x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Snoop Dogg crowned Bollywood's 'Kinng'

Film news The controversial American rap star Snoop Dogg is proving as much of a hit in Bollywood as he is on the Billboard Hot 100.

Snoop Dogg, right, with the actor Alkshay Kumar on the set of <i>Singh is Kinng</i>.
Snoop Dogg, right, with the actor Alkshay Kumar on the set of Singh is Kinng.

The controversial American rap star Snoop Dogg made a groundbreaking crossover into Bollywood this summer that is proving a hit on movie charts and at the box office. The artist, who has a cameo in the hit caper Singh is Kinng, also recorded the film's title track and appears in its popular video rapping about Mumbai beauties while wearing a turban and Indian pyjamas. In the UAE, Singh is Kinng, which features the Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, beat the other top Bollywood contender, Race, by 10,000 admissions to sell 94,000 tickets in the first week after its Aug 9 release. The "phenomenal" ticket sales indicate people have been going to see the film several times, said Mahi Golchin Depala, managing director for Phars Films, the company which distributes Bollywood titles throughout the Middle East. Ms Depala attributes much of the film's success to the curiosity generated by the involvement of Snoop Dogg, 36. "Bollywood films are musicals and it is inevitable that pop music from the West would come into it," she said. "A lot of the other artists have incorporated Indian music, but this time it is the other way around. This time, an artist came to Bollywood." As the fashion, music and film industries on the two continents continue to move closer together, it was only a matter of time before a high-profile western artist would work in India, she said. "There is a special appeal to the West," said Ms Depala. "That's what it is, it is exotic. And I predict that the turban is going to be the next fashion item." In his home country Snoop Dogg - real name Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr - has a criminal record including drug and firearms offences. His lyrics have been criticised as being racist, misogynist and glorifying of gang violence - a far cry from Bollywood cinema. But the more family-friendly Singh is Kinng, the first foreign rap song tailored for an Indian film, has been climbing not only Indian charts but international ones as well. Before the official video was released, a Mumbai-Los Angeles public relations firm jumped on the buzz generated by Snoop Dogg's appearance in the film by releasing a campy version on YouTube. In it the rapper promises to "make more movies with my Bollywood homies". Snoop Dogg has promised to follow up the hit video with a concert tour in India. Sangeet Mathew, 28, from Dubai, said the main reason he enjoyed the video was for its crossover humour. "I heard it on the radio first and didn't expect it to be from a Bollywood film," said Mr Mathew. "They just said it was a Snoop Dogg song. Then I started to hear it from all around the place. I am not a hard-core fan of one kind of music. For someone who listens to both, you can relate to both. He is the greatest rapper of all time, and to take that and to mix it with Bollywood, it's great. But his is not the first time to fuse rap and Punjabi bhangra but it comes into prominence [because] of Snoop Dogg." Shreyas Sash, better known in Dubai as DJ Sash, declared the song a "club anthem". He said it was one of several recent examples of western artists sampling or being inspired by Bollywood tunes, from riffs like the Diwali rhythm to the remixed song, Kaliyon Ka Chaman, which enjoyed a long stay at the top of US charts. Following up on the success of the Black Eyed Peas' 2005 hit Don't Phunk With My Heart, which borrowed its intro from a song used in the 1978 Bollywood film Don, the group has begun working on a movie soundtrack for a Bollywood film with the Indian music director Aadesh Shrivastava. "Frankly speaking, India is trying to make it worldwide. It is reaching an audience both inside and outside India," Mr Sash said. "Before, people in India would have been like, 'who is this, what is he doing?' Now, the Bollywood market has gone all over the world, and in turn the world has also come to know about it." He said, "the wind is flowing towards India". It is a shift that comes at a time of increased collaboration between two of the world's biggest entertainment industries. At the Cannes International Film Festival in May, India's Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group announced it would start financing at least eight film production houses headed by big Hollywood names. Reliance, which owns 65 radio and television stations and India's largest chain of movie theatres, said it hoped to bring at least 10 scripts into full production. In June, Reliance said it was in talks to form a filmmaking partnership with Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studio, which Viacom owns.
sbhattacharya@thenational.ae