Ilene: An unknown face in SA
South African model Ilene Hamman, who has become the first white Afrikaans-speaking actress in Bollywood, may be making waves in India, but back home there is hardly any fuss about her or her film.
In fact, her movie Rog, which will hit Indian screens Friday, may not even be released in South African cinemas as distributors there, with limited audiences, face choosing between it and bigger titles like Kisna that are releasing at the same time.
Producer Pooja Bhatt offered the role to Ilene after seeing her picture on a magazine cover.
Ilene, widely billed here as a "supermodel" in South Africa, and being featured prominently in magazine articles and advertisements for Rog, is hardly known locally there, especially among South African Indians.
She has not featured in the South Africa media after a few introductory articles, mainly in the Afrikaans weekly Rapport, because of the novelty of a member of the white Afrikaans community that created apartheid making a debut in Bollywood.
Ilene, at 20, though, probably would not identify with that, having lived through the first decade of democracy in South Africa as a child and teenager.
But perhaps it is that same newfound freedom which led to her finding questions from the Indian media about her pregnancy out of wedlock irritating, as evidenced by an interview in the daily Mid-Day here.
"How come nobody asks us this question in South Africa or anywhere else in the world?" Ilene asked reporter Dinesh Raheja, who wanted to know why she had decided to have a baby out of wedlock when she could have a career in Hindi films.
Ilene had earlier admitted to Rapport that she was two months pregnant when she was shooting for the film Rog, in which she nonetheless still reportedly appears quite stunning as a seductress.
The point that Ilene obviously missed was that in Bollywood, an actress, no matter how popular, rarely, if ever, remains successful after marriage, and would definitely cause a stir with having a baby out of wedlock in a society that is still very conservative despite sex and promiscuity emerging as themes in recent Bollywood movies.
Even the South African Indian community, despite having adopted a hugely Western lifestyle, still largely remains conservative and frowns upon premarital sex and pregnancies.
Whether Ilene's career in Bollywood takes off after Rog, in which she reportedly dares and bares much more than Indian actresses would, or whether, like many others before her who debuted in such roles, she gets relegated to becoming an "item" specialist for sexy songs, remains to be seen.
In the meantime, South Africans curious to see what the fuss about Ilene in India is all about will have to wait for the DVD release of Rog, as the film is not likely to be shown on South African screens there.