Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bollywood goes to Hollywood

Drift stylista Joules explores Bollywood's foray into Hollywood from Oscar to Aish to Cannes and Snoop

Bollywood has always been the step child of Hollywood. Not only did it get its inspiration (read copies) from hollywood movies, it got its acting style from hollywood as well. Dev Anand was called the Cary Grant of Mumbai while Aamir is the Tom Hanks. Aishwarya and Abhishek are called Abhiwarya to keep up with the Brangelina nomenclature while Kareena and Saif want to be the Beckham couple.

The step child although has been very popular in non-western world. How many times have we had Chinese, Russians, Pakistanis or folks from the Middle East talking about Raj Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty or SRK and watching movies like DDLJ or Veer Zaara? So it was just a matter of time that we started seeing more and more of Bollywood in Hollywood. Here is to catalog the journey of Bollywood to the City of Angels.

1. Satyajit Ray
Word's can't describe Ray's brilliance. I sometimes wish I knew how to speak Bengali and was born in the era that Ray was depicting in his movies so I could understand all the nuances of his stories. The most talented director-writer that Indian and Bengali cinema have ever produced. Pather Panchali, Apu Trilogy to the hindi movie Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Ray left his mark on Indian cinema and has been an inspiration for a lot of upcoming directors like Rituparno Ghosh and Aparna Sen. Ray also co-wrote a story "The Alien" for Columbia Productions which never got made. The AMPAS awarded Ray an honorary Oscar in1992 for Lifetime Achievement. He got the award a few weeks before he died.

2. Mother India
Mehboob Khan's Mother India portrayed all the sensibilities and emotions associated with a bollywood movie beautifully. This movie was hailed as an epic story which combined the political landscape with an immensely interesting human story. The story of a mother who will do anything to bring up her kids with proper values is hearbreaking and so touching. It also featured some of the well known actors of that era - Nargis, Raaj Kumar, Sunil and Rajendra. Movie was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film in 1958, first nomination ever for a bolly movie.

3. Salaam Bombay
A non-judgemental movie of kids living on the streets on Bombay, Mira Nair's insight into the lives of these street dwellers is indeed commendable as she retains her sense of homour through the heart wrenching episodes these kids have to endure. It is a known fact that Nair hired the kids off the street to retain its realism. A dark movie definitely hard to watch but Oscar worthy. The Oscar jury nominated it for best foreign language film in 1989.

4. Aish Hi Aish
The most beautiful face in the world, Aishwarya came on the world stage after winning the 1994 Miss World competition. A great PR agent, a very supportive mom and a hard working personality made Aish the symbol of Bollywood in Hollywood. She became the face of L'Oreal sharing space with the likes of Eva Longoria. Maybe the only bolly actress to be profiled on 60 minutres, Aish also charmed Dave Letterman and showed Oprah how to drape a saree. Although her movie The Last Legion went unnoticed she has a full fledged role in the upcoming Pink Panther movie.

5. Lagaan
Everything Aamir touches turns to gold. So it was about time that this movie five years in the making made it to the Oscars. Nominated for best foreign language film in 2002, and heavily promoted by Aamir and director Ashutosh Gowariker. Lagaan barely lost to Bosnia's No Man's Land. Some would say that movie won for political reasons.

6. Starlets at Cannes
You know you have arrived in Bollywood if you show up at Cannes. From Nandita Das to Mallika Sherawat they all donned their finest to appear on the red carpet. Shahrukh Khan came with the Devdas team and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali returned later with Black. Aish was invited the following year to be on the jury. She has made appearance since then promoting Loreal. Preity has been a regular showing up to promote De Beers.

7. So You Think You Can Dance 
The concept of this program is so bollywoodish that it was about time that bollywood dancing entered the show. The choregrapher Nakul Dev Mahajan did a beautiful job of choreographing the couple Katee and Joshua. So fond were the audience of the Bollywood dance that the show brought it in again as an introductory segment with all couples dancing to Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.

8. East meets West
Neha Dhupia appears in a music video with American R&B singer Ginuwine. Seal and Heidi Klum get married in a tacky indian wedding in Hawaii. Natalie Portman wears ethnic garb in a spoofy indian video. Jessica Alba wears a saree in The Love Guru, Ghost World opens with an old hindi song from Gumnaam. MIA grabs attention with a remix of Mithun Chakraborty's Jimmy.

9. Snoop in Singh is Kinng
Self described as "America's First Bollywood Superstar" Snoop sings the title song of Singh is Kinng. Although it is hilarious seeing Snoop don a turban and Indian attire, the camraderie between Snoop and Akshay is not lost and all I can say is Snoop goes to Bollywood.

