Fenil and Bollywood

Posts Tagged ‘NRI

3 Idiots’ Omi is an established actor in the US, now in Bollywood

By Lekha Menon (MUMBAI MIRROR; December 30, 2009)

His distorted Hindi speech is one of the biggest talking points in the recently released 3 Idiots. In reality, it was an almost similar monologue that fetched Omi Vaidya,  (who prefers to be called Omi) an LA- based actor, the role of Chatur Ramalingam in the Aamir Khan-starrer.

On a trip to Mumbai to check out the Bollywood scene, Omi was asked by a friend to appear for an audition. The first audition went off without a hitch, but at the second he was given a dialogue from Munnabhai… to mouth. “I just rattled it off without exactly understanding the words… almost like the speech scene in the film,” says Omi. The next thing he knew, he was pencilled in for the role of the accented, mark-obsessed NRI geek in the film.

The instructions he received from the makers were clear: Don’t take Hindi classes, stop watching Hindi movies and put on weight.

Omi followed them to the T and now of course, he is revelling in the compliments coming his way for his role in the blockbuster. “I am still flabbergasted by the response. I guess people have liked the character because he is so relatable. In a way, this character’s negativity brought out the essence of the message more forcefully,” says Omi.

Incidentally, he began his acting career at the age of six, performing for Marathi Mandals in the US (also the reason why his Marathi is much better than his Hindi). He pursued a serious acting career in his teens, graduated in film studies from NYU and did roles in  Bones, CSI Las Vegas, The Office and Arrested Development, besides ads.

But being Asian or Indian, it’s still a tough task to break into Hollywood,  says Omi. “It’s difficult for Indians to get into the mainstream. At the most, you might be cast as an IT professional or other stereotypes.”

Omi in 3Idiots

That’s when he thought of exploring Bollywood, though there were other apprehensions. “The Hindi film industry is still not taken that seriously in the West. There are myths that it is unprofessional, and is mainly about songs and dances.”

But all his fears were put to rest once he joined the cast. “Here, there is a personal touch, unlike Hollywood. Even if they don’t pay you by the hour and there is no extra time, there is warmth and care. I basically saw my Bollywood innings as a challenge. A lot of credit also goes to Raju and Abhijat Joshi for the way the character came across on screen.”

Not surprisingly, after the stupendous success and appreciation, he is here for the long haul. Omi, plans to divide his time between the US and India and work in films ‘that don’t necessarily typecast him as an NRI but are dynamic and enjoyable.’

And for the record, he has now started taking Hindi classes as well.

Slumdog Millionaire’s Loveleen Tandon, who’s set to direct a film


It wasn’t just Anil Kapoor or the cute couple Dev Patel and Freida Pinto who catapulted to international fame with Slumdog Millionaire. It was also a pretty face that emerged from behind-the-scenes. That’s Loveleen Tandon, who co-directed the movie with Danny Boyle. But she has kept a low-profile for a while now. “Yes, I have literally been hibernating in Delhi,” smiled Loveleen, who was in Mumbai recently. “I have been busy with my film script. That’s a full time job.” The only time she took a break was when she was invited to meet the Queen and the Duke to the Buckingham Palace last month. And the Mumbai trip for Eve Ensler and Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal’s play I am an Emotional Creature, where she read the epilogue. “It’s a great co-incidence that Eve’s play is quite similar to my script, the story of a young girl, her desires, emotions and the pressures on her,” says Loveleen, who plans to start her movie next year. Getting good actors shouldn’t be difficult, she believes because “script is the queen.” As she puts it, “People are always on the lookout for a good script. Whether it’s actors or producers, nobody says no to a good script.” All credit for Slumdog’s apt casting goes to Loveleen, but she wasn’t just the casting director for the film, as some initially thought. “That wasn’t the only thing I was doing. Casting is a part of the bigger scene, part of the larger vision,” she says.

