New Delhi: Indian showbiz is once again on the global map. “Delhi Crime” and Arjun Mathur won International Emmys, Adarsh Gourav had a BAFTA nomination. His film “The White Tiger” went to the BAFTAs, too, and is in contention at the Oscars. Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone hit the Hollywood highway. Manushi Chhillar was crowned Miss World 2017.
It’s all happened before, you would argue. So, what’s new?
The difference between now and what was happening even a few years — say, about a decade – ago, when “Slumdog Millionaire” made India flavour of the season at the Oscars and Irrfan Khan or Anupam Kher found their date diaries packed with Hollywood assignments, is that the success of Indians now is much more than individual accomplishment.
In the West’s era of newfound inclusivity, the triumphs of “Delhi Crime” or “The White Tiger” or Arjun Mathur or Priyanka and Deepika would seem like a stamp of endorsement that affirms India exists in the scheme of things when it comes to global inclusivity.
The success of past masters who did India proud on the global stage — from Naseeruddin Shah, Saeed Jaffery, Amrish Puri, Om Puri or Shabana Azmi to Mira Nair’s “Salaam Bombay!” and onto Aamir Khan’s “Lagaan” — wasn’t necessarily tied to a worldwide socio-political movement. Those were essentially individual successes that, of course, also made the whole country proud.
Not only these instances, we were also quick to latch onto anyone of ‘Indian origin’ phenomenon who made an impact — from Ben Kingsley to Kal Penn to Padma Lakshmi to Dev Patel to Kunal Nayyar.
There would seem to be a method about the people who made a mark as the West — particularly Hollywood — made its attitudinal shift towards inclusivity. The late Irrfan Khan’s global career, kickstarted mainly by “Slumdog Millionaire”, and Priyanka Chopra or Deepika Padukone’s Hollywood arrival, happened around the same time — when Indians stopped being mere ‘outsider’ characters in a script and Hollywood has stopped casting Indians as the quintessential cabbies and waiters.
The deal is simple. If Hollywood inclusivity is, at one level, driven by the urge to expand markets, it started quietly in the nineties, with the discovery of Chinese/Korean/Hong Kong talent (that the West loves to cumulatively call “Asian” lineage) in Hollywood films. The success of the template has been carried forward — internally in the US by giving cognisance to the Blacks, and externally to every other skin colour.
India, given its large consumer base, had to find a place in this all-new mantra of inclusivity. Over the next decade, be sure we will be more frequent at the Oscars, and brown faces will be more commonly cast in bona fide Hollywood productions.
What started with Priyanka in “Quantico” or “Baywatch”, or Deepika in “xXx: Return Of Xander Cage”, has grown swiftly in a short time.
Dimple Kapadia had a defining act in Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and Ali Fazal co-starred with the inimitable Judi Dench “Victoria & Abdul”. Fazal also has a role in Kenneth Branagh’s new Hercule Poirot mystery, “Death On The Nile”. Only last year, Randeep Hooda, Pankaj Tripathi and Priyanshu Painyuli had well-scripted roles in the Chris Hemsworth-starrer action drama “Extraction”.
“Avengers” makers Joe and Anthony Russo, who produced “Extraction”, have cast Priyanka in their upcoming series “Citadel”, co-starring Richard Madden and Stanley Tucci. The Russos have also cast Dhanush in “The Gray Man”. The Tamil superstar gets top billing in the film along with Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas and Wagner Moura.
Elsewhere, Dev Patel makes his directorial debut with “Monkey Man”, casting Indian actors Sobita Dhulipala and Sikander Kher alongside Sharlto Copley of “District 9” fame.
Also, if Priyanka has had a brisk career in Hollywood (roles in “A Kid Like Jake”, “Isn’t It Romantic” and “We Can Be Heroes” have followed), Hrithik Roshan is said to have signed up with the US-based Gersh Agency.
The gradual shift is best summed up in Adarsh Gourav’s line, in an interview to IANS a while back. “I feel this is my first international film and just being nominated alongside people like Sir Anthony Hopkins, Mads Mikkelsen, Chadwick Boseman — these people have been such a strong source of inspiration for me throughout my career — I feel a nomination is as good as a win for me,” Adarsh had said.
The shift in focus towards Indian talent in the West seems more permanent this time. In the era of inclusivity, Brown is a good colour to flaunt on the global screen.