10. Sly and Arnold
So not only are bollywood stars and starlets making a foray into hollywood, we now see hollywood stars like Sly and Arnold want to make it into mumbai movies. Sylvester is already appearing in a movie with Kareena and Akshay Kumar and claims that he wants his friend Arnold to do the same. Will Smith and Richard Gere have gone on scouting missions to Mumbai while producers eye the large indian market.

11. Colbert takes up Khan-Bhachchan jhagda
The alleged feud between Amitabh and SRK spilled over from the Indian tabloids to the Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert host of the popular talk satire The Colbert Report in his own style covered the rivalry and ruled on the winner based on their dancing abilities by showing clips of Mohabattein and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.

12. Crossover cinema
The last decade has seen an influx of cross over cinema into the western market. While we had Mira Nair's very successful Monsoon wedding and The Namesake, Gurinder Chaddha and hubby tried but could not live up to expectations with Bride and Prejudice and Mistress of Spices. Deepa Mehta's Water found a niche audience. Mira Nair has created an important niche in Hollywood by directing A-list stars in Vanity Fair and her upcoming Shantaram.

13. The Chaiya Chaiya Phenom
This Rahman-Sukhwinder Singh song was voted number nine in a BBC World Services poll to choose 10 most famous songs. Remixes of the song appear in the opening and closing credits in Spike Lee's Inside Man and forms of the song have appeared in television shows Smith and CSI:Miami. We also saw Nicole Kidman dancing to Chamma Chamma from China Gate in her movie Moulin Rouge.

14. Character Role Forays
Irfan Khan shows up along side the gorgeous Angelina Jolie in the movie A Mighty Heart. Om Puri has an impressive resume in Hollywood - City of Joy with Patrick Swayze, Wolf with Jack Nicholson, The Ghost and the Darkness with Val Kilmer and Charlie Wilson's War where he plays Zia Ul Haq alongside Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

15. Arre Mamu
A first time remake of a bollywood movie in Hollywood. Raj Kumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra's MunnaBhai MBBS is being remade in Hollywood as Gangster MD and none other than Mira Nair has been roped in to direct the movie. Chris Tucker will be the main protagonist.

Also:

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thats not Aishwarya pic.
Its Neha Dhupia. Even hte pic name says so.

m said...

#6 - well ash was one of the jury members at cannes a few years ago..

Aspi said...

I know - I put it in the wrong place. But the idea was to show Neha cozing up with Ginuwine.

Aspi said...

Joules, you've been keeping tabs on everything that has been going on! How about that kurti trend that was all the rage in Hollywood last year?

j said...

Thanks Aspi. Thankyou for putting it up. I had been chronicling this for a while mentally so wanted to have it out there.

I missed the Kurti phase in Hollywood. Got to check on it.

My austin friends though absolutely love the kurti even more than I do.

meena said...

J, good list, I can add one more phenom that strikes me..the number of bloggers from the western world discovering and delving into the world of bollywood! Hi Beth!

..and not just blockbusters either, all kinds of old Indian movies, nuances that you think you would have to grow up with to understand..I am stunned by this groundswell.
all these fans stolen from hollywood..bollywood is no longer the stepsister, she is cinderella baby!

Anonymous said...

How about the Chaiya Chaiya phenomenon? It seems like the most unlikely people have heard that song, and it's incorporated into some (?) Hollywood movies.

Bitterlemons

j said...

Good one!. Jerry Bruckheimer bought the rights of that song and has introduced it in every medium he could possibly add it to. We were watching this obscure TV show one day and the background music was Chaiya Chaiya.

Also I dont know if you see this phenom where you live but a lot of salon and spas in Austin have started playing hindi music. I believe they are remixes or punjabi music from canadian bands but I love it that I am the only one there who can understand the words.

Pitu said...

Nice write-up but quick correction. Pather Panchali is the first film in the Apu Trilogy, it's not a separate movie.

Never Mind!! said...

Joules, great write up!

How about AB-SRK war reported on Colbert report? I was super surprised to see the war being reported complete with Mohobbatein scenes and all.

Pitu said...

I was in Target the other day here in Chicago and they were playing the Jhoom Baraber Jhoom title song.

Aspi said...

Joules, these are all great inputs! We should add on when you get a chance.

meena said...

..and dont forget monsoon wedding. every american arty movie type I met at work seems to have seen it.

Aspi said...

How about Marigold? Or are we pretending that never happened?

j said...

Never Mind, thanks for mentioning the Colbert show. That was a very funny story he had.

Loved the way he said Omitobh.

girlie girl said...

Awesome J! wonderful job.

btw, i was getting my nails done last week and saw that OPI has a "India" collection for nail polishes. They have some great colors too, "Royal Rajah Ruby" and my favorite "Keys to My Karma"

here, check out the link...http://www.opi.com/india.asp

Agree on Monsoon wedding, they also play that movie a lot on the Sundance Channel and on AMC. Such a great movie.

