapoor who had set up the RK studios by then for producing movies). While Raj had a raw emotive presence of a son-of-the-soil on screen, Shashi was a completely refined act!

    There is just one thing that is common to all Kapoors regardless of their individual characteristics. No Kapoor has ever needed to provide evidence of being a patriotic Indian. It is so obvious in everything about them and everything they do.

    That is unlike many other celebrities in India who have to keep reminding their audience of their Indian-ness.

  15. Titbits:

    Someone remarked the other day that Shatrughan Sinha’s daughter Sonakshi Sinha looks like Reena Roy. Strange.

    I must ask Shotgun to publish his wife poonam’s photo even if only to clear the muddle!

    Something similar had come across the line when Bobby was released. Raj Kapoor presented Dimple in such a way that she looked like the living image of Nargis! It was not till I saw the Kapadia family photo that I realized the striking similarity was just as a coincidence!

  16. Here I go away for the night… this one is for the road…

  17. And back…

    Here is a clip of Shashi Kapoor’s daughter:

  18. Shashi Kapoor loved his morning walks… here is how and why…

  19. Here is Dimple in Bobby, with Nargis written all over her! Raj Kapoor was a diehard romantic and knew how to say it…

  20. The original pair: Nargis and Raj Kapoor

    (Hope it shows up. Damn Shemaroo videos have snatched all the playrights.)

  21. There must be a better and quicker way to get all the readers back to this page. How?

    Yes. This is what I’ll do. I’ll post an individual call-out to each person who I presume is missing in action. Hmmm… the SMC router in my office prohibits youtube… must wait till close of business and till I get back to my nest. Its not fun without youtube links.

    So I’ll only make a list of the names for now and post the call-outs in the evening:

    1. Aishwarya TVM

    2. MonaLisa

    3. Renate

    4. Shubha

    5. Murali (I guess he’d be on tweeter or FB.)

    6. Smiles (I don’t know anything about Smiles, so I may just put up a Gopal-Krishna bhajan or something)

    7. Lakshmi (Is it too late to call a shrink?)

  22. How beautiful does Nargis look! A million bucks n more..

  23. Call out for Aishwarya TVM.

    Disclaimer: Nargis is not Raj Kapoors Nargis. Nargis is a flower that is found in deep forests and blooms on rare moments if and when sunlight manages to reach the plant.

    A famous urdu couplet goes as follows:

    Hazaaron saal Nargis apni benoori pe roti hai
    Badi mushkil se hota chaman mein deedawar paida

    … … … For a thousand years does Nargis weep over cimmerian darkness
    … … … The one with the light arrives in the garden with great difficulty

  24. Call out for MonaLisa. This space is really incomplete without you… come back.. as you were.. don’t grow up… pleeeeeeeze…

    • Jesus, its been eons wince I have hear from the gregarious ML!

    • I don’t think MonaLisa is ever going to be back. My Haruspical experiment was a disaster! It put her off completely.

      Have you seen her on AB’s blog or anywhere else? If you have her email ID, you could send her a loud E-greeting from me… something with a chaplinsque finese…

  25. Call out for Renate. You can stay on AB’s blog forever if you wish. I know Sharmila and many of her friends are there too. I don’t hold that against anyone. Not my concern. You can say ‘Hi’ here too…. na?

  26. Call out for Shubha. I know you are never too far away.

    This song is sung by Lata Mangeshkar but whats more the music is also composed by her. Its her first composition as a music director.

  27. Call out for Ninad, Salman and Melwyn.

  28. Call out for Smiles.

  29. This is for Murali. I know you are around.

  30. Call out for Lakshmi Jag. This is only the trailer. 🙂

    • This one I think is the best. Nothing like a real hidimba scare.

      My niece was 7 years old when she wrote an essay in her class on ‘My favorite TV serial’. Her favorite was ‘Zee horror show’!

      And when we asked her why, she said she liked to scare or alarm people. She would imagine herself in the role of the spook!

      Incidently her name is also Kanchan. Lives in New Jersey now with her husband and kid.

      So, you see, this strain runs in our family! 🙂

  31. Sharmila,

    This is about the Varun-Gandhi-better-than-Rahul-Gandhi post a few pages earlier.

    Varun Gandhi is a pretty disoriented guy. He is a Muslim fighting the cause of Hindus in his constituency. Nothing is more confusing to the simple small town voter.

    Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi were brothers, sons of Feroz Khan who changed his surname to Gandhi. Varun is Sanjay’s son.

    His politics is confounding even the BJP leaders!

    I mean, you can’t call on Allah to kill all the Muslims on earth. It’s not polite.

    Not that Rahul is any better. But I don’t think there is anything fear from either.

  32. Sharmila

    This one is on your post about the cat fight between Arundhati Roy and Shalini Singh over Anna Hazare’s locus standi.

    I feel, even though Anna Hazare is a confirmed bachelor, he would agree with Shalini Singh – neither because of what Shalini Singh has said nor because of what Arundhati Roy has forgotten to say – but simply because Anna Hazare does not understand English and Shalini Singh looks more hygienic than Arundhati Roy.

    Arundhati hasn’t had a proper bath since winning her Booker Prize; for some strange and undisclosed reason, her God of small things doesn’t supply bathing soap.

  33. On your vacation in Bali:

    Who called you a communal witch?

    Thats unfair…. to the creed of witches I mean. And who said you were supporting the opposition parties? Thats unfair to you.

    Look at the ground reality of politics:

    Following are the ruling parties in the major states:

    Jammu: BJP

    Himachal: BJP

    Punjab: Akali Dal

    Rajasthan: BJP

    Gujarat: BJP

    Madhya Pradesh: BJP

    Uttar Pradesh: Mayawati’s BSP

    Uttarachal: BJP

    West Bengal: Mamta’s Trinamool

    Orissa: Biju Janta Dal

    Andhra Pradesh: No one since the death of YSR

    Karnataka: BJP

    Tamil Nadu: AIADMK

    Kerala: Muslim-Christian coalition under the Congress

    Maharshtra: Congress coalition with Sharad Pawar’s NCP

    So, if you were supporting the opposition you would be actually supporting the Congress!

  34. So Aish just posts videos and disappears?? .. !

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