MUMBAI (Reuters) - From “Spiderman” to “Mission Impossible,” Bollywood actors are increasingly finding their way into mainstream Hollywood films.
As Hollywood brings more Indian and Asian characters into its stories, established stars in India are now looking for a career in the West, hoping to make it big in an industry Bollywood looks up to for inspiration.
“Slumdog Millionaire” actor Anil Kapoor has landed a role in the next Mission Impossible film, while Irrfan Khan, who worked with Angelina Jolie in “A Mighty Heart,” has bagged roles in both the next Spiderman film and Ang Lee’s forthcoming “Life of Pi,” Indian media reported.
Success is not limited to the men. Bipasha Basu, who as one of Bollywood’s most popular leading ladies also has her eyes set westwards, has won a role in Academy Award winning director Roland Joffe’s next film, “Singularity.”
“The Indian audience is increasing every day, not just in India, which is one of the fastest growing movie markets, but also in the US,” said casting director Uma D’Cunha, who helped Joffe zero in on Basu.
“Indian audiences would watch a Hollywood film with a Bipasha Basu, rather than one that doesn’t have an Indian connect,” she added, referring to both Indians in their homeland as well as the Indian diaspora.
An actor would be unable to balance a flourishing career in India with one in Hollywood, especially since it would be tough to shuttle between Mumbai and Los Angeles.
Chopra also said that while the growing Indian market will mean that there will be more roles for Indians in mainstream Hollywood, the scope of these roles will remain limited.
Indian actors have made sporadic appearances in Western films, but most of them have been bit parts in films that didn’t really gain attention.
Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, a Bollywood superstar, acted in a couple of films, as did several other mostly male stars such as Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri, but none garnered much acclaim.
While the big 2009 Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, which was released in 2008, changed things a bit by ensuring that the West looked at India for stories, and Indian actors got noticed, plum roles for Indians in Hollywood remain illusive.
Frieda Pinto has bagged top roles, first in Slumdog Millionaire and then Woody Allen’s “You will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger” and Juliet Schnabel’s “Miral.”
Pinto also has endorsement contracts and is working on three more Hollywood films, with actors such as Antonio Banderas and James Franco, but industry observers including Chopra pointed out that she didn’t have much of a career in India to begin with.
But limits remain. In this year’s big hit “The Social Network,” director David Fincher chose British actor Max Minghella to play the role of an Indian character.
Indian born U.S. comedian Asif Mandvi, who played the lead role of an Indian chef in “Today’s Special,” believes there are more roles for Asian actors than before, but admits that ethnicity will always be a roadblock.
“Right now it’s a “post 9/11/Obama/Slumdog Millionaire world and even though India is becoming a major economic power in the world, we should not got too carried away,” he told Reuters in an email.
“The roles of Indians in Hollywood are still fairly stereotypical for the most part.”
Editing by Elaine Lies