I also noticed that Shammi Kapoor use to totally copy Elvis back in the day. Maybe not many people knew of Elvis in India so he got away with it. anyone notice?

Pitu said...

aieeeeeee another OPI fanatic!! Dude, I love the India series! Did you see Yoga-ta get this blue?

girlie girl said...

I've never painted my nails blue...its just not my color. I'm more of a pink person. but it looks really cute on someone, the blue that is, my friend tried it on...

meena said...

dont know about marigold but I am definitely pretending bride and prejudice didnt happen.
..altho it had a killer snake dance bit :)

j said...

I think Marigold and Pride were mostly centered for Indian audience. Infact, marigold was for no one.

I believe Bend It Like Beckham went pretty mainstream. Infact, launched Kiera Knightly into an a-list star and even though it is not a bolly movie was an interesting insight into a punjabi family.

I wish flavors would have become more mainstream. Because it shows NRI's in various lifestyles.

m said...

where i come from, almost everyone has seen Bride and Prejudice..it was numero uno at the box office and was in top five for so many weeks.. and it comes on TV every now and again..

we were talking about it in one of my classes a few months ago..and we ended up watching the snake dance etc on youtube..

desi media are like it was a failure etc.. umm how can a movie that went to number one in so many countries be a failure.. it never got a wide release in america and for the amount of prints it got and money it made it was a lot..plus it caters to a niche audience not the ones who'd go watch the summer blockbusters... indian media have no clue most the time on anything...

now imagine if Marygold had made the same $$ in all those countries like B&P, Indian media would be praising their Khan boy giving him some ridiculous title like "Khan conquers the worrrrrrrrrrrrrlddddddd" or whatever..

Aspi said...

B&P did worse in the US than elsewhere. Its gross is listed as just over $22m - $6m of it in the US. For a release befitting Aish, I'd consider it a flop. For a release of its kind - it probably did reasonably well.

j said...

When I said Indian audience I meant Indian's living abroad. The expectations from that movie were higher because of Gurinder Chaddha and her success with Bend it. The movie definitely did not live upto those expectations.

Pitu said...

J, you can say that again. It's one of the most horrendous films I've seen and for me Gurinder has been on a steady decline. I saw 'Bhaji on the beach' in London and lurved it. 'Bend it' was rly good but not as great and then 'B&P' just sucked! Then Mr Gurinder (Paul Mayeda Berges) made the godawful 'Mistress of Spices'. Some track record :-p

megan said...

You missed Ghost World (great movie) having an old Hindi song.. and Thora Birch's character being obsessed with indian rock and roll numbers from the 60's..

they even show actual picturization of the song..it goes "jaan pehchaan hoooo jeena aashan hoooo..taraaaa raaaa raa jaan pehchaan hooo jeena aashan hoooo"

the song was in Ghost World soundtrack too and it is very popular with the indie fans..and the movie has cult status

m said...

and M.I.A's Jimmy cover too..that song is very popular too..

in fact the videos from Disco Dancer movie are a big rage.. LOL our local alternative TV channel always shows those videos...

m said...

FOUND IT!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VB4q9rcfvvE

Aspi said...

Man I had forgotten about Ghost World (which I loved because it was such a cool comic book). Thanks for the link!

svr said...

I just remembered the story about Mira Nair remaking Munnabhai MBBS in Hollywood, and buying the rights. Does anyone know -- did that actually go through?

j said...

Yeah, I believe its called Gangster MD and last I heard Chris Rock was featuring in it.

Aspi said...

Joules, thanks for the update with everyone's comments incorporated. This post shall live on!

j said...

Hey Aspi. Thanks for updating this. I know it is hard to update the whole doc as you have made changes to add links etc.. but I see a couple of things missing.

In the Aish Hi Aish section I added the appearance on 60 mins, letterman and Oprah.

And also in the Cannes section I added Aish appearing on the jury.

Aspi said...

Joules thanks for pointing that out. I was working on an update last night with some more pics but hadn't caught the errors so thanks for finding them. Hope the post now looks as good as the writing in it.

Also if you have any more updates, turn revisions on in Word before you type in new stuff. That way I'll know exactly what has changed.

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meera said...

For someone who began apologetically, you sure seem to have raked in crazy amount of research on Bollywood. What seems to miss you is this: Next to Hollywood (if at all) it is Bolly that makes most news, most people happy! So why be left handed and call it step child, poor cousin and whatnot? It's part of the game. Where there is a Coke there will be a damn good second called Pepsi; where there is a Reebok, there will be a Nike; where there is a Ford there will be a Honda... why not just appreciate who they are, what they do, the size of business they rake, and the real fact: that Bollywood has a fantastic fan following?

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