Indian actors have been making brief appearances in Hollywood films. But things are different now. Cameos are turning into substantial roles for Bollywood A-listers like Anil Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan.
Right now, Anil Kapoor is in talks with director Anand Tucker of Leap Year fame for a Hollywood film titled The Indian Sherlock. The actor has earlier starred in crossover films like Slumdog Millionaire and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.
The Indian Sherlock is reportedly a mystery-thriller based in modern India. The story revolves around the investigation methods of the Punjabi character, Vish Puri. When contacted, Kapoor confirmed the development to Hindustan Times. “Yes, I have been approached, but nothing is finalised yet. Let’s see how things go,” said the actor.
It's not only Kapoor who's making waves overseas, more and more mainstream actors are dabbling into Hollywood projects. So when Shabana Azmi makes news for Kathryn Bigelow's next Zero Dark Thirty, you are not surprised.
Recently the first promo of Bipasha Basu's Hollywood debut Singularity hit the web. The actor plays a Maratha warrior in the film opposite Josh Harnett and by the look of it, she seems to have done justice to her role.
Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor
Directed by Roland Joffé, Singularity is a time travel adventure film set against the backdrop of the first Anglo-Maratha war across two time periods and continents. The film is centred around four characters and Bipasha is one of them.
"Bollywood actors work a lot. I remember I could not fit my dates for Singularity. Roland Joffe (director) wanted me to train for a month and I could get only a week. There was a time when Roland would have dropped me because I was not giving enough time for the preparations," Bipasha told PTI.
Bipasha Basu in a still from Singularity
Interestingly, Aishwarya Rai's blink-and-miss performance in Pink Panther 2 was more talked about than Bipasha's full fledged role in Singularity. Probably India has got used to Bollywood stars venturing into Hollywood now.
That's probably why when Amitabh Bachchan signed Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, it made news, but it did not hog millions and millions of newsprints.
Big B revealed on his blog that he had "refused any remuneration" for his portrayal of shady businessman Meyer Wolfsheim in the film. He said he had agreed to join the cast – in his Hollywood debut – as a favour to Luhrmann.
"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 who was accompanying him," Bachchan wrote. "He called last month and wondered if I would do this small role in his film, and I agreed. It is a gesture," he said at the time.
Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan
Irrfan Khan is portraying the role of Dr Ratha in the next installment of Spiderman titled The Amazing Spiderman. The film is being directed by Marc Webb.
Dr Ratha is a key character in the film, the face of the research laboratory Oscorp and a close associate of Dr Curt Connors aka The Lizard, who plays Peter Parker's dad's ex-business associate.
Ask Irrfan, how the project came through, this is what he had to say, "It just happened. I still don't have a PR. International films didn't come to me because of P Rs. It came to me because of my work. It came to me because I was destined to work there,” he told IANS.
Apart from Spiderman 4, Irrfan Khan is also doing Ang Lee's Life of Pi. Based on the Yann Martel bestseller, the drama tells of a boy named Pi (Suraj Sharma) who is stranded at sea for months on end, along with a tiger named Richard Parker, a hyena, a zebra and an orangutan.
Set for a 3D release in December, Life of Pi co-stars Tobey Maguire, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain and Gerard Depardieu.
Indian actors' previous Hollywood outings
Aishwarya Rai in Pink Panther 2: Aishwarya Rai played a camero in Harald Zwart's spy comedy film The Pink Panther 2. She played the role of criminology expert Sonia Solandres. The film however failed to sizzle the BO.
Anil Kapoor in Mission Impossible 4 and Slumdog Millionaire: He played a villain in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and a role with negative shades in Slumdog Millionaire.
Mallika Sherawat in Myth, Hisss and Love, Barack, Obama: Though she has an impressive list of Hollywood films to show off in her CV, a Hollywood hit still eludes the actress.
Om Puri in East is East and West is West: Om Puri portrayed a first-generation Pakistani immigrant in the north of England, struggling to come to terms with his far more westernised children. He also worked in the sequel to the film West is West.
Naseeruddin in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: He played Captain Nemo in the Hollywood comic book adaptation The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Kabir Bedi in Octopussy: He played the role of villainous Gobinda in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy.