The Hollywood/Bollywood Connection, continued
Shriya Saran in “The Other End of the Line”
Following a career as a professional tennis player, Ashok Amritraj built something of an empire as the producer of those ubiquitous ’90s softcore thrillers that still play late night Skinimax every so often, before trading in Shannon Tweed for a nine-foot-tall John Travolta in dreads with “Battlefield Earth,” one of Amritraj’s first Hollywood productions. Now legitimized with Hyde Park, one of the most prolific production companies in town, Amritraj bankrolled “The Other End of the Line,” which was the first time he produced a film with a nod to his Indian heritage, casting Bollywood starlet Shriya Saran as an Indian credit card call center employee whose job leads to a romance with a San Francisco-based identity theft victim (Jesse Metcalfe). Ultimately, the film died an unceremonious death in limited release late last year, but Amritraj made a far more important connection between Hollywood and Bollywood by closing financing deals with Indian-based studios Reliance and the animation studio Toonz.
Snoop Dogg in “Singh Is Kinng”
As the title says, Singh is royalty, so who was Snoop Dogg to refuse when he was asked to rap over the Bollywood film’s closing credits? Actually, it was British Bhangra music trio RDB who are said to have convinced Snoop to partner with star Akshay Kumar on the film’s theme song, an ode to the commoner-turned-crime boss played by Kumar in the action comedy. For a reported $475,000, Snoop donned a turban and filmed a scene with Kumar in Chicago, rapping “Yo, what up. This Big Snoop Dogg. Represent the Punjabi. Aye ya, hit em with this.” It didn’t take long before the cagey self-promoter crowned himself “America’s First Bollywood Superstar” and the song rocketed up the charts in India where it became a hit in the clubs. The same was true of the film, which became the highest grossing Bollywood film of 2008 after its release in August last year.
Screenwriter Tracey Jackson has no obvious connection to India, though in her official online bio, it simply explains, “She loves India. People said, ‘don’t write about India, nobody will make movies there,'” yet that didn’t stop her from penning both this film and “The Other End of the Line,” two of the most notable Hollywood/Bollywood crossovers produced by Hollywood, though neither made much of a splash at the box office. For “The Guru,” “Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur lent his name as an executive producer for what was otherwise a pretty raucous comedy starring Jimi Mistry as an aspiring actor who travels to America and unwittingly auditions for a porno, leading to his unlikely christening as a sex guru. Heather Graham and Marisa Tomei are the women who fall under his spell and into his conga line, as “Party Girl” director Daisy von Scherler Mayer exploits every opportunity to squeeze a Bollywood musical sequence into the film