Topping the US box office in its opening weekend, Nargis Fakhri’s Hollywood debut Spy garnered encouraging reviews. On the other hand, Priyanka Chopra’s husky avatar is all set to appear as an FBI agent in Quantico, her debut on American television. It’s wonderful to see our leading ladies cracking the Hollywood code, but if we look back, there have been many Bollywood actors who have featured in big Hollywood projects in the past and continue to do so.
Here’s looking at our desi kids who grew out of India.
The ‘jhakaas’ actor got his Hollywood break quite late, but what a break it was. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) was unstoppable in the international arena and Kapoor playing a pivotal role benefitted a lot from it. To add to this, his performance as Omar Hassan in the eighth season of the American television series 24 was widely noticed. He also appeared in Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol (2011), the fourth instalment of the Mission: Impossible franchise.
A powerhouse performer, Irrfan Khan nowadays enjoys the best of both Hollywood and Bollywood, working in indie dramas to tentpoles. He has been on Hollywood radar with two internationally successful and Oscar winning films - Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Life of Pi (2012). He has also worked in many international films like The Namesake (2006), New York, I Love You (2008), A Mighty Heart (2007), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). His role of a grieving Indian émigré in the HBO series In Treatment received high praise from the US media. The current release Jurassic World has him playing the flamboyant owner of the park, and his next big ticket release is Inferno, the adaptation of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel by Ron Howard.
The Mumbai girl who made her dream debut with multiple Oscar winning drama Slumdog Millionaire (2008) has built a career that can make any actor go green with envy. Her bio so far includes Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010), Tarsem Singh’s Immortals (2011), Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna (2011), Julian Schnabel’s Miral (2010), Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Black Gold (2011) and sci-fi blockbuster, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). Pinto’s next two big releases are Jungle Book: Origins, a live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s popular book, and Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Despite having a continuous worldwide coverage for her face, the beauty queen hasn’t been able to launch a successful acting career in Hollywood. Some of her lukewarm international attempts include films like Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice (2004), Doug Lefler’s The Last Legion (2007), a wimpy adaptation of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices (2005), and a tepid outing with Steve Martin in The Pink Panther II (2009).
The seasoned actor of Hindi cinema, Kher has appeared in multiple acclaimed films such as Golden Globe nominated Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Ang Lee’s Golden Lion clincher, Lust, Caution (2007) and David O. Russell’s Oscar nominated Silver Linings Playbook (2012). The senior actor also has an important role in Sense8, the American sc-fi TV series created by Andy and Lana Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski.
Widely considered as one of finest actors of Indian cinema, Shah made his international splash with Goutam Ghose’s Paar (1984) for which he won The Volpi Cup, the award for Best Actor at Venice Film Festival. His major international escapade was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) where he played Captain Nemo.
Since he made his international breakthrough with Roland Joffe’s white saviour narrative feature, City of Joy in 1992, Puri has ably balanced his career in and out of India. Mike Nichols cast him twice, in Wolf (1994), and in Charlie Wilson’s War (2007). His indie outing East Is East (1999) was a box office hit and the sequel, West Is West (2010) was no less. His other credits include like The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), The Parole Officer (2001) and Code 46 (2004). Puri has also been a staple in British TV shows such as The Jewel in the Crown and White Teeth. His last film, Lasse Hallström’s The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) received upbeat reviews and was a major financial success.
(The writer is a journalist and a screenwriter who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. His Twitter handle is: @RanjibMazumder)