Monday, 10 September 2018

Mission: Possible - Hollywood's desi love

They came here for exotic locations. Then they sought Indian ideas and artistes. Now they want to capture the box office. There is a veritable Hollywood invasion of the country now, as can be seen in many movies that have been released and are waiting to hit the silver screen.
The Man Who Knew Infinity
English movies have always had a great fan following in India, irrespective of the mother-tongue of the audience. Either it is a dubbed version where Will Smith speaks Chennai Senthamizh, or even in the native English accent, it has been a never-ending craze. What if Will Smith really lands in Chennai and speaks Tamil, or even English, for a movie? That is what Hollywood is experimenting in recent times. Making films right here in this soil.

Though there have been on and off Indian references in yesteryear movies like James Bond thriller 'Octopussy' (1983), Rajinikanth-starrer 'Blood Stone' (1988), 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' (1984) and many others, in recent times, the presence of the subcontinent in English flicks is seeing a rise.

The recent release of the 'Mission: Impossible' franchise 'Fallout' (2018) is our closest example. There was also a controversy during its pre-release. The CBFC officials wanted the makers to remove the term 'India-Occupied Kashmir' despite it being the commonly referred term for the northern State around the globe.

The climax of Fallout is set in the foothills of Siachen Glacier in Kashmir (though it was shot actually in New Zealand and Norway) as the antagonist Solomon Lane wants to contaminate the water supply of Pakistan, India and China, to depopulate one-third of the world.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
It was not just 'Fallout', but another instalment of the 'MI' franchise that was shot in India. The entire pre-climax of Ghost Protocol, fourth in the series, is set in Mumbai. The movie also had Bollywood star Anil Kapoor playing a very pivotal role.

Another Bollywood sensation, Irrfan Khan, is known for appearing often in Hollywood ventures. His roles in 'The Amazing Spider-Man' (2012), 'Jurassic World' (2015) and 'Inferno'(2016) have been one of the crucial promotional elements for the movies in the country. His roles in 'Life of Pi' (2012) and 'Slumdog Millionaire' (2008) were among the lead.

The Amazing Spider-Man
Both 'Life of Pi' and 'Slumdog Millionaire' were about individuals from India and successful in the box office and the Oscar race. 'Slumdog Millionaire' witnessed the highest number of Oscars awarded to Indians in a single year, that includes maestro A R Rahman. 'Life of Pi' was totally about a Tamil guy from Puducherry struck in the middle of the ocean along with a tiger.

Life of Pi
Keeping the Indian artistes and technicians apart, there is also a whole lot of people from Hollywood, who are passionate about India. Filmmaker Roland Emmerich is known for referring to the country to many of his works, mostly about the end of the world, that never failed at the box office.

Initially, in his movie 'Independence Day' (1996) where extraterrestrial forces invade the world, there would be a very minimal reference to India. But, in one of his most acclaimed flicks on global warming, 'The Day After Tomorrow' (2004) the first warning about the upcoming climatic disaster would be given at a UN conference in New Delhi.

Interestingly, the movie released in India a day before its release in USA. But, Emmerich did not stop with that. His popular film till date 2012 (2009) about apocalypse based on Mayan calendar, starts and ends in the Indian subcontinent. Initially, in the movie, it would be an Indian scientist who finds that the world is going to end.

Apart from these serious movies, there also have been feel-good and funny movies as well made with Indian references. The stoner comedy trilogy, Harold & Kumar, is the best among the list. The crazy relationship between the two protagonists of which one, Kumar Patel, is an Indian, and the other, Harold Lee, a Korean, makes it comical till the end.

Harold & Kumar
Similarly, for Walt Disney Pictures, making 'The Jungle Book' film has become a habit. Set in a fictional Indian village, this Rudyard Kipling story had been made in almost all formats of cinema: cinemascope, animation and 3D. The latest version was released in 2016 and was a huge grosser like all its predecessors.

There have also been biopics of a couple of internationally known Indians made in Hollywood. Movies like 'Gandhi' (1982) on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and the recent, 'The Man Who Knew Infinity' (2015) about mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and 'Sachin - A Billion Dreams' (2017) on 'Master Blaster' cricketer Sachin Tendulkar are among a few.

Hollywood is finding a better marketing space in the country and is also roping in a lot of Indian artistes and technicians from the subcontinent. Among this row of Irrfan Khan, Anil Kapoor, A R Rahman and others, now it is Dhanush with his first English flick, 'The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir' that is set to release soon.

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, September 11, 2018.

A part or complete version of this article by Santhosh Mathevan has appeared in This note is completely based on the perceptions of Santhosh Mathevan alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only.