x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Bollywood stars wait offstage

Dev Patel, Kal Penn and Aziz Ansari. Do these names sound vaguely familiar?

Dev Patel, Kal Penn and Aziz Ansari. Do these names sound vaguely familiar? They're not Bollywood superstars but you will find them in Hollywood, and they are burning up cinemas everywhere. They are fresh faces and the latest representatives of a community that obviously loves their movies. Given recent collaborations and distribution deals between the Hollywood production houses and their Bollywood counterparts, there has been speculation that a number of Bollywood stars could soon be seen alongside western actors in scripts that could be penned on either side of the Atlantic.

So far, apart from a few selections starring stalwarts such as Aishwarya Rai (The Last Legion with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley) and Preity Zinta (Heaven on Earth, a story about a battered Indian housewife who relocates to Canada from India), there have been few inroads. But full-fledged A-list match ups such as George Clooney starring along Shahrukh Khan have yet to happen. There is, however, always speculation of that nature and actors are always polite enough to say they want to work with the other side. But, for whatever reason, Brad Pitt is not saying yes to roles that will have him dancing with Katrina Kaif.

But there might be hope with the younger crop. If Bollywood is not moving west, maybe those working on the other side have a shot? Before the big surprise of Slumdog Millionaire, Patel was making waves in the UK with his television show Skins. He looks like an unlikely Bollywood hero and so far he has pursued roles mostly with the western world. Truth be told, he is an unlikely candidate for a macho man in an Indian movie, and would maybe fit as a side-kick, cute brother sort of character. But if he can't match the muscles of Salman Khan, he is unlikely to be signing on the dotted line to do musicals with Bollywood babes.

As for Kal Penn, probably the best-known South Asian face in the West, he has been in the Harold and Kumar trilogy (with the fourth under production), along with a number of television spots, including House. He even starred in The Namesake, directed by Mira Nair and adapted from a novel by the Pulitzer Prizewinning author Jhumpa Lahiri. He didn't play the lead but, after Ansari, he would have been a likely candidate, except that he recently announced a break from acting to go and work for the White House. He will be doing outreach work with the Asian-American communities.

That leaves us with Ansari. After his success as a stand-up comedian, he was made famous by his appearances in Funny People alongside Adam Sandler and as a fruit and veggie vendor in the television series Flight of the Conchords. But they are yet to make the leap of faith and are unlikely to do so anytime soon. After all, unlike the bright lights of Hollywood, Bollywood isn't exactly a worldwide phenomenon. At least not yet.