Bollywood seems to be taking Andy Warhol’s famous “15 minutes of fame” philosophy seriously.
Indian characters such as the accented Dr Rajit Ratha (Irrfan) in The Amazing Spider-Man and the lecherous businessman, Brij Nath (Anil Kapoor) in Mission Impossible 4 have blink-and-miss-it appearances, but that is not affecting the eagerness with which the biggest Bollywood actors sign up to play the teensiest of roles in Hollywood projects.
Film critic Rashid Irani calls them “glorified cameos”, explaining, “It’s the glamour of being part of mainstream Hollywood.”
The role remained insignificant for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Pink Panther 2 (2009), and we hear it’s likely to be the same for Amitabh Bachchan in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. “Acceptability of Indian stars is very marginal,” says Gulshan Grover, who has been a Hollywood regular.
And it’s not just the actors who are fascinated by Hollywood. Trade analyst Amod Mehra says, “I’m sure a section of the audience would go just to see a big Indian actor. Even way back in 1958, when I.S Johar did Harry Black And The Tiger, Indians flocked to see the stupid film.”
Author and film critic Anupama Chopra reckons actors take up these projects for the experience: “No cinema is global in the way Hollywood is. It’s bigger than our industry — in terms of scale, reach and money.”
She adds: “I don’t think anyone in Hollywood is specifically writing small roles for Indian actors to appeal to the desi audience. If that was the case, they would want to woo the Chinese.”
But even a few seconds of desi-ness, and the film makes it big at the Indian box office. What else would explain a scene in The Avengers, shot in Mexico, being passed off as a slum in Calcutta? Even Christopher Nolan’s much-awaited Dark Knight Rises is meant to have a scene in India.Role call
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: Sonia Solandres in Pink Panther 2 (2009)
Anil Kapoor: Brij Nath in Mission Impossible 4 (2011); President Omar Hassan in 24 (2010, TV series); Game-show host in Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Irrfan: Dr Ratha in The Amazing Spider-Man; Older Pi in Life of Pi (unreleased)
Tabu: Young Pi’s mother in Life of Pi (unreleased)
Amitabh Bachchan: Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby (unreleased)
Anupam Kher: Dia’s father in You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger (2010); Dr Patel in Silver Linings Playbook (unreleased)Actor:
The Great GatsbyDuration of role:
Only a few seconds Actor:
Mission Impossible 4Duration of role:
About 10 min Actor:
The Amazing Spider-ManDuration of role:
Approx 7 min