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Jun 132012
 

Why is it that even top Indian movie stars, when they rarely ever land a role in a Hollywood film, get only tiny, inconsequential parts.

If you thought Anil Kapoor’s role in the last installment of Mission Impossible was a joke and Anupam Kher’s brief appearance in Lust, Caution an insult, it gets worse with Amitabh Bachchan in The Great Gatsby.

Having watched the trailer of the Leonardo DiCaprio’s upcoming film The Great Gatsby last week and catching a brief glimpse of our own Amitabh Bachchan (in a grey suit??) in it, I was more than intrigued by the movie and the book on which it’s based.

On Sunday, braving the scorching mid-Atlantic heat I ran over to the local library and picked up F.Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby, first published in 1925.

Since I own a copy of Correspondence of F.Scott Fitzgerald, I’d obviously read some of his letters and formed a favorable impression of his skills as a writer.

But I’d never read any of Scott Fitzgerald’s novels.

So The Great Gatsby was my first deep dive into the work of what many consider one of the great American writers of the last century.

The Great Gatsby is not a long book.

The hardcover edition runs to a mere 180 pages, letting even slow readers run through it in a few hours.

Great Gatsby – The Novel

I do not concur with the general notion that The Great Gatsby is a classic and one of the greatest works of American literature.

Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Miller, Saul Bellow, Mark Twain, well, these are a few American writers I’d place above F.Scott Fitzgerald.

Of course, some of you will be quick to argue that Nabokov was a Russian writer, not American. But in my defense, I will respond that Nabokov spent a considerable length of time in the U.S., became an American citizen in 1945 and his best known work Lolita was written and published when he lived on our shores.

Although I may not place The Great Gatsby among the classics, I find it good enough to merit a second reading, an exercise I intend to embark upon soon.

There are four main characters in The Great Gatsby: our main protagonist, the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby, his next-door neighbor Nick Carraway, Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom Buchanan.

The rest including Jordan Baker, Meyer Wolfsheim, Myrtle Wilson and George Wilson are minor characters in the novel, although some like George make dramatic moves toward the end.

And amongst this gaggle of minor characters, I place Meyer Wolfsheim on the lowest rung.

So you can imagine my surprise when I learned from IMDB and Wiki that Amitabh Bachchan was playing Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby.

If you can trust the recollections of this blogger, Wolfsheim appears but a couple of times in the book.

We learn he’s a Jew, an unsavory character and that he’s Gatsby’s friend (is he really?).

That’s about it.

Why, Big B

So why then did Amitabh Bachchan, aka Big B in India to distinguish him from his small-in-every-sense son Abhishek Bachchan, eagerly accept this insignificant role.

First, Hollywood producers are not lining up to give this old geezer Bachchan roles. Despite an acting career spanning over four decades, Amitabh Bachchan is a name that resonates only in the India subcontinent.

Mention Amitabh Bachchan’s name to any American and you’ll be asked whether he works in Dunkin Donut (a U.S. franchise donut chain owned by a lot of Indians and employing mostly semi-literate Gujarati immigrants). ;)

Since beggars can’t be choosers, Amitabh has to swallow his pride and pick up whatever crumbs are thrown at him.

Second, there was no other role Bachchan could possibly have played in The Great Gatsby given the story. The men are much younger to Bachchan, who’s in his late 60s.

I suspect that even with the benefit of makeup Amitabh Bachchan is too old to play any one else in the film. Not even the garage shop owner George Wilson.

Third, even if the part in a Hollywood movie is small Indian stars like Anil Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan avidly make a grab for it because of the cachet of working alongside stars like Tom Cruise or Leonardo DiCaprio.

Fourth, the Indian movie industry is a laughing stock on the global stage with zero credibility.

The Indian movie business is, for the most part, comprised of crass buffoons like Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Riteish Deshmukh, Ram Gopal Varma et al.

Since the Indian movie fan base is also comprised mostly of buffoons, the Hindi and regional language film industry is thriving in the country, relegating Hollywood films to a secondary status there.

So given the low global standing of the Indian movie industry it’s unlikely our stars, even those of the stature of Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor or Anupam Kher, will ever be offered plum roles in a Hollywood production.

They’ll have to stay content with itsy-bitsy roles flung at them once in a blue moon.

Oh, what a shame for a nation that boasts of making more movies every year than any other country on the planet.

