White men can do Bollywood
Sunday 14 March 2004
Britain's Prince Charles visited on set of the new film.
Bollywood has set its sights on white men in Bombay, as the industry gears up for a spectacular new film that will call for an unprecedented number of pale-skinned extras.
For The Rising, a much anticipated epic film on the 1857 Indian uprising against British rule, Bollywood literally needs an army of white men to play the colonialists.
From the dingy byroads and beer bars of the Colaba travellers hub in Bombay to the sea shore and the airport, Bollywood headhunters are combing the streets for potential white acting talent.
"At any given point of time we need at least 200 white-skinned people who can act as soldiers in the British army. And for that we are on a constant hunt," said Muhammad Ali Budhwani, owner of Cute Look Productions, which has been given the task of tracking down foreign extras.
And the actors playing British troops do not have to be British. Anyone who could look like a white Briton will do, Budhwani said. The filmmakers are leaving no stone unturned in their search, approaching companies, consulates and schools that enroll foreign students.
One British actor who was found in a less erratic way is Toby Stephens, who starred as the villain in the 2002 James Bond flick Die Another Day. He will depict a colonial captain, William Gordon, who is friends with the lead Indian character.
Top Bollywood star Aamir Khan will take the top role of Mangal Pandey, who shot at British troops in 1857, helping trigger the uprising which was crushed by the colonial forces who promptly put India under direct British rule.
Prince Charles, heir to the throne that once ruled India, symbolically kicked off the filming of The Rising during a November visit to Bombay.
In case potential extras do not get sufficient thrills out of being part of the world's most prolific film industry, each will be paid $25 a day - and more than $100 if there's dialogue.
"We are also ensuring that they get the best boarding and lodging," Budhwani said.
Budhwani seemed optimistic so far on getting enough actors. He said many foreigners had approached him on their own seeking to be immortalised by Bollywood.
"At any given point of time we need at least 200 white-skinned people who can act as soldiers in the British army. And for that we are on a constant hunt"
White men seeking a chance in The Rising have even come from far-away parts of India such as New Delhi and Bangalore, he said.
The Rising will also star Amish Patel who replaced former Miss World Aishwarya Rai when she pulled out. The film is being produced by Bobby Bedi, who also worked on the acclaimed 1994 Bandit Queen, a portrait of late low-caste woman militant, Phoolan Devi.
The Rising, which is being shot in Pune about 200km south of Bombay, is scheduled for release in May.
It will be the first film in two years for Aamir Khan, who scored back-to-back hits with the Oscar-nominated Lagaan (Tax) and with Dil Chahta Hai (My Heart Wishes).