With big ticket stars like Sly Stallone and Denise Richards appearing in Bollywood movies, Hollywood seems to be looking east.
First, there was curiosity, bordering on mild interest: the occasional borrowing of a Bollywood song (Chamma Chamma in Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge), the rare Hollywood guest appearance (Ali "Heroes" Larter in Marigold). A few years ago, headlines would jump excitedly out of Indian national dailies at the slightest hint of collaboration between Hollywood and Bollywood.
Today, however, the news just isn't as hype-worthy as it used to be. Mumbai, it seems, is getting used to the LA galaxy of stars washing up on Indian shores to sing, act, and even do a sexy dance routine, known in Bollywood as an 'item number'.
It began with hip hop artist Snoop Dogg, who lent his voice to a song in 2008's biggest blockbuster film, Singh is Kinng, mixing hip hop with bhangra beats. Besides saying "what up to all the ladies hanging out it Mumbai", the Dogg also traded in his usual garb (on the suggestion of co-superstar Akshay Kumar) for an Indian sherwani and Sikh turban. The artist also featured in the reported $475,000 song.
Next to arrive (February 2009) was pop star Kylie Minogue, with not just singing but dancing and acting aspirations too. After recording two songs with Oscar-winning Indian composer AR Rahman, she also did a dance routine, sporting a sari for the film, Blue! On a farewell note, the actor left Mumbai musing that "it would be fun to do a Bollywood film", and went on to tell The Mirror (UK) that she was "taking acting courses to brush up on [her] skills".
Meanwhile, fans from both Hollywood and Bollywood can expect more of the same in the future. Sylvester Stallone and Denise Richards, along with Brandon Routh and Holly Valance, have crossed over into Bollywood producer Sajid Nadiadwala's Kambakkht Ishq, which will also be re-made in English under the title Incredible Love. Rocky, the former Bond girl and the others will be flooding multiplexes on July 3 this year, leading this season's movie line-up.
While there has been talk of collaboration between LA and Mumbai before, the cross-over impetus could be credited to Danny Boyle and his Slumdog Millionaire, set in the deliciously grimy slums of Mumbai.
But even as the Slumdog star sets, and the thrill of watching the Pussycat Dolls croon "Jai Ho!" begins to fade, chances are that Hollywood actors will continue to travel east, not only because, as Denise Richards gushed, "Bollywood is so unexpectedly awesome!", but also because it represents a huge, and increasingly Westernising market. This is evident from the recent investments made by Sony Pictures and Warner Bros in Bollywood. In fact, the Indian media and entertainment industry which stood at INR 584 billion rupees in 2008 is projected to grow at CAGR of 12.5% to reach the size of INR 1,052 billion in 2013, according to a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)-KPMG media and entertainment industry report 2009.
Meanwhile, Richards and "Rocky" Stallone are expected to be in Mumbai for the premiere of their Bollywood debut film early next month. Could this perhaps, be the start of a beautiful friendship?
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