Matching Slumdog’s heights is not going to be easy and comparisons are bound to be there, but that isn’t putting any pressure on her. “I’m someone who thrives on pressure. I thrive on tension, crisis, less time and deadlines. It brings out the best in me,” counters the pretty filmmaker. One question Loveleen’s often asked is, if her film is going to be an international venture, and this baffles her. “You just make a film. Whether it becomes a hit in a city or a country, two countries or five is beyond you. Crossover, international, mainstream, commercial, art… are just tags.”

Refer to Mira Nair, who Loveleen assisted on Monsoon Wedding, and she points out, “She lives abroad. She comes from a different space. I live in India. This is my speciality. I can’t relate to the NRI experience. May be some day in the future, but at the moment, mine is the Indian experience. It’s unique; there’s a strong element of traditional and modern ethos… perfect material for movie making.”

What about criticism regarding Slumdog highlighting only poverty in India? “Films are stories, they are not documentaries meant to highlight any aspect of society. You can only tell a story and tell it well. If it’s a boy from the slums, you have to tell it from that perspective. You can’t glamourise or glorify it.”

By Subhash K. Jha, April 22, 2009 – 11:21 IST

Ranbir Kapoor Ranbir Kapoor plays an NRI forced to return home to take over the family business (in this case, politics). Sounds familiar? Abhishek Bachchan played a similar role in Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar.

And both characters are inspired by Al Pacino’s Don Corleone in Francis Coppola’s The Godfather. Ranbir of course plays a mixture of Rajiv Gandhi and Don Corleone in Rajneeti.

And as coincidence would have it, both Abhishek and Ranbir had Katrina as their co-star, but with a difference. In Sarkar, Katrina’s anglicized voice had to be dubbed although she played an NRI and could’ve easily used her accented voice for the character. In Rajneeti, Katrina gives long speeches in shudh Hindi all in her own voice.

Katrina Kaif’s two-minute speech in front of a 10,000-strong attentive crowd at a public rally in Bhopal for Rajneeti, has whetted Ranbir Kapoor’s appetite for getting right the speeches that he needs to deliver for Prakash Jha’s film when he starts shooting in August.

There’s just one hitch. Ranbir doesn’t need to learn shuddh hindi, like Katrina did. He already knows that. He needs to cultivate an accent to sound like an America-returned Delhi boy who suddenly needs to go from monosyllabic rashtra bhasha to full-speeches.

Prakash Jha has planned intense reading and speech therapy sessions for Ranbir for him to get the accented Hindustani right.

To play a Harvard educated US-based NRI who must suddenly return home to look after his mother’s political empire, Ranbir Kapoor in a role that Al Pacino would have liked to play, is not just all set to start shooting, he’s raring to go.

Ranbir won’t play the reluctant politician in the usual khadi kurta-pajama dress code. “Ranbir will be very trendily dressed. He plays a young man of today,” informs the director.

Apparently, the character is a mix of Rajiv Gandhi and Michael Corloene from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

Ranbir who joins the cast in August has been regularly calling and talking to the entire cast in Bhopal.

Says Prakash affectionately, “He even offered to leave whatever he was doing and join us in Bhopal although his shooting starts next month. I remember one day Ajay, Nana, Arjun, Manoj were working together and missing Ranbir. So in the evening we got together in my hotel room and called him. Ranbir spoke to each of us individually. He wanted to leave everything in Mumbai and join us Bhopal.”

Prakash starts workshops with Ranbir after the Lok Sabha elections. Says Prakash, “Ranbir is so excited about his look, and dialogues. He needs to play a character who defines democracy in today’s world. I wouldn’t describe it as a multi-starrer. It’s a multi-actor film. Katrina Kaif is such a revelation. She was so nervous giving a speech in front of 10,000 people. After she gave her speech I hugged her on stage and shouted out to the junta, ‘Bhopal ka ticket de de kya?’ As for Naseer, if I hadn’t worked with him I wouldn’t have been a complete filmmaker.”