Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hollywood Heroes & Indian Villains

‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’ is finally out, and word is it’s really, really good. And, as we had anticipated, our very own Anil Kapoor has just one scene, that too, as a prop, to show off the action heroine’s, played by Paula Patton, so called ‘skills’. Now, Mr Kapoor can come home, and all the brouhaha about working in a major Hollywood film can come to an end.

You want to ask why Anil Kapoor, a bona fide star in India — he was one of my childhood idols, I still like him — would take up such a role in such a Hollywood film. Short answer: Glamour. It’s a Hollywood film after all, and we all look up to Hollywood. (At least, he’d be in an original film since most Bollywood films are copies of Hollywood anyway!). But, the right answer is this: Money. For this one scene, Mr Kapoor must have received more money than he receives in India in a starring role.

And frankly, it’s not Kapoor’s fault, really. Hollywood has its own rules. It won’t allow outsiders to take the centrestage. A Hollywood hero is always an American, and at the most, a British, they speak the same language after all. Others are just sidekicks. That’s why we see most European, Scandinavian and Latin stars play bit roles in Hollywood films, and mostly as villains. We should be happy to note that Mr Kapoor is not alone in this.

In case of MI 4 itself, the main antagonist to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is played by Michael Nyqvist, a Swedish actor, and star of the original ‘The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’ (The role is essayed by Daniel Craig in the new Hollywood version.)

Talking about Craig, in his first two outings as James Bond, he is faced with villains who are in reality A-List stars in their home countries: Danish Mads Mikkelsen in ‘Casino Royale’ and French Mathieu Amalric in ‘Quantum of Solace’.

So when the white Europeans could not become a Hollywood Hero, what chances a “brown” Indian has. That’s the same reason why Mexican stars like Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna had to be content with bit parts in Hollywood movies (Bernal in ‘Babel’, ‘Letters to Juliet’). That’s why Spanish star Jordi Molla becomes a villain in Hollywood actioners like ‘Bad Boy II’ and the recent ‘Columbiana.’ So is French Jean Reno (He was the hero in ‘The Professional’).

There are however a few names who have succeeded in breaking this rule. One name that instantly comes to mind is Antonio Banderas. But, is he a mainstream Hollywood star, like Johney Depp or Leonardo di Caprio? Doubtful. Another name is Benecio Del Toro. He has worked in Hollywood (Usual Suspects, 21 Grams), but found his height in a Spanish language film, playing Che Guevara.

Most successful of them is perhaps Stellan Skarsgard, who seems to have made a perfect crossover. He’s Swedish, but wasn’t in the original Dragon Tattoo, but is in the remake.

There’s French Gerard Depardieu, who was Christopher Columbus in Ridley Scott’s ambitious ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise’, and was the protagonist in ‘Green Card’.

Coming back to India, Frieda Pinto is one lucky girl. Following Woody Allen casting her, she has become an A List heroine in films like ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Immortals,’ something Mallika Sherawat, and even Aishwarya Rai Bachchan failed to do. Her boyfriend Dev Patel is however no so lucky. His last Hollywood role was that of a villain in ‘The Last Airbender.’

Talking about India in Hollywood however, we are doing well, sort of. Reliance has produced one of the best films of this year, ‘The Help,’ which is set to make news during the awards season. The Tintin film was released in India a month before it’s US release, and yes, MI 4 saw a gala premier in Mumbai. What if Anil Kapoor has just one scene.

PS. Remember Harrison Ford fighting Amrish Puri in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This has now become a archetype of sorts.

1 comment:

  1. Well I am a great fan of Indian villains. I think some of those are the best villains in the history of movies. Can you list the names of such movies here in which Hollywood stars & Indian villains performed together?