Now that Bollywood has a serious international appeal and large chunks of big-budget movies are filmed abroad, NRI aspirants to a career in Hindi films are finding it easy to join the bandwagon.
Miami-based model and actress Monika Gaba, who has lived there for nine years and walked the runway for Versace and Roberto Cavalli, plays Anaita in the current hit Dostana. When Dharma Production was location scouting in Miami, Monika caught their attention. “I believe they saw me at some club and then I got a call from a casting agency that a Bollywood team wants to know if I would be keen to audition,” says Monika in a telephone interview. She jumped at it — and stumped director Tarun Mansukhani, who thought she was Spanish, with her Hindi.
“John [Abraham] is a perfect gentleman,” she says, and Abhishek Bachchan was very friendly, too. Happy with this experience, Monika is coming to Mumbai to check out some more possible roles. And in Miami, where Dostana had a major screening, she has become even more famous. “Suddenly Bollywood is so big in the West that even a small role in a Bollywood film is like big deal.”
Ready for more
Canadian supermodel Saira Mohan, called the Face of the Year by Newsweek in 2006, is now in Mumbai, shooting for Leena Yadav’s Teen Patti, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Madhavan. Saira, who is a mother and is also engaged in some UN and WHO activities, had earlier starred in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kahna, shot in New York. It was Karan Johar who got in touch with her and offered her a cameo, that of the girl who gets Abhishek Bachchan once he splits from Rani Mukherji. Her role in Teen Patti, she says, is more substantial.
The tall and sensuous English model Laila Rouass, a lovely mix of Indian and Moroccan blood, was a familiar face to Indian TV viewers — she lived in Mumbai for five years — before she made her move into mainstream cinema with Jagmohan Mundhra’s Bawander, based on the life of the gangraped Anganwadi worker Bhanwari Devi, and with Aditya Bhattacharya’s Split Wide Open. She now lives in London, but the link remains. When Mundhra made Shoot on Sight, starring Naseeruddin Shah, set in the aftermath of the London underground bombing, he cast Laila as Shah’s deputy in Scotland Yard. She describes her character Ruby as “a feisty girl, fair, loyal and strong”. Enough to keep her hooked to Bollywood.