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Reverse swing

If our entertainment industries are pulling in talent from all over the world, there are good reasons. Five outsiders turned insiders tell us why.

bollywood Updated: Apr 02, 2011 16:08 IST
Kavita Devgan

For every Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan and Anil Kapoor who’s getting work abroad, there’s a foreign artiste of Indian or sub-continental origin getting work here. That’s not new. Our entertainment industries have always welcomed foreign talent. But this time, the pull is more powerful. Five outsiders turned insiders tell us why.



Ali Zafar: ‘My talent will be nurtured’



Why India?

Why not?



What was your first assignment?

Abhishek Sharma, the director of Tere Bin Laden, had seen me in my music videos and had perhaps seen his character in me. He got in touch through a common friend, Rashid Khwaja (a media personality in Pakistan). I came in and did an audition for a scene and heard the narration, after which we both wanted to work with each other.



Ali ZafarIs work culture different here?

The industry here has had the chance to groom itself and evolve over many years, which our industry in Pakistan hasn’t had. So this industry is producing many more films than ours. So simultaneously, the work culture has also evolved to be professional and organised.



What’s your biggest work challenge – and advantage?

The challenge is to be able to make my name in a population flooded with talent even though I’m not from here. The biggest advantage is that infrastructure allows my talent to be noticed, nurtured and exploited to its maximum potential.

Any interesting incidents to share?
Well, my co-actor Nikhil who plays Gul in the movie, and I suffered a minor accident which somehow felt funny to me. It was when I was riding the bike to take it uphill and the bike slipped. Had it slipped on the wrong side, we would have died. And while this was happening, I went into fits of laughter.

Do you come and go according to assignments?
I have an agent for films, one for PR and one for shows and appearances. As of now, I come here, finish assignments and go back, by virtue of which I end up spending a lot more time here than there.

What are you doing now?
I just released my third album, Jhoom. It is different from my previous work in that it is more spiritual, soulful and mellow. I’m also working on Mere Brother Ki Dulhan with Yash Raj.

Who’s on your work wish list?
Raju Hirani, Gulzar sahab, Mr Amitabh Bachchan and the Khans.

This US-based Pakistani artist is making waves in India not just as a singer but also as an actor. After a fairly successful first film, Tere Bin Laden, he is now working with the Yash Raj banner on Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.

Preeti Desai: ‘I work with the best’

Why India?
Well, I was born in England and like many British Asians, I grew up watching Hindi films. I really didn’t plan on acting but after I won the Miss Great Britain title, I got offers to model and even offers to act in films. I ran a beauty business in England, I left that for work in India. Honestly, it was a bit impulsive and a bit planned.

What was your first assignment?
It was the cover of L’Officiel magazine with Shah Rukh Khan. My second assignment was the Kingfisher swimsuit calendar.

Is work culture different here?
Yes. I did feel a sense of culture shock when I first arrived. In England, I was a beauty therapist and my life was very different from what it is now here in India. But now, I have met and worked with some of the best designers in India, modelling has gone well and now I have taken my first step into the world of acting. I do miss home, my family lives there, but India is home for me now.

What’s your biggest work challenge – and advantage?
I grew up speaking two languages at home, English and Gujarati. I wish there was more Gujarati spoken in Hindi films! So language is my first work challenge. I’m sure I will face many more challenges along the way – it does not matter if I’m in India or in England. My advantage is I am a secure person, I’m not in a rush, when I put my mind to something, I pursue it with a steady focus.

Do you come and go according to assignments?
I’m working in India full time, I have an apartment in Mumbai. My assignments keep me in India most of the time and now I am in the process of getting myself a new agent. I have been working independently for the past few months.

Do you plan to live here permanently?
It’s been three years in India for me now. I’m definitely going to buy a house here. I do have a home in England, and my ideal life would be to live out of both countries.

What are you doing now?
I’m very happy modelling; I haven’t made a complete transition into films yet. Films are on my work wish list. Shor is a step in that direction. I’d like to see where this will lead.

What’s that special something you think you can offer India?
It’s not about making it big. It’s about doing work I can be proud of. I’m still growing as an artist. I don’t know what my USP is as yet. That is something I am still to discover.

Preeti Desai was crowned Miss Great Britain in 2006. Although modelling brought her to India, she’s finally signed the thriller Shor with Balaji Films, her first ever movie. Happy with her modelling assignments, she’s nevertheless curious about how she will fare in films. Shor is set to release by the end of this month.

Pallavi Sharda: ‘It’s the best for me’

Why India?
I’ve wanted to be a film actress ever since I can remember. When I finished studying at Melbourne University, I jumped on a plane to Mumbai – there was nowhere else to realise my dream. Being an actress with South Asian looks in Australia it is not so straightforward to obtain lead roles on screen.