Before signing off, I must add the caveat that Meyer Wolfsheim’s part may have been expanded in the movie but I greatly doubt it.

  11 Responses to “Shame! Amitabh Bachchan has a Tiny, Insignificant Role in The Great Gatsby”

  1. Unsung heros Om Puri, Nasseruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan, etc. probably receive more respect than Big B, Anil Kapoor etc.

    By the way, Barrie Osborne is the producer of The Great Gatsby. Seems like he is slowly outsourcing the movie making business to India :-)

    Imagine… hollywood movies made in offshore using low cost crew would cost much less than movies made onshore. So, lets make movies in India with Indian cast and crew and release it in the US at a lower ticket cost .. $2? :-D

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. I cannot imagine Hollywood outsourcing movie making to the Indian chimps. When it comes to movie-making, Indians are total amateurs, good enough for the Indian yokels but most definitely not for the rest of the world.

    Maybe, some small technical bits here and there could be outsourced or for some shots of large gathering of wild animals, they might film outside Dadar station during rush hour or the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.

    If you believe Wiki, The Great Gatsby is being filmed in Australia at a budget of $127 million.

    Not a small sum.

    Of course, when you rope in stars like Leonardo DiCaprio it’s hard to come up with a low-budget film.

    2. Barrie Osborne is one of 7 producers, according to IMDB.

    3. You write: Unsung heros Om Puri, Nasseruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan, etc. probably receive more respect than Big B, Anil Kapoor etc.

    But that ‘respect’ hasn’t really translated into noticeable Hollywood roles.

    • //But that ‘respect’ hasn’t really translated into noticeable Hollywood roles.//

      True but not surprising. It makes no sense for a hollywood movie to star a Om Puri in a noticable role unless the role is of an Indian or Pakistani. And, such roles and movies are too few and far apart.

      SearchIndia.com Responds:

      You write: It makes no sense for a hollywood movie to star a Om Puri in a noticeable role unless the role is of an Indian or Pakistani.

      No can agree.

      Actors should be able to play or act in any role.

      If the story is powerful and the acting extraordinary, the movie will have an impact even if the star has an Indian face.

      After all, Amitabh Bachchan is playing Meyer Wolfsheim, an unsavory White Jewish gambler in The Great Gatsby.

      A few decades back, the world watched Blacks only in ‘lowly’ roles in Hollywood films.

      Today, the world eagerly anticipates the next film of Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx, who are the anchors of their films and play a variety of roles.

  2. //Amitabh Bachchan is playing Meyer Wolfsheim, an unsavory White Jewish gambler in The Great Gatsby//

    I have no idea about the book or the movie but are you sure they retained that character as a White Jewish? Unsavory and Gambler part is ok.

    For a moment ignore the fact that bollywood makes even sewage seem better. Even then it would be odd to cast a hollywood actor irrespective of his/her credentials in a role of significance in a bollywood movie. Does it make sense to cast Al Pacino instead of Amitabh in Sarkar? (irrespective of your opinion on whether is Sarkar is a good movie or Amitabh did a good job in that role).

    On the same lines, why would someone cast Om Puri in a role of significance when he is going to stand out due to his accent and color.

    Jackie Chan is a famous actor but even he mostly started in Hongkong based productions or in roles which clearly meant to exploit his stunts. Jet Li is another one.

    IMO movies made in hollywood are movies made by predominantly by whites for white, black and Latino audience. So, it is natural for the cast to also be white, black or latino. I don’t think it is discrimination or racism. If they think adding 2 minutes of an Indian actor will make a couple of million people flock to the theater then they will tweak the role to accomodate Irfaan Khan or Anil Kapoor.

    //Today, the world eagerly anticipates the next film of Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx, who are the anchors of their films and play a variety of roles.//
    Wrong. Today, the world is eagerly anticipating only the upcoming film of Kamal Haasan. Couples have decided to plan their pregnancy based on the release date so that they could the movie in theaters.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvxfK_PtMgU

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73tOAtwYuzY&feature=share

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFnLPZLTSm8&feature=player_embedded

    SI should stop insulting Kamal and Tamil. Kamal himself says he accepts that he is of international standards and tamil taste is also international standards. :-D :-D

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. The Great Gatsby is set on Long Island, NY in the early 1920s and so I expect Meyer Wolfsheim has to be a White Jew, not a Kerala import. ;)

    2. If Omar Sharif can make the leap from Egypt, if Javier Bardem can make the jump from Spain to the global stage, then I suppose it’s legitimate to expect an Indian star to make it to Hollywood/the global stage. We make million times more movies than Egypt and Spain combined.

