There are several big stars from Bollywood who’ve had the opportunity to work in Hollywood films in recent years. Irrfan Khan probably is the only star who started getting more Bollywood films after his success in Hollywood. For most other stars, its been the other way round. Amitabh Bachchan, perhaps the biggest star that Bollywood has produced, has spend enough time in the industry to know the intricacies about this popular Indian film industry. Big B has even played a cameo role in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby”.
Here’s what Irrfan Khan, Big B, and other Bollywood actors think about working in both the industries and how how Bollywood compares with the Hollywood film industry.
Irrfan Feels Even Hollywood Can Learn from Bollywood
Irrfan Khan, who’s worked in movies like Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi feels American blockbusters should include Indian-style song-and-dance sequences, and feels Hollywood could do wonders with it.
“The informality and personal connections in Bollywood are nice. Things are too compartmentalised in Hollywood, and the system can be rigid,” says Irrfan.
Irrfan also thinks that’s easier to survive in Bollywood, as in America even a single failure can hamper an actor’s career. However, in India, an actor with one hit in the bag can survive with PR and continue working in another four films, until he delivers his next hit.
“Social media activity and perception works more over here, but in Hollywood, you have to perform and deliver. The irony is that while it is a heavily marketing-based industry, you cannot survive there on the basis of marketing [alone],” says Irrfan.
Saeed Jaffrey: Hindi Cinema’s most well-known face in Hollywood
Long before the current crop of Bollywood actors started working with the Hollywood guys, one actor had already made his prsence felt in Hollywood and British films, and his name was Saeed Jaffrey. At a time, when actors would not even look west (looked far intimidating back then), this man was working with some of the top film-makers around the world.
Saeed Jaffrey, Sean Connery & Michael Caine in ‘The Man Who Would Be King’
Victor Banerjee says about Mr. Jaffrey, “He was the first Asian face of consequence on British television and was a household name in that country”.
Jaffrey was the first Indian performer to receive an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his services to drama in the UK.
Saeed Jaffrey studied drama in Washington on a Fullbright scholarship. During his struggling daus in the US and the UK, Jaffrey slept on benches. He even worked as a sales assitant at Harrod’s (during one Christmas season).
Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, was among the first to pay his condolences on Mr. Jaffrey’s demise.
Saeed Jaffrey was a multifaceted actor whose flair & versatility will always be remembered. Deepest condolences on his passing away: PM
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) November 16, 2015
Hollywood is Good at Marketing
In a recent interview Big B acknowledged that even though the Indian film industry makes over 1000 films every year, whereas Hollywood makes about 300, Hollywood still makes a lot more money.
And what does it mean?
It just shows that they are very good at marketing their films, and their reach is much more, something that Bollywood lacks. But he also points out that the big corporations are now in India, something that we mentioned in our recent article.
So even though we may not produce a global hit yet, the sheer market size of 1.25 billion people is something that they’re going to find attractive.
Big B on shooting for his first Hollywood film ‘The Great Gatsby’, where he plays a Jewish don
Anupam Kher who has worked in Hollywood films like Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and is expected to feature in more foreign films, has enough experience of both the industries now. Kher says, “My sense of responsibility is more while working in Hollywood.
What attracts me is their professionalism.
Also, during the shoots here, the actors know the spot boys and share a rapport with them. In American films that I have worked for, I don’t remember anybody.”
Corporatisation Did Wonders for India
Most veterans in the film industry, who have witnessed the changes to Indian cinema in the last few years agree that the best thing to have happened to Bollywood was ‘corporatisation’ (since 2000).
It has really helped to get certain systems in place, and things are much more organised now, then it used to be earlier, and that has indeed make a huge difference.
Many also believe that things will only change for the better, in the future, with Bollywood incorporating better working practices from Hollywood.
Bengaluru native ‘Tina Desai’ who acted in the Hollywood movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and is also a part of its sequel “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” has worked in reality contests in India and has also acted in the Hindi thriller “Yeh Faasley”. Here’s what she has to say about working in Hollywood.
The filming process for an Indian film is to do all the screaming, crying, laughing and trading of long passages of dialogues quickly and in few attempts. But in Hollywood, weeks are spent rehearsing, and those rehearsals continue throughout the filming. “I was also amazed that even when the camera was not on one of the actors, they would still perform with the same kind of energy, even if they were way in the background. The veteran actors also never talked down to anyone. It’s a brilliant attitude that I have adopted myself”, says Desai.
Can Bollywood Deliver a Global Hit?
For some time now, several people/corporations have been wondering why a Bollywood film has not made it big internationally, and if it’s going to happen anytime soon.
Mr. Bachchan is quite cool about it, and in fact, thinks that something like that (Indian film catering to to the US audience) may not happen. Our movies can be dubbed in any foreign language but no one is consciously going to make a movie to appeal to the western world.
He’s quite excited about the fact that several realistic subjects are being made into movies currently (citing Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur).
Is the Business Climate Favorable?
Here as well, there are many who feel that the business climate isn’t as welcoming in India as it should have been.
But Big B quickly points out that the GDP growth in India is till higher compared to the rest of the world.
And again reiterates the fact that irrespective of the growth, foreign investors just cannot ignore the kind of demographics that exist in our country.
How has Bollywood Changed Over Years
One thing that he finds impressive (and something that’s there for all to see) is the impact that women are making on the business.
The number of women working on sets, and in the Industry, has increased manifold, which is also a reflection of the changing times.
Several years back it would be just the leading lady’s mother, perhaps the hairdresser and the makeup person. But now you have women working as assistant directors, assistants to cameramen, production managers, scriptwriters, dialogue writing, producing & directing films.