What was your first assignment?
Dus Tola with Manoj Bajpai in 2010. Next, just a week later was the crossover Indo-American film Walkaway, which was released in the US and is yet to be released in India.

Is work culture different here?
The film industry here is still a little unorganised and lacks the procedures which protect artists the way they do in the USA and Australia.

What’s your biggest work challenge – and advantage?
The biggest challenge was coming to Mumbai without knowing a soul or having any understanding of the city. But I consider the challenge of manoeuvring Mumbai the city and Mumbai’s entertainment industry a big advantage in the long run. Everything I’ve achieved has been through my own sweat and blood and based on merit. It is working hard that pays off and lets me sleep at night.

Any interesting incidents to share?
I remember a trip to Pune for Dus Tola, in which Manoj Bajpai and I did a college visit – the energy was electric! This was the first time I’d felt the pulse of a live crowd as a Bollywood actress. It was so humbling to see how films and film actors play such an important role in the lives of the Indian public.

Do you come and go according to assignments?
For 18 months, I lived out of suitcases, travelling wherever my projects took me and maintaining my home in Melbourne. However, in 2009 I chose to shift base to Mumbai. My main agent is based in New York and I also have one in Melbourne for Australian projects. In Mumbai, there isn’t really an organised ‘actor’s agent’ service so I have had to rely on word of mouth for projects.

Do you plan to live here permanently?
I don’t know about permanently, but I’m a Bandra girl for the indefinite future!

What are you doing now?
I’ve just started shooting for Love, Breakups, Zindagi, directed by Sahil Sangha in which I play a leading role.

What’s that special something you think you can offer India?
I love performing. It is what I do best. I also think and work hard. These elements combined are sure to create a worthwhile result. Also if I’ve managed to leave the life of a lawyer behind in Australia and pursue my dream of acting in Mumbai there is a reason for it. It really is about the journey for me.

Born and brought up in Australia, Pallavi was Miss India Australia 2010. She came into Bollywood with a cameo in My Name Is Khan, then had an unusual double debut this year with Dus Tola and Walkaway releasing within a week of each other. She choreographed her own dances in Dus Tola.

Sarita Choudhary: ‘The industry is changing’

Why India?
I feel I am ready. The industry is changing, there is great independent cinema, plus there is a burst of talent – fresh writers, daring scripts. I would love to be part of it. And nothing beats the food and family sense that I get in India.

Is work culture different here?
In India, the actor seems to have a lot of power. In America, the director or producer does. But really, it’s all the same if you work with talented people.

Is there something unique about working here?
I love going to the sets early in the morning in both Delhi and Mumbai, so I can look out of the car window and see the fruit vendors setting up, the early mist of the morning, and the intense quiet that is soon lost to the rest of the day.

Do you come and go according to assignments?
I have a manager in India, and I travel between here and America. With the Internet and Skype, you can be in easy contact with everyone.

What are you doing now?
I just finished a film in India – an action type movie. Then I performed in a play in Paris. I shall be back in India in April.

Who inspires you?
I like the films of Anurag Kashyap, Aparna Sen and the always modern yet old fashioned Satyajit Ray.

What’s that special something you think you can offer India?
I am slowly finding work that fits me and it makes me really happy.

Half Bengali, half English, based in the US, working in India. We know Sarita Choudhury from Mississippi Masala and Kamasutra. Her first Hindi film, For Real, released in 2010. She has just finished another.

Jacqueline Fernandez: ‘My career just took off’

Why India?
I was only looking to make some money through modelling. Things just took off when I got here.

What was your first entertainment project?
My first TV show was back home when I was 14. It was a fitness show. One of the first assignments I did in India was a Samsung commercial with Hrithik Roshan.

Is work culture different here?
Much the same degree of tradition in Sri Lanka and India comes through in the profession.

What’s your biggest work challenge – and advantage?
It is a challenge when people only see you as a foreigner. However, as a foreigner you also get the advantage of being treated like a guest. There seems to be this lovely respect that people here have for foreigners.

Do you come and go according to assignments?
I have permanently shifted to Mumbai and have a personal manager and agency that takes care of my work.

What are you doing now?
Right now I’m working on Murder 2, and next in line will be Housefull 2.

Who’s on your work wish list?
Shah Rukh and Aamir Khan.

What’s that special something you think you can offer India?
I can bring something different to the table. Being from Sri Lanka helps.

Known to her fans as Jackie, this former beauty queen from Sri Lanka debuted with Aladin in 2009 and is now going places with big banners taking notice of her. Her next big movie will be out in July.

From HT Brunch, April 3

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