    If Jackie Chan and Jet Li can make it from Hong Kong/China to Hollywood (through Kung Fu, Karate or wateva fighting style), it’s legitimate to expect Indians to rise high. Hell, Andhra Pradesh alone probably makes more movies than China/Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan combined. Unlike Jackie Chan or Jet Li, Indians don’t have anything to recommend them.

    Ditto for directors. Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hulk, Brokeback Mountain, Lust, Caution, Life of Pi) made the leap from Taiwan to America.

    Bottom line, accent, color and looks aside, Indians are not on the global movie stage because Hollywood thinks Indians are buffoons who know diddly about making movies, acting or direction. And guess what, Hollywood is 100% right in their assessment of Indians.

    • //Bottom line, accent, color and looks aside, Indians are not on the global movie stage because Hollywood thinks Indians are buffoons who know diddly about making movies, acting or direction. And guess what, Hollywood is 100% right in their assessment of Indians.//

      No disagreement there! :)

    • Just completed watching 1957 movie “12 Angry Men“. 55 years old and still very young in many ways. This was copied / stolen as “Ek Ruka Hua Faisla”.. basically frame by frame copy.

      SearchIndia.com Responds:

      http://www.searchindia.com/2009/04/02/watching-12-angry-men/

      Watching The Grey (Liam Neeson).

      • Aiyo! The Grey was beyond pathetic.

        Ridiculously bad!

        SearchIndia.com Responds:

        Down to 5 and one (Burke) on death bed.

        • so… ur opinion of The Grey?

          SearchIndia.com Responds:

          I wouldn’t go so far as to term it ‘beyond pathetic,’ as you condemned it last night.

          I’d put it in the so-so category.

          Weaknesses:
          Not terrifying, the wolves in close-up looked like aliens and the story could have been better written.

          Positives
          Liam Neeson was not bad, liked the pictures of icy, snowy wasteland, the idea of surviving attacks by a pack of wolves in the snowy wilderness seems interesting. Even in this day and age, there are still parts of the world where the fight of Man vs Nature (weather plus wild animals) is tilted against Man when he’s deprived of his usual gear (guns, cars, snowmobiles etc).

          Considering I forked out $1.22 (Redbox), I’m not complaining much.

          • Well.. opinions differ. 7 of us watched it together a few weeks ago and all of us condemned this movie. We couldn’t find a single thing worth appreciating.

            Has SI watched “The Edge” *ing Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin? A similar but better movie shot in Alaska. Private plane crashes in the middle of Alaskan wilderness where bear is on top of the food chain. More compelling, better drama and superior acting.

            Liam Neeson is comparable to kollywood “Action King” Arjun.

            SearchIndia.com Responds:

            Will definitely watch The Edge soon.

            Love Anthony ‘Dr.Hannibal Lecter‘ Hopkins.

            As for Alec Baldwin, I think he’s a poor man’s Liam Neeson! ;)

            True, Liam Neeson is not considered the greatest of actors.

          • You should consider adding a link where readers can give recommendations.

            In the past week alone I have recommended Shaitan, Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda and The Edge not to forget recommendations from other readers.

            By the way, tickets for The Dark Knight Rises are already on sale in select theaters.

            SearchIndia.com Responds:

            I’ll see if we can get the “Recommendations’ thing done. But I’m afraid I’ll be flooded with review requests for Chatharathil Oru Rathri, Avalude Ravukkal, Villupuram Vishalakshi oda Rahasya Kathai, Myladuthurai Meenakshi, Tuthukudi Taramani …. ;)

            Yeah, saw the IMax announcement on Dark Knight Rises a few days back.

  3. Has SI seen Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda? It is a good one… although it leave you a bit unsatisfied wiith the abstract and open ending.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Nope. Never heard of it until now.

    Or maybe someone mentioned it earlier and I’d forgotten.

    Talk of Information Overload….readers have mentioned so many films from 12 Angry Men to Gol Mal (old version) to Magadheera to Gemini to Aliens to Rainbow Colony to…..