Did You Know? - When Bollywood Hits Hollywood

Did you know that Ashok Kumar and Dilip Kumar had refused to do Hollywood films? (Our weekly serving, where we try to highlight quirky, unknown facts from the world of entertainment)

Entertainment Desk
By Entertainment Desk |
 Sunday April 16, 2023
Amitabh Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra
Did you know that Ashok Kumar and Dilip Kumar had refused to do Hollywood films?

That the century-plus Indian cinema, Mumbai’s Bollywood most prominently, has drawn inspiration from Hollywood is no secret. Ideas, techniques and technology and themes – all have deep connections with Hollywood. This too, is no secret that Indians have stood their own to emerge as one of the world’s largest cinema, producing 2,000-plus films annually.

The “return journey” in the shape of Bollywood actors working in Hollywood ventures is but natural. It began with Sabu Dastgir playing the Elephant Boy in 1937, followed by Jungle Book and other blockbusters of that time.

Fast forward to this century when a score of mega stars from Bollywood, beginning with Amitabh Bachchan has starred in Hollywood films. Amitabh made his Hollywood debut in The Great Gatsby playing a Jewish gangster Meyer Wolfsheim with Leonardo DiCaprio. He has not followed up, though.

The pride of place should go to Deepika Padukone who, besides acting in Hollywood, partly anchored this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.

The list is growing with Hrithik Roshan and Alia Bhatt. Alia will star along with Gal Gadot. 

Most marquee names from Mumbai have Hollywood connections – you name them.  Begin with Irrfan Khan and Om Puri who left their mark before they passed away. Aishwarya Rai, Naseeruddin Shah, and Dimple Kapadia have done it. Priyanka Chopra virtually lives in Hollywood now that, by her own statement, she has bid farewell to Bollywood. The list of Shabana Azmi’s Hollywood films is long and impressive.

Paresh Rawal, Jaideep Ahlawat, and Randeep Hooda are among the more recent ones.  Baddie Gulshan Grover had a blast a year back, the same time Anupam Kher was filming in the USA.

While Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been the most prominent, Irrfan Khan made his Hollywood debut in 2006, playing the lead role opposite Tabu in Mira Nair's The Namesake. Irrfan-starring ‘Life of Pi’ won an Oscar. His Slumdog Millionaire also had Anil Kapoor, another big name. Anil Kapoor later appeared in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and the action drama series 24.

Of the younger lot, Ali Fazal has been sought after for choice roles. Kubbra Sait is all set to star in an international series titled ‘Foundation’ based on the series of Novels by Issac Asimov.

Bollywood’s comedians, among them Johnny Lever and Rajpal Yadav have also been in demand.

Now, let’s hark back to the past. Did you know that Ashok Kumar and Dilip Kumar had refused to do Hollywood films?  Dilip Kumar was always selective, even in Bollywood and Dadamoni, as Ashok Kumar was called, had said he had no desire to cross the Indian cinema’s shores.

Dilip Sahab was invited by none other than David Lean, who was making Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. A brief role in that film was done by actor-director IS Johar.

A family elder of the present-day Karan Johar, IS Johar appeared in international films such as Harry Black & The Tiger (1958), North West Frontier (1959), and Death on the Nile (1978), besides acting in Maya (1967), a US TV series. He mostly played an Oriental -- Arab, South Asian, Indian.

Of the biggies of the last century, only Dev Anand, with a natural flair for things foreign nursed Hollywood plans. The English version of The Guide, a remake of the 1965 classic Guide, was written by Pearl S Buck and directed by Tad Danielewski. 

Dev Sahab in his memoirs, Romancing With Life (2011) writes that the Hollywood version was planned before but was delayed. Today, only a few copies of the English version are said to be in circulation.

But give it to Dev Anand, who was friends with the likes of Gregory Peck and Shirley MacLaine, his hosts and guests over the years. At the height of his popularity, he did play James Bond.

The film had two names, The Evil Within and Passport to Danger. Made in 1970, it was an Indo-Filipino drama film directed by Lamberto V. Avellana. And yes --  it co-starred Zeenat Aman. Both were filming Hare Rama Hare Krishna.

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