Indian stars shine in the global firmament

Tabu, and Alia are among those who have followed Priyanka’s lead, and are seeking to find a firm footing in international cinema

The immensely talented Tabu has been cast in the series Dune: Prophecy, inspired by the novel Sisterhood of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anders in a recurring role as Sister Francesca, a strong, intelligent and alluring character who turns the balance of powers in the ancient kingdom.

While Dune: Prophecy also stars Emily Watson and Olivia Williams, Tabu is no stranger to the international spotlight — she starred in Mira Nair’s critically acclaimed Namesake in 2006 as well as Ang Lee’s celebrated film Life of Pi in 2012. And she’s now in the vanguard of a wave of Indian actors who are making an impact on the world stage.

India is indeed shining on Hollywood Boulevard. Moving ahead from blink-and-you-miss appearances, often as caricatures or stereotypical characters, Indian actors are now bagging mainstream roles in international productions.

Priyanka Chopra was one of the first to land a lead role in an important American series — Quantico, and soon followed it up with Citadel. The actor, who also starred in Hollywood movies Baywatch and Isn’t it Romantic, had asserted that she would have a career at Hollywood at age 30 and would still be playing the lead at 40.

However, after she shifted base to the USA, she had her fair her fair share of struggles to get a footing in the rather non-inclusive industry.

“Despite my body of work in India, it was like starting all over again. People refused to meet me, it was dark lonely times, I was scared and started from scratch,” she told Cavanaugh James on his podcast.

Now in a position of power, given her growing brand equity and social currency internationally, Priyanka has been a strong advocate of representation and diversity. “We are going to have a seat on the table … I am very grateful to have that foothold in Hollywood where I have access to incredible people and I have credibility as an actor and as a talent to be able to take other people with me and connect them to people and platforms. My dream is to be able to see many, many leading actors, South Asian or Browns that come from our community. I want to see many women, especially filmmakers from India, being able to work in international cinema. There are not many people who are seeking the opportunities, and here I am seeking the opportunities for my community. Five years, and we will have an influx of Indians in Hollywood”, she said in an interview.

Apart from the late Shashi Kapoor, India’s first crossover star (he played the lead in Merchant Ivory Productions), Kabir Bedi (Octopussy, Sandokan) and the late Irrfan Khan (Namesake, A Mighty Heart, Inferno, The Life of Pi) no Indian star had managed to truly cross over as Priyanka Chopra did. Stars like Aishwarya Rai (The Last Legion, The Pink Panther 2), Anupam Kher (Silver Lining, Playbook), and Deepika Padukone (Fast and Furious) did test international waters, but only now does the Indian boat seem to have finally set sail.

Over the past few years, the roster of Indian actors on international sets has been growing. Randeep Hooda (Extraction). Dimple Kapadia (Tenet), Ali Fazal (Victoria and Abdul, Death On The Nile), Shabana Azmi (Halo), Nimrat Kaur (Homeland), Adarsh Gourav (Extrapolation) and Alia Bhatt (Heart Of Stone) have all landed Hollywood projects.

“There are some opportunities now, but you need to align with an international agency and agent. Victoria and Abdul helped me because you need one film which acts as a base to get you work, and becomes a point of reference for future casting and opportunities,” shares Ali Fazal.

The coming of the streaming platforms has also broadened the horizons for many South Asian stars.

“The struggle that it takes to get there is overlooked. The culture shock, the unfamiliarity with the way things work, are difficult to navigate. But, from the time I came here, things have moved dramatically, and now there is a demand for authentic narrative, and, as the world becomes a smaller place, actors from South Asia are finally finding their rightful place,” says Life Of Pi actor Suraj Sharma.

“Bollywood has been famous, and so has its stars; but now, the global success of movies like RRR and shows such as Delhi Crime, and not just Bollywood stars and studios but Indians networking in global markets, have helped. There is a cross cultural confluence which will only get bigger and better,” says a film critic.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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