Four years have passed since Amrish Puri played Mola Ram, the murderous priest in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ (1984). The film, set in the fictional locations of colonial India, drew on all the stereotypes about the country in the western popular culture of the time. Puri’s antagonist, tearing the hearts of his victims with the chants of a flamboyant cult, was unexpected, a product of that time. The film was banned from release in India.
The hype surrounding the entry of Hollywood superstar Dhanush – the Russo Brothers directed ‘The Gray Man’ – heralds a different era defined by calls for integration of the development language. The National Award winning actor made his international debut with the 2018 comedy, ‘The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir’. A $200 million Netflix original directed by the directors who made two ‘Avengers’ films, however, is a new level.
Dhanush plays Avik San, an assassin known as the Lone Wolf, in the film starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. The build-up and arc make this interesting even if it’s short-lived. The film has mixed feelings but the actor uses his understated charisma to make San simultaneously unique, enigmatic and believable.
The late filmmaker Shashi Kapoor was most prolific in his association with Merchant-Ivory Productions, producing British films between the 1960s and 1980s. Rajinikanth was one of the biggest stars. of India made an English language film before its Indian release, in the very forgettable ‘Bloodstone’ (1988). Parts of the film, directed by Dwight H. Little, are also faithful to the Indian-exotica playbook – a princess, a curse and a stolen ruby among them.
Everything has changed. Priyanka Chopra was praised as Alex Parrish, the FBI recruit in the ABC series ‘Quantico’ (2015-18), for the difference that inspired other shows. Chopra herself, in a Vanity Fair interview, who is half-Indian, half-American from another country – said that she was “somewhat different”.
In Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ (2013), Amitabh Bachchan played the Jewish gangster Meyer Wolfsheim, leaving some of the critics about this choice. The publicity for Deepika Padukone’s Hollywood turn opposite Vin Diesel in ‘XXX: Return of Xander Cage’ (2017) is more in line with her stardom than her appearance in the film or her Indian origins.
“Why Dhanush?” It’s possible, it’s a question. The introduction that San received from the character Chris Evans – “my Tamil friend” – is different, there is nothing Indian about this killer. Nothing is given with voice; there are only a few lines for the person in the picture.
So what does Tamil do in a film about a CIA power play? Unlike Puri in Spielberg’s India or Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Anupam Kher and Om Puri in British films where their Indianness is natural, and not affected, emotionally, the peg is visible here. it is the nationality of the worker and not the species. This may be a good thing, a strong start but it is necessary, with time, to be able to make these decisive decisions.
The increasing presence of Indians in western societies and their increased presence in the mainstream media has also contributed to the relegation of India’s antiquated and unethical elements. The Indian star in the cast can be a natural supplement, a commercial product, or both.
Alia Bhatt (Netflix’s ‘Heart of Stone’) and Samantha Ruth Prabhu (‘Arrangements of Love with Downton Abbey’ director Philip John) are set to make their international debuts. Ali Fazal starred in this year’s ‘Death on the Nile’, starring Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer. ‘Foundation’ (2021), the Apple TV series based on Isaac Asimov’s novels, features Kubbra Sait. The superstar crossover could be done with Hrithik Roshan’s spy thriller.
Earlier this month, ahead of the release of ‘The Gray Man’, the filmmakers said that San may return to the upcoming films set to be based on the main characters. . The entry of Dhanush’s big team was widely recognized as a new focus on diversity in the way the west tells its stories on film. The ideas to bring it to the Indian market and the talent involved will inspire a story told